Friday, 17 October 2014

Butterscotch Sunday: Antichrist

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The last time I talked about Butterscotch Sunday, I was giving a well-deserved plug to its screening of Where The Wild Things Are back in April. Now after another little break, they're back with the support of the Exeter Pheonix and a film which couldn't be further removed from Spike Jonze's work.
antichrist
On Sunday, November 16, Butterscotch Sunday will be staging an interactive screening of Antichrist, Lars von Trier's infamous 18-certificate arthouse horror which won prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and became one of the most divisive films of 2009. Starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the film follows a nameless couple who retreat into a cabin in the woods following the tragic death of their young son. Drawing on horror works as varied as Don't Look Now and The Evil Dead, it promises to be a demented and demanding experience.
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Antichrist is being presented as part of the Scandiland series, which includes other Scandinavian and Nordic films like Troll Hunter and Babette's Feast (which itself is not for the faint-hearted). But unlike the other film screenings, Antichrist is truly interactive. The screening will take place in the Sylvania Hut in Mincinglake Park, Exeter, and will be preceded by a woodland walk with haunting music from songwriter Ulrika-Igraine. Both aspects are designed to make the experience truly immersive - and if Butterscotch Sunday's record is anything go by, they will succeed in doing this.
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The screening of Antichrist will begin at 7:30pm on November 16th. Tickets cost £10 (not including booking fee) and are available from the Exeter Phoenix box office. For more information on the film click on the official event profile here, or check out the trailer below and let chaos reign:
Daniel

Sunday, 12 October 2014

DANCE FILM: Step Up 2: The Streets (2008)

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Step Up 2: The Streets (USA, 2008)
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Starring Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman, Adam Sevani, Will Kemp

A common tactic when making sequels is to repeat the same story arc as the first film, but with a character who is in some way related to or connected with the original protagonists. Straight-to-video sequels are notorious for how tangential their relationship is to the originals: American Psycho 2, for instance, centres on a girl who stabs Patrick Bateman after he murders her babysitter. 
 
Step Up 2: The Streets did not have to suffer the same, persisting ignominy of a straight-to-video release, but it does attempt the same kind of base trick. Its only connections to the first film are the Maryland School of the Arts and the brief, inconsequential appearance by Channing Tatum. While the results are not as disappointing as perhaps you might expect, it still fails to match the standard set by the first film.
 
Part of the reason for this disappointment is the director. This was Jon M. Chu's first commercial hit, which would lead him to direct the sequel to this and produce the following two instalments. His love of dancing is never in doubt, and nor is his ability to give his performers room within the camera to express themselves. What is in doubt is his ability to tie those dance moves to a story which is both interesting in its own right and told in an interesting way.
 
In Step Up, you had a series of dance set-pieces which were integrated reasonably well within the dramatic storyline. The end result was hardly The Red Shoes, but is was a film in which the dancing served the plot, rather than the other way around. Step Up 2 (as it shall henceforth be called) goes in the exact opposite direction, in which the dancing dominates to such a degree that the plot becomes episodic, almost to the point of being irrelevant.
 
As with the first film, there is a certain amount of pleasure to be gained from these set-pieces. They are impressively choreographed, and have a marginally more visceral quality than those in the first film. This is presumably because there is less of an effort to blend street dance with more classical or elitist forms of dance, something which sets the film apart from the original, albeit not enough to justify itself.
 
Many of the set-pieces are well-lit and reasonably well-directed. The final showdown at 'The Streets', with Andie's crew outclassing the 410 in the rain, is visually pleasing. The cuts are fast without suffering from the almost-ADHD attention span that plagues Rob Marshall's films (Nine in particular), and the sequence uses the bass drops in the music to effectively punctuate the various phases of the dance. Max Malkin's credits as a cinematographer are very thin, but he does a competent job of lighting movement around lots of water, which is not an easy thing to do.
 
But despite the impressive choreography, the dance sequences are not enough on their own to hold our attention or to make the film worthwhile as a narrative entity. We're living in an age where five-minute videos of people body-popping are ten-a-penny on YouTube, and with films taking so long to make compared to TV and internet shows, any film which includes such sequences has to offer something else to justify itself. As much as we are impressed by the talent of the individual performers, the result is ultimately too thin and too flimsy to be involving.
 
An equally big problem is our leading lady. Briana Evigan's credentials as a dancer are excellent, but as an actress she fails to make Andie West a likeable character. Having a lead with attitude can be effective, provided that it can be balanced out by some kind of character development or at least an underlying sensitivity. Evigan doesn't bring that balance, being so consistently aggressive that we end up finding her insufferable. Her subsequent career at the bad end of the horror genre (Sorority Row, Mother's Day and S. Darko) suggests that she has limited emotional range.
 
Because of this acting deficiency, Step Up 2 falters where Step Up ultimately found its feet. It's trying very hard to make a point about needing to belong in a group or community, and its democratic approach to dancing will garner praise. But while Channing Tatum's character in the first film ultimately found his niche, balancing his personality to skills which he never knew he had, the protagonists in this film are on one level just as exclusive and in-your-face as the 410.
 
It also doesn't help that the school scenes are less convincingly staged than in the first film. While the story of Step Up was ultimately a melodrama, the school in which the events took place felt like it could exist; at the very least, it was believable enough to serve the plot. This time, the school scenes have an awkward sense of detachment, as though Chu didn't really understand what the cast were talking about. The camera is less fluid in these moments, and the editing is looser and more arbitrary.
Even if we overlook the artificial nature of the high school scenes, the film still doesn't entirely satisfy as a straightforward genre piece. All the basic well-worn plot machinations are in place, with our lead starting to belong to a new group, things getting worse before they get better, and eventually triumphing against the odds. But even on a purely escapist level, it's utterly forgettable, and for those who want to engage with the story it doesn't depart in any reasonably gripping way.
 
What we are left with after all this is a collection of passingly impressive moments, assembled in a competent but unremarkable manner, and delivered by a group of decent actors who are weighed down by a miscast female lead. It's hard to believe on this basis that Chu was offered the chance to direct The Great Gatsby before Baz Luhrmann finally got the gig. But if we take Evigan's performance out of the equation, the remaining cast do just enough to keep things watchable.
 
This film marks the first appearance in the series of Adam Sevani, who becomes the saving grace of the next instalment. There's something wonderfully nerdy about Moose, who can back up his awkward demeanour with outstanding dancing, and he has a playful quality which makes him likeable. Elsewhere Robert Hoffman acquits himself perfectly well as Chase Collins, and Will Kemp partially atones for his work on Van Helsing in his supporting role as the head of the school.
 
Step Up 2: The Streets is a comedown from its predecessor, lacking the coherency and ultimately the confidence to tell a story, settling into a series of set-pieces instead. Its cast are reasonably assured with the exception of our leading lady, but Chu lacks the technical or creative skill to turn these performances into anything more than a pleasant diversion. It's not awful by any means, but it is disappointingly ordinary.

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NEXT REVIEW: We're The Millers (2013)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Last Phonic Show... Ever

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It's been a little while since I've posted anything related to Phonic FM on this blog, the last occasion being the release of C. S. Lewis: Man or Rabbit?, for which Phonic very kindly allowed me to use their second studio. Those who have been following the show's Facebook page may have noticed a gradual drop-off in content, and over the last couple of months I've had to miss a lot of shows, often at short notice, due to work or rehearsals for Improbable Fiction.
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I don't feel that it's fair to continue this, particularly in light of the commitment shown by the other Phonic presenters. I gave up my breakfast show Good Morning With Mumby, earlier this year due to my financial circumstances, but now with me settling into my new job and hopefully moving to Yeovil soon, I feel the time is right to bring the curtain down on my Phonic career (if that's not to grandiose a term).
 
I have informed the board of Phonic FM that my next show, on Sunday 12th October, will be my last on the station. It feels the right time to go, as I gradually settle into a new community and a new phase of my life in Somerset. I owe an immense debt of gratitute to the board and volunteers at Phonic for all that they have done for me over the last two years. The station is a great service for the people of Exeter and it has been a privilege to play a small part in it.
I hope you'll all be able to join me for the final In The Mood For Mumby, which will be broadcast from 4pm to 6pm on Sunday 12th October, on 106.8 FM and online via phonic.fm. I've not decided upon a theme, though there will be a fair few goodbyes and probably a tear or two. I want to thank you all for listening to me over the last two years, and hope that I can get you in the mood, one last time.

Daniel

Thursday, 2 October 2014

LISTS OF NOTE: Something from The White Album (not)

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My posts on here have become somewhat more sporadic since I started working at The Western Gazette. As you would expect, I'm letting the full-time paid work take priority and writing stuff for here when I can. Today's List of Note is, given my new job situation, particularly apposite.
In her 1979 book The White Album (which has nothing to do with The Beatles), writer and journalist Joan Didion revealed her packing list - a list of everything she carried with her when she was working full-time as a reporter in Hollywood. I can't claim to have shared in the kind of plight (or adventure) that Didion endured or enjoyed, but it's an interesting vignette into the impulsive, spontaneous and often groundless life of a journalist.
You can read Didion's list, and the section of The White Album from which it is taken, here. If you like what you read, the Lists of Note book by Shaun Usher has recently been published, and you can order it here. If you're left wanting more on journalism, check out my old review of All The President's Men.

Daniel

Thursday, 25 September 2014

UNDERRATED: Step Up (2006)

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Step Up (USA, 2006)
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Starring Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Damaine Radcliff, Mario

The surprise commercial success of Save the Last Dance ushered in a wave of films focussed around street dance and hip-hop. Where classic-era Hollywood dance films were dominated by ballroom, ballet and tap dancing, the 2000s gave us film after film in which impressive street or hip-hop choreography came face-to-face with decades-old romantic and dramatic conventions, with varying degrees of success.
 
At the more mainstream end of this wave we have Step Up, the first in a series of five films (to date) which combine predictable plots with often jaw-dropping dancing. But where its sequels increasingly sacrificed narrative for the sake of set-pieces, the film that started it all gets a good balance and is the most focussed of all the series. It's hardly game-changing in its construction, but it is surprisingly heartwarming and comes across as more genuine than you might expect.
 
It's very easy to view dance films as essentially a series of set-pieces held together by a threadbare story. Even in the so-called golden days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, around ten times the effort seemed to be expended on the dancing than on the events that made them dance in the first place. As I argued in my review of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it is possible to enjoy these films as artistic endeavours rather than narrative ones, but for the less freeform among us, even the best leave us with an unsatisying niggle.
 
The best dance films, in any sub-genre, succeed because they are not really about dancing. The Red Shoes is about the boundary between fantasy and reality, and the tension between creativity and common sense. Black Swan is about the need to embrace one's dark side in striving for artistic perfection, even at the cost of one's sanity. Even Strictly Ballroom, Baz Luhrmann's raucous debut, is less about ballroom dancing than the fight against orthodoxy and how the fear of failure cripples people.
 
Step Up may not boast the richly-layered themes of any of these offerings, nor is it as visually ravishing. But it does belong in the same camp, since its dancing is used to explore ideas and character traits rather than just serve as a distraction. Instead of dazzling you with MTV-style cuts and empty, shallow bombast, the film is an altogether gentler beast, whose moments of posturing are tame and infrequent.
 
Despite not having the visual splendour of Luhrmann, Darren Aronofsky or Powell and Pressburger, Step Up is still a decent-looking film. Michael Seresin has spent much of his career working with Alan Parker, lensing all of his films between Bugsy Malone and Come See The Paradise. You won't find here any of the evocative colour shifts and shadows that he achieved in Angel Heart, but the colour palette is inviting and his use of wide angles is judicious.
 
Much like Charles Walters, director of High Society, Anne Fletcher comes from a background in choreography. There are occasions when we get the impression that the sets have been deliberately designed to be as big and spacious as possible, to allow more room for the dancing and more scope for the camera movements. But while Walters ultimately failed to tell his story in an interesting way, Fletcher has enough grasp of cinematic narrative to hold our attention.
The set-pieces in Step Up are of a very high quality. While less kinetic or feverish than in some of the sequels, there's still an awful lot of physical effort that goes into the various sequences. As a showcase for how exciting dancing can be, the film is on a par with some of the classic Hollywood offerings I mentioned. Channing Tatum's appearance doesn't suggest that he would be a good dancer, but he both looks and feels the part, and his deadpan nature plays into the hands of the role, unlike his later performance in The Eagle.
 
The story of Step Up, by contrast, is incredibly conventional. It's the classic story of two people from completely different backgrounds whose only means to get what they want is to team up. Over the course of the film they swap tips and interests, gradually grow to like and respect each other, and after a brief cooling of their relationship, they decide they really need each other and triumph. This plot is among the most well-worn in film, but it is applied in a somewhat engaging way.
 
Step Up uses its two conflicting styles of music to reflect the flaws of the individual characters. Tyler's laid-back, devil-may-care attitude gives him the freedom to take his dance moves wherever they choose to go, but he lacks the ability to focus which could make him potentially dance for a living. Nora, by contrast, is a prisoner of rigidity, being so tightly bound by the rules and traditions of classical music and dance that she can neither innovate nor stimulate.
 
The relationship between our two main characters is a breaking down of barriers, with both sides learning to respect traits of the other. Tyler not only understands responsibility, but he actively seeks it, eventually commiting to putting on a killer show and making a living. Nora learns to loosen up and have fun, which makes her dancing more natural and appealing. Tatum and Jenna Dewan have good chemistry together, which eventually led to them getting married in 2009.
 
There is also a nice comment in the film about how snobbery and tradition can actually put off the most talented people in a given field. Tyler's natural talent is plain for all to see (except himself), and yet it's hard to imagine him being given a level playing field with the more privileged members of the school. The film does, however, become a little more cartoony in this respect, with Nora's dance partner Brett being very thinly-written.
 
Step Up also deserves credit for maintaining control over its tone. Many films which are melodramatic in nature feel the need to inject some kind of darkness partway through their plots in a desperate bid to be taken seriously. While the film isn't as nuanced as Fame in this regard, the dramatic twist involving the younger boy is handled delicately, so that it compliments the drama rather than pulling us out of it.
 
Step Up is a surprisingly decent dance film, which acquits itself perfectly well as both a physical showcase and a piece of storytelling. Aspects of it are cartoony or melodramatic, and it's hardly the most original or accomplished piece of cinema around. But it is a great deal more agreeable than many would lead us to believe. If only its narrative standards had been maintained for the sequels.

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Apologies for the long gap between reviews on here - I will strive to do better in future.

NEXT REVIEW: Step Up 2 The Streets (2008)

Friday, 19 September 2014

Riding Lights: Fantastic Acts

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It's been a little while since I've talked about Riding Lights - and they've been far from idle in all that time. Following their acclaimed tour for Inheritance, and another well-attended Summer Theatre School, they're now gearing up for another national tour with Fantastic Acts.
Fantastic Acts, as the title sounds, takes its inspiration and much of its subject matter from the Book of Acts, which concerns the early years of the church after Jesus' ascension into heaven. But rather than just putting the book on stage, the play focussed on the modern-day questions of Julia, who heads to the Mediterranean in search of space and answers. At the site where the early church took shape, she is exposed to extraordinary stories and random acts of kindness, and discovers that the book of Acts may have quite a lot of what she's looking for...
At their Members' Day in Coventry earlier this year, Riding Lights' head honcho Paul Burbridge observed that it was getting increasingly difficult for Christian theatre companies to sell shows to audiences. Whatever the reason - and he put forward a number - I urge you to put aside whatever preconceptions you may have and see this show. Riding Lights are a prodigiously gifted and passionate company with an incredibly high standard of performance and storytelling - in short, you'll get more than just your money's worth.

Fantastic Acts is touring the UK from next month, beginning in York on October 8th and finishing up in Newcastle on November 29th. You can find all the tour dates here, along with how to book your tickets and what group discounts are available. Don't miss it!

Daniel

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Broadclyst Theatre Group: Improbable Fiction

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Sorry that it's been so long since my last post on here. I've been really busy with my new job at the Western Gazette - and all my free time has been taken up with rehearsals for the latest Broadclyst Theatre Group production: Improbable Fiction.
Improbable Fiction is a surreal comedy by Alan Ayckbourn, which centres around a hapless group of writers who are considerably better at talking about their books than writing them. The first half of the show is all about the characters they write about, the plots and the challenges each of them must overcome to get pen to connect with paper. The second act takes a momentous leap from the realms of reality as the world plunges into the would-be plots themselves. I'm playing Arnold, the organiser of the group who lives with his mother (that's me second from the left at the bottom).
This will be my second foray into Ayckbourn, having previously played Norman in Living Together with Warkworth Drama Group back in 2008 (see above). It will also, regretably, be my final performance with Broadclyst Theatre Group. I'm looking to move to Somerset before the end of the year to reduce my commuting time, and my job will involve a lot of evening work as I move towards taking my NQJ exams. Both of these will make it impossible to carry on my Broadclyst commitments - but rest assured, I will be bowing out on a high.
Improbable Fiction is playing at the Broadclyst Victory Hall on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th September. Doors open at 7pm with both performances starting at 7:30pm. Tickets are £7 for adults and £5 for concessions, and can be purchased from Broadclyst Post Office or by clicking here. Hope to see you there!

Daniel

P.S. I'll be doing a more general announcement post in the near-future, so watch this space...

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Complete Movie Hour Podcasts

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Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I made a brief return to the Lionheart Radio studios in Alnwick while I was up in the North-East for a wedding. During that time I teamed up with my old sparring partner Richard Dale for a one-off special of The Movie Hour.
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As I mentioned in my piece on Richard Attenborough, a fair chunk of this programme is taken up with tributes to Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams. Contrary to what I said then, I don't think there's much more that I can add that I didn't already say in the podcast. I still regard The Big Sleep as one of the best films of the 1940s, and still think that Robin Williams was as his best when he was being reined in by a director with genuine dramatic chops, like Kenneth Branagh, Terry Gilliam or Christopher Nolan. You can read my review of Insomnia here if you want a good place to start.
Here then is the complete list of Movie Hour podcasts, including the most recent episode on Highlander, with links to all my accompanying reviews. As and when any further specials are planned, I'll announce them here, but for now - that's all folks!

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1. The Bed-Setting Room (dir. Richard Lester, 1969) (6/11/10) - review - podcast 
2. Flash Gordon (dir. Mike Hodges, 1980) (13/11/10) - review - podcast 
3. The Man Who Fell To Earth (dir. Nicolas Roeg, 1976) (20/11/10) - review - podcast 
4. They Live (dir. John Carpenter, 1988) (4/12/10) - review - podcast 
5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (dir. Jim Sharman, 1975) (11/12/10) - review - podcast 
6. CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: The Muppet Christmas Carol (dir. Brian Henson, 1992) (18/12/10) - review - podcast
7. Into The Night (dir. John Landis, 1985) (15/1/11) - review - podcast 
8. The Wicker Man (dir. Robin Hardy, 1973) (22/1/11) - review - podcast 
9. Withnail & I (dir. Bruce Robinson, 1986) (29/1/11) - review - podcast 
10. Get Carter (dir. Mike Hodges, 1971) (5/2/11) - review - podcast 
11. Deliverance (dir. John Boorman, 1972) (12/2/11) - review - podcast  
12. Mad Max (dir. George Miller, 1979) (19/2/11) - review - podcast 
13. Dark Star (dir. John Carpenter, 1974) (26/2/11) - review - podcast 
14. Pink Floyd - The Wall (dir. Alan Parker, 1982) (12/3/11) - review - podcast 
15. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (dir. George Miller, 1981) (26/3/11) - review - podcast 
16. Quadrophenia (dir. Franc Roddam, 1979) (2/4/11) - review - podcast 
17. Blue Velvet (dir. David Lynch, 1986) (9/4/11) - review - podcast 
18. Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (dir. George Miller, 1985) (16/4/11) - review - podcast 
19. The Long Good Friday (dir. John MacKenzie, 1979) (7/5/11) - review - podcast 
20. Angel Heart (dir. Alan Parker, 1987) (14/5/11) - review - podcast 
21. The Clonus Horror (dir. Robert S. Fiveson, 1979) (21/5/11) - review - podcast 
22. Hallowe'en (dir. John Carpenter, 1978) (28/5/11) - review - podcast 
23. Savage Grace (dir. Tom Kalin, 2008) (4/6/11) - review - podcast 
24. The Boys From Brazil (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 1978) (11/6/11) - review - podcast 
25. The Thing (dir. John Carpenter, 1982) (18/6/11) - review - podcast 
26. Westworld (dir. Michael Crichton, 1973) (2/7/11) - review - podcast 
27. Cronos (dir. Guillermo Del Toro, 1993) (9/7/11) - review - podcast 
28. If.... (dir. Lindsay Anderson, 1968) (16/7/11) - review - podcast 
29. The Hitcher (dir. Robert Harmon, 1986) (23/7/11) - review - podcast 
30. An American Werewolf in London (dir. John Landis, 1981) (30/7/11) - review - podcast 
31. Heartless (dir. Philip Ridley, 2010) (6/8/11) - review - podcast 
32. Mumby's Best Bits (best-of featuring reviews of Flash Gordon and If.... and a rant about Transformers 3) (13/8/11) - podcast 
33. O Lucky Man! (dir. Lindsay Anderson, 1973) (20/8/11) - review - podcast 
34. Eraserhead (dir. David Lynch, 1977) (27/8/11) - review - podcast 
35. Spetters (dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1980) (3/9/11) - review - podcast 
36. The Magic Christian (dir. Joseph McGrath, 1969) (17/9/11) - review - podcast 
37. Britannia Hospital (dir. Lindsay Anderson, 1982) (24/9/11) - review - podcast 
38. Logan's Run (dir. Michael Anderson, 1976) (1/10/11) - review - podcast 
39. HORROR MONTH: Wake Wood (dir. David Keating, 2011) (8/10/11) - review - podcast 
40. HORROR MONTH: The Fog (dir. John Carpenter, 1980) (15/10/11) - review - podcast 
41. HORROR MONTH: Carrie (dir. Brian De Palma, 1976) (22/10/11) - review - podcast 
42. Capricorn One (dir. Peter Hyams, 1978) (12/11/11) - review - podcast 
43. Bad Lieutenant (dir. Abel Ferrara, 1992) (19/11/11) - review - podcast 
44. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (dir. Edgar Wright, 2010) (26/11/11) - review - podcast 
45. Gojira (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1954) (3/12/11) - review - podcast 
46. Event Horizon (dir. Paul W. S. Anderson, 1997) (10/12/11) - review - podcast 
47. CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: Whistle Down The Wind (dir. Bryan Forbes, 1961) (17/12/11) - review - podcast 
48. Review of the Year (24/12/11) - podcast 
49. Ladyhawke (dir. Richard Donner, 1985) (14/1/12) - review - podcast 
50. Silent Running (dir. Doug Trumball, 1972) (21/1/12) - review - podcast
51. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (dir. Stephan Elliott, 1994) (28/1/12) - review - podcast
52. Peeping Tom (dir. Michael Powell, 1960) (4/2/12) - review - podcast
53. Labyrinth (dir. Jim Henson, 1986) (18/2/12) - review - podcast
54. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (dir. Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975) (25/2/12) - review - podcast
55. American Psycho (dir. Mary Harron, 2000) (10/3/12) - review - podcast
56. The Omen (dir. Richard Donner, 1976) (24/3/12) - review - podcast
57. THE MOVIE HOUR X-RATED: Heathers (dir. Michael Lehmann, 1989) (31/3/12) - review - podcast
58. Gregory's Girl (dir. Bill Forsyth, 1981) (7/4/12) - review - podcast
59. This Is Spinal Tap (dir. Rob Reiner, 1984) (21/4/12) - review - podcast
60. The Stepford Wives (dir. Bryan Forbes, 1975) (28/4/12 - review - podcast
61. Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, 1982) (5/5/12) - review - podcast
62. Phantom of the Paradise (dir. Brian De Palma, 1974) (12/5/12) - review - podcast
63. A Clockwork Orange (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1971) (2/6/12) - review - podcast
64. Kick-Ass (dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2010) (9/6/12) - review - podcast
65a. GRAND FINALE: Night of the Living Dead (dir. George A. Romero, 1968) (23/6/12) - review - podcast
65b. GRAND FINALE: The Ones That Got Away, Top 10 Rants and Coming Soon (23/6/12) - podcast
        Featuring reviews of:
        - Big Trouble in Little China (dir. John Carpenter, 1986) - review
        - Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (dir. Steve Roberts, 1980) - review
        - Super (dir. James Gunn, 2011) - review
        - Shock Treatment (dir. Jim Sharman, 1981) - review
        - The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (dir. Gary Weis & Eric Idle, 1978) - review
66. ONE-OFF SPECIAL: Highlander (1986) - review - podcast

Daniel

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Dumbshow: The Pearl @ The Bike Shed

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I spent a fair amount of time last year persuading you to see The Pearl, Dumbshow Theatre Company's critically acclaimed adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1947 novella. Now, following successful previews at the Rose Theatre in Kingston-upon-Thames and a warmly-received run at last year's Edinburgh Festival, Dumbshow are bringing their unique brand of fantasy mayhem to The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter.
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In case you need reminding, The Pearl follows impoverished pearl-diver Kino, who finds an enormous pearl that he believes will transform his fortunes. At first all seems well, as he marries his sweetheart Joanna and they have a son. But other men also desire the pearl, and soon the very thing which brought him so much hope has led Kito down a dark path, ending in indifference and despair...
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I've been a big fan of The Bike Shed Theatre for some time, having attended a number of Butterscotch Sundays there (for I'm Not There, Mulholland Drive, Metropolis and Where The Wild Things Are). The theatre is an intimate, cosy and welcoming space which puts the audience very closer to the performance, and the management always try to encourage the best in local and avant-garde talent. It's the perfect venue for Dumbshow to present their show, having refined it over the last year.
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The Pearl is playing at The Bike Shed Theatre on Monday September 22nd from 7:30pm. Tickets are £12 for adults and £8 for concessions, which can be purchased by calling (01392) 434169 or by clicking here. Don't forget to follow Dumbshow on Twitter @dumbshowtheatre. You're in for a treat!

Daniel

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

RIP Richard Attenborough

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We're two thirds of the way through 2014, and this month alone has already seen some of cinema's most appreciated talents leave us forever. Following the relatively understated passing of Dick Smith (whom I paid tribute to here), the film world was dealt a double whammy with the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall. And now, only a few days ago, one of Britain's most beloved talents has departed, with Lord Richard Attenborough passing away aged 90 following a long illness.
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I've said a fair amount about Williams and Bacall on The Movie Hour special I hosted earlier this month on Lionheart Radio - and I will reiterate those comments when the episode is ready to podcast. For now, I want to concentrate on Attenborough, whose appeal has all too often been reduced to a small handful of roles or contributions that he made. Many of the more populist tributes have summarised him solely in terms of his supporting role in Jurassic Park or his Oscar success with Gandhi. But as much as I've criticised him for the latter, even I'm aware that there was so much more to him than that.
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Attenborough's image towards the end of his career was that of a cuddly grandfather, a luvvie figure within the film industry. But look back at his earlier acting career and you discover a man of great conviction and intensity. He was the man who brought the psychotic Pinkie Brown to life in the original version of Brighton Rock; he the doomed but principled military sergeant in Guns at Batasil and he, against all type, the terrifying serial killer John Christie in the eternally underrated 10 Rillington Place. For all his luvvie image, Attenborough was frequently at his best in darker roles; he had an amazing ability to channel some unearthly malevolence, something that his counterpart Sir John Mills never quite had.
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Attenborough's role behind the camera should also not be underestimated. His directorial work was always marked by a deep affection for his actors and subject matter - something which got him into trouble with Gandhi but which worked wonders on Shadowlands and Oh! What A Lovely War. As a producer he guided Bryan Forbes in his early days, lending a steady hand to The L-Shaped Room, Seance on a Wet Afternoon and the extraordinary Whistle Down The Wind. Add in his numerous charitable commitments, including the annual prize that bears his name, and you have quite an extraordinary life.
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If you want to play tribute to Dickie, I would suggest starting with Shadowlands and then progressing back through his acting work. Shadowlands is arguably his finest film, the consummation of everything that made him such a widely-loved public figure - intelligence, conviction, decency and a heartfelt love for humanity. He will be sorely missed.

Daniel