Rant: Keira, you look lovely in period costume and…..Cut! Get yourself doing some proper acting for a change!

August 29, 2008 by  
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rant_tv_web1.gifYawn…and for her next movie feat, Keira Knightley will perform in a…….period piece…again.  Yep, this time, century of choice to waltz about in period costume in, is the eighteenth, for a new role as the Duchess of Devonshire.  Seriously, I don’t know if I could be less excited.  Will this girl never realise that acting is about the range of emotions you can realistically portray not eras your movies cover?

Let’s just have a think about what she’s been in.  There was The Edge of Love, that semi-lesbian tussle with Sienna Miller for the love of poet, Dylan Thomas set in the early 1900s and before it, Atonement.  Again, this was the same sort of era- this time a wartime romance.  Before these, she pouted her way through the mind-numbingly overdone Pride and Prejudice and King Arthur, not to mention all of the never-ending Pirates of the Caribbean films she’s waddled around in.

Not only is it getting increasingly wearisome realising that all character variation is going to be disclosed in the first few seconds of the movie (once we have seen what she is wearing), but also (and I realise this is a low blow as I don’t normally condone physical degradation) but those boob-enhancing bustiers-  well, they’re about as futile as handing the Pope a whore-house voucher. 

More than all this, I’m getting sick of listening to her cut-glass English accent.  You remember when you had to read Shakespeare out loud in school and everyone weirdly started putting on their poshest accent because they all spoke like that in Shakespeare’s time, didn’t they?  Keira is actually just that especially pretty girl who, not having feign a posh voice, found her effortless niche and clung to it for dear life.  You can’t hide behind your period attire forever.  Sooner or later, the public are going to want to hear your finest American / Irish / French / whatever accent and what will you do then?

Review: Fiona’s Story- A delicate handling of a precarious subject

August 29, 2008 by  
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Fiona’s Story: BBC1, Sunday 31st August, 9pm

fionas-story.jpgThis Sunday sees the airing of Fiona’s Story, a compelling one-off drama for BBC1 neatly proving that writing about precarious subjects such as paedophilia need not contain nauseatingly over earnest discourse about principles and a plot with an annoyingly obvious agenda.  Here, the handling is delicate, resulting in an unpretentious approach that lets the situation speak for itself.

Bafta-nominee, Gina McKee stars as Fiona Mortimer, a woman who struggles to keep her family together after her husband Simon, played by Jeremy Northam, is charged with downloading paedophilic images.  He is released on bail but returns to face a year in which Fiona’s trust in him is challenged to the limit.  As events unfold and Simon’s denial about his actions persists, Fiona is forced to face the horrifying possibility that her three young girls may not be safe with their own father.

A beautifully crafted script, written by new-comer Kate Gabriel and subtly directed by Adrian Shergold (He Kills Coppers, Low Winter Sun), the thing that really strikes me about this drama is its absolute contentedness to be clumsy with characters’ responses to the distressing subject of child pornography.  This is particularly highlighted in the reaction of Simon’ s brother as he describes viewing such images as “easily done”.

Fiona’s Story doesn’t feel the need to abuse its dialogue with sophisticated and wholly unrealistic speeches about the wickedness of paedophilia when it can instead, elegantly portray a family attempting to cope in the only way they know how.  Much of the time is taken up with near unbearable silence and awkward postures as husband and wife coexist hesitantly around their three children and the devastating meaning of what Simon has done gradually takes hold.

Fiona’s Story reveals the lonely fragments of uncertainty that remain after the shattering of one’s happy, if delusional, domestic security. Without a doubt, it should most take a prominent place on your TV-watching schedule this weekend.

By Susan Allen

Review: A1: The Road Musical- How Did Anyone Ever Think It Was OK For Real Life To Be In Song-Form?!

August 28, 2008 by  
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A1: The Road Musical: Channel 4, Friday 29th August, 7.30pm

This show is the reason why real life should never be a musical.  Ok, I admit, in the past there’s been a few times when I’ve found myself wandering down the street longing for a break from the humdrum sound of people and cars and stuff.  Then, daydreaming, I’ve envisaged how cool it would be if it all suddenly turned into a scene from Oliver with men dancing around their brooms and women selling sweet red roses and yodelling about milk.  However, Benjamin Till’s debut half-hour film A1: The Road Musical, part of Channel 4’s Generation Next, documentary new talent First Cut strand, has killed and buried any such whim.

Following truck driver, Dave Brown on a journey along the A1 from London to Edinburgh, a route he drives frequently, he sings and twiddles the radio as people who live along the A1 are introduced and proceed to sing about themselves.  We hear how one woman felt when a stranger held her hand after a car crash (cringe) and another guy lost his brother in a road accident (guilty cringe) and another guy cares so much about his town being in Scotland not England- “Your borders out of order Mr. Brown? (bored and especially big cringe).  Essentially, these people can’t sing or perform and I can’t feel for any of their stories because I’m too busy hoping the ground will swallow me up so I no longer have to listen to their awful crooning.

Now, I’m not someone to discourage artistic experimentation.  In fact, this is one of Channel 4’s biggest charms.  I love the fact that they roll out short films by wide-eyed writers and offer mere beginners a chance at enlivening the conversation on Hollyoaks in between the dialogue-less bedroom scenes- [kisses him and unbuttons his shirt]- but this bizarre take on a documentary defines the meaning of ‘random; not-in-a-good-way’.

I can’t help thinking, if a road musical really had to be made, why not go all out and make a unique, stylized masterpiece based on fact but with extravagant costumes and zany camera angles with professional actors?  No doubt, the vision was there, but the budget wasn’t and instead, what we are left with here is mutated documentary spawn, a take on real life that rubbishes its sometimes tragic content with a warble-y song and a lame attempt at performing that often centres round the singer glancing furtively over the camera for reassurance from the director, who no doubt is trying desperately to keep his head from his hands.

Watch A1: The Road Musical to remind yourself why musicals should remain fantastical and ornate things, where we don’t question why someone’s describing their day to you in song-form, and never step over into normality.  It’s not moving because it’s about real life, it’s just uncomfortable.

By Susan Allen 

Review: Lets Hope the Wrong Door Slams Shut

August 27, 2008 by  
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The Wrong DoorThe Wrong Door is a great premise- a sketch show with a hint of surreal, executed using animations and live action. There is a gap for a great new sketch show and not since the Fast Show has sketch comedy come with that bite of pure brilliance and hilarity that taps into our collective humour. Not since, and not now, as The Wrong Door so dramatically, hideously and unwatchably demonstrates.

What the hell happened to good sketch comedy? When was it that someone decided that a human spider crapping a web was funny? Some of the jokes you can see might have given a chuckle on paper but a whole lot of them are along the lines of: ‘oh hey what about a giant robot destroys London looking for his keys…’
‘and then…?’
‘and then- nothing- that’s the punchline.’
‘Oh dude, that is FUNNY. That is SO funny. Actually it’s so funny let’s make sure we return to that joke at least four times in thirty minutes’

I am not kidding when I say that there is a single funny joke in this. I deliberated telling you this joke to save you watching the show. As an act of kindness to the show I’ve decided not to but if you do tune into this horror of a comedy, then you’ll know the joke I mean. Because seriously, it is the only one.

So conclusions? Populated with obvious, aimless and a times just totally tasteless jokes, this is a show we can only hope dies an early death.

Yes, this is the Wrong Door and my suggestion is that you back away, run and DON’T LOOK BACK.

Interview: Writer David Hare Talks About My Zinc Bed

August 27, 2008 by  
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My Zinc BedDavid Hare is the Oscar nominated screenwriter of ‘The Hours’, in this interview he talks about his latest project ‘My Zinc Bed’ starring Uma Thurman.

What would you say are the central themes of My Zinc Bed?

My Zinc Bed is really a study about the arguments about alcoholism. I suppose I knew a lot of friends who were in AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], and because of that I was interested in those arguments about whether alcoholism is a genetically inherited condition that you can do nothing about, and in which you have to surrender your will and treat it as one would treat any other disease – and the argument of AA of rational recovery. AA is an organisation that believes that only by mastering your addiction by willpower can you live a fulfilled life. This seemed to me an extraordinarily interesting argument and that’s what I wanted to write about.

I was also interested in the question of why addiction is such a contemporary subject. We hear about it all the time now – be it addiction to shopping, dieting, alcohol, drugs, work – it seems very much to have replaced belief. Addiction has taken the place of ideology. When I was young people discussed what they believed and what their ideas were – those ideas were the ideas which shaped their lives. Now young people discuss the things to which they are addicted. So the whole subject of addiction seems to me quite contemporary and near the bone.

 How did the television version of the play come about?

It’s often said of my stage writing that it’s filmic – a series of fast-moving scenes that are physically realised – and when we did the play at the Royal Court Theatre in 2000 it seemed obviously filmic.

At the time that I wrote the stage play it was very much the cusp of the internet, and the arrival of all that new cyber business – but that stuff over the years seemed rather too dated. So there was a way of looking at it a few years later – to focus on the basic fable, about whether you can ever be in control of your own recovery, indeed whether anybody can really be in control of their own life, that seemed to become much stronger.

It was actually my agent Jenne Casarotto who proposed to HBO the idea that it was time to try and regenerate the single film a little on TV again, and that maybe some plays from the theatre could be adapted once more for television. There’s a quite extraordinary experiment going on at the moment in France whereby a major television channel regularly transmits plays live from Paris theatres, and contrary to all conventional modern broadcasting thinking they’re getting huge audiences and massive success with these transmissions. This is a small-scale experiment I suppose, to try and get some individual films specially made on the BBC.

It’s nice to remind people that it’s possible to do interesting things, and particularly if you’ve got very very good actors like Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman, Paddy Considine. You know Uma Thurman doesn’t do many television plays – she’s doing it obviously because she thinks there’s something interesting about it.

How did you go about adapting your stage play for the screen, were there any particular challenges involved?

It was incredibly easy, and it’s very rare that you say that! I normally hate adapting my plays for the cinema, and I’ve done a few adaptations of my plays for cinema. By and large I refuse to do them, mostly because I find it very difficult to reconceive things for new medium. But this has a very strong story about how a rather indigent poet gets picked up by a couple of rich people and spends a summer with them, and then gets passed aside by them. Films adapt more easily when they’re like short stories, and in a way it took me back to the plays that I used to write for television in the Seventies like Licking Hitler and Dreams of Leaving, which were very much like short stories, novellas almost – and that’s a beautiful form for television.

 Can you describe the three characters?

Victor is an entrepreneur who is an ex-communist. Like a lot of people of that hippy generation he then became a businessman and swung all the way from the left-wing ideas of his youth to playing at capitalism with immense success. So he’s someone who both has a philosophical hold on capitalism but also is a player within the system. He’s picked up, if you like, by capitalism, made rich, then stripped of his money in the course of the drama.

Victor’s wife, Uma Thurman’s character Elsa, is an alcoholic who is trying to recover through rational recovery. The young poet Paul, played by Paddy Considine, is an alcoholic who is trying to do it the other way, through AA.

Victor claims to be the only person who isn’t an alcoholic in the film but by his behaviour you might think he’s as much an alcoholic as Elsa and Paul are.

 What research did you do for the original play?

I went to some AA meetings, I a read a lot of the stuff about it. AA meetings are very welcoming and open. I know when the play happened at the Royal Court it was much discussed by AA meetings – a lot of people at meetings in London were saying ‘have you seen this play, it’s really interesting because it’s a philosophical discussion of what our problems are and what the problem of addiction is’. So it came out of that. I did do a lot of research but truthfully it was more through watching the agonies of some friends of mine.

Were you involved in the casting process at all?

Jonathan Pryce was sort of self-selecting! He’s always been one of the foremost actors of my generation. I first worked with him in 1973, and he’s just an exceptional film actor – you can’t imagine anybody better to play the role.

Paddy I didn’t know at all, he came to the film, as he put it, never having had to speak long lines before. He’d always appeared in films where he was required to be violent, or moody, and has created a really extraordinary body of work. With my plays there is always a sense immediately whether the actor can say the dialogue or not because I write a certain kind of dialogue that is quite technically demanding and is not naturalistic. Paddy took to that like a fish to water, and I think surprised himself by the ease with which he could play the role – mainly because he’d never been asked to play that kind of part before. He’s a writer as well so therefore was a wonderful person to play a poet.

Uma I’ve known since she was 18 or 19, I first saw her work when she began a film about Dylan Thomas in the late Eighties. We’ve always known she was a very good actress but again she might say she hasn’t always been required to show that side of her.

How do you think the finished piece of work differs on television than on stage?

I have changed it a lot. As a result of concentrating on the theme of alcoholism and much less on the new world cyber business, which the recent play was partly about, I’ve actually decided to change the text of the original play. So now there’s a new version of the play which I’m hoping will be ready for next year. I learnt a lot by writing the film so for me it’s been great!

Sold?: British Heart Foundation Aren’t Messing About

August 27, 2008 by  
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I offer you my apologies for the somewhat morbid item this week on Sold?  I don’t know whether it’s because I’m feeling particularly macabre or just feeling guilty for the junk I ate at the weekend, but it had to be done.  British Heart Foundation have got a new ad out, and it’s hard-hitting and bloody fantastic.

Part of a wider campaign to raise awareness about heart attacks, the gripping two-minute film, ‘Watch Your Own Heart Attack’ does what it says, as a forthright and weirdly evil-guy doctor, played by celebrated actor Steven Berkoff, talks you through your own demise warning you of the dangers of shrugging off the symptoms.   Using analogies including a punch in the stomach and a snake squeezing your arm, it’s sure to make even the younger among us sit up as we munch unwittingly on our greasy excuse for a meal.

You know those wannabe alarmist posters in the doctor’s waiting room whose message that you potentially have some ghastly disease is, alas, belied by their faded demeanour and the amount of time you’ve spent staring at them avoiding the eye contact of other sick people as you wait for your name to be called?  Well this advert is exactly how those posters should be.  No messing about.  Unavoidable and in your face.

They should have this advert playing in waiting rooms across the country.  As long as it didn’t encourage an already worried lot to panic, at least it would give us something to talk about!

By Susan Allen

Review: Mutual Friends Makes for Nice Viewing

August 26, 2008 by  
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Mutual FriendsStarring Keeley Hawes and Marc Warren this latest BBC drama comes with a comic twist that makes for entertaining viewing.

Warren plays Martin Grantham, a middle class, middle aged lawyer whose best friend Karl has just died. Only it turns out that Karl has been sleeping with his wife Jen, played by Keeley Hawes.

From the opening moments you are led by a bombastic sound track to understand that the show does not take itself too seriously and while it engages in the drama of this group of friends it nevertheless does it with a nod to the absurdity of it all.

While at first the characters seem slightly abrasive, you quickly grow to like them with Marc Warren as Martin and Alexander Armstrong as Patrick bringing a comedy to the drama.

A lovely drama in the vein of cold feet, this is easy viewing with an enjoyable cast who know how to walk the line been comedy and tragedy.

The Lowdown on: Marc Warren

August 26, 2008 by  
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Marc WarrenMarc Warren was born in Northamton in 1967 and IMDB list his trade mark as ‘His extraordinarily expressive eyes and hands’, which must either have been written by an edging on (if not full blown) stalker fan, or a friend taking the mickey.  Still, they have a point, and Warren showed promise as an actor from an early age. Who could have known that the extra from a 1989 episode of Dr Who would one day be an accomplished character actor on the British circuit and doing his very own guest starring role in the 2006 episode Love and Monsters.

Now a chipper looking 40 years old, Warren established himself in such roles as Band of Brothers and State of Play, both critically acclaimed telly drama’s in which he played supporting characters. However he really came to our attention in Hustle, as Danny Blue. He also did a disturbing turn as Dracula in a 2006 TV movie.Marc Warren as Dracula

Starring this year in the superb Burn Up, Warren’s ability to play the murky character with depth was displayed once again. He has even had a role in an Angelina Jolie fronted blockbuster, Wanted, in which he played an assassin known as The Repairman.

He went to the East 15 Drama School at aged 17 but dropped out after two years. In interviews he has said that he gained little from going, and learned more from is girlfriend at the time.

His private life is shrouded in, well, privacy and Warren has gained a reputation for being a difficult subject to interview as he closely guards his personal life. However earlier this year in an interview with Richard & Judy, glamour girl Abi Titmuss admitted that she and Warren were in a relationship.

Warren stars in the BBC drama Mutual Friends, starting tonight on BBC 1 at 9pm.

Rant – Girl Fight!

August 22, 2008 by  
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rant_tv_web.gifIf the media is anything to go by, behind the scenes of every drama, reality show and soap, female stars are bickering, bitching and backbiting. Most recently the papers have been bursting with rumours of a feud between Danniiiii Minogue and new host Cheryl Cole on the X Factor. Earlier in the year the Sex and the City monster reared its Philip Treacy-clad head once again, stirring up talk of vicious verbal wars between Kim Cattrall and SJP. The pop scene is full of it too. Apparently the Spice Girls were at each others’ throats left right and centre. Likewise All Saints, who reportedly broke up following an argument over who wore a certain coat onstage.

Whether the stories are true or not it makes you wonder why the press are so fixated with it. It’s never the same for male stars. Not in a month of Sundays would you ever see an article about how Westlife broke up over who got to wear which waistcoat.

So why do the press feel the need to fabricate or exaggerate these girl fights? Are they appealing to that particular male fetish – a clean version of the messy all-girl mud wrestle? Or are they kow-towing to that age-old stereotype that women are nothing but malevolent harridans obsessed with petty quarreling?

The whole debacle is such a shame because it persuades women that they have to crawl all over one another (in a non-mud wrestling way…) to be noticed or get ahead. The effects are easy to see in Big Brother – that scratched and slightly distorted mirror that we hold up to society. “I’m well bitchy, innit.? is the favourite tag-line of many a wannabe celeb as she twirls her ratty hair extensions.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the media paints women as modern-day fishwives. What happened to the sisterhood? Is it not fashionable for women to like each other anymore? It’s boring and so bl**dy predictable.

by Susie Gordon

Watch Me Disappear: A moving glimpse into a lonely death

August 22, 2008 by  
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Watch Me Disappear Review

Watch Me Disappear: Channel 4, Friday 22nd Aug, 7:35pm Alert Me

Praise again for Channel 4’s Generation Next season, which promotes emerging filmmakers. The raw, genuine talent of many of these films is impossible to ignore and nowhere is this more true than in this beautiful short documentary by Lucy Cohen.

Each month in Britain around 200 people are buried alone. These unclaimed, unnoticed people are the subject of this moving documentary, as Lucy Cohen pieces together the lives of two of these individuals who slipped away from life unseen.

Beyond the shock of how many people die alone, this film seeks to capture the connection between these lost people and us, the faceless crowd who passed them by.

It is delicately made, often approaching the lives of its two subjects from the periphery by looking at the objects they surrounded themselves with- books, dolls or shopping receipts. Cohen talks to childhood friends and neighbours, looking for the impression left by their absence. Often she lets moments of natural absence speak for themselves- letting the camera hold on the expression of a boy who found the body rather than the boy who is talking.

There are times when the soundtrack overwhelms it, something which makes is distracting, but overall this is an enormously empathic film which gives voice to people have passed unseen from the world. Definitely one to watch.

By McGee Noble

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