Goats and Ghosts

I love Sunday double bills. Your life is empty and there’s nothing to do so you indulge yourself and see two films. And then, after the event, you stop and think… That was a double bill. Ok, not really. Not in the old fashioned sense when you’d pay once to see two films shown one after the other…

Quick diversion. I’m a student in Manchester in 1980. I’ve never seen The Exorcist.  When it came out I was only 11. And now it’s on in a double bill at the lovely sleazy old cinema that used to exist on Oxford Road. And I’m only just turned 18. How exciting. Two “x” certificate films! I guess I may as well see the two, after all they are “x”; so much better and darker and forbidding and foreboding than the feeble “18” certificate presented to kids of today. So, before The Exorcist I watch a film I’ve never heard of; Taxi Driver. That’s a double bill.

Back to today. With my double bills I always like to have a connection. Sometimes I forget and have to work hard afterwards. For example, a few years back I went to the Peckham Premier and had a double bill of the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Finding Nemo. Connection? They are both deeply disturbing films that will scar you for life.

Todays’ connection; words that are similar but not the same: goats and ghosts. First up, The Men Who stare at Goats.

I was looking forward to this. Keen to enjoy it. And so I did.

It’s based on Jon Ronson’s TV documentary. Sort of. I guess that’s the problem.

Jon made a great documentary about these psychic warriors; soldiers in the US, funded to look into such things as remote viewing, and warfare free from weaponry and death. Jon’s style made it a joy. He belongs to the Louis Theroux camp of investigative journalism (or Louis belongs to his), where a faux naivete results in astonishingly frank and uninhibited responses from his interviewees. Try and see the documentary, part of a series on Channel 4 called The Secret Rulers of the World.

The documentary was a crazy as anything in this film. But the documentary had Jon Ronson. The film’s got Ewan McGregor.

If you like the likes of Clooney, Spacey and Bridges gooning about (and I do) then you’ll enjoy this film.

That’s that. But see if when you click on the trailer the same thing happens to you as to me. Does an advert pop up? For Ronson lighters? Mr Jon, shame on you!

Next up, and I can’t write for long or I’ll miss my train home (I’m bashing this out over a pint of Theakston’s and some wasabi nuts  in the foyer at the Royal Festival Hall) is the ghost film. It’s A Christmas Carol!

Well… this film is downright freaky.

That must be why they’ve released it so early. I don’t know about you, but I try not to think about Christmas until at least the 17th December. But this one- they’ve brought it out in early November. It’s a Guy Fawkes movie! It’ll have been and gone by Christmas, only to be replaced, no doubt, I hope, by some whimsy involving Steve Martin and The Rock pulling a cracker and seeing who gets the hat and who gets the joke.

You know the story. For those who’ve not read the book (me being one), it’s Scrooge. And it’s Jim Carrey as Scrooge. And the ghosts. And it’s a cartoon. And it’s in 3D.

That’s it. Except…

It’s that weird animation. Like in Robert Zemeckis’ other goes- The Polar Express and Beowulf. All the people look like waxworks and it spooks you out.

But Bob’s good at the 3D stuff. Scrooge flies around Victorian London. He’s big, he’s small. He slides off rooftops, he hides in drainpipes. If you want to go crazy in 3D London, Bob’s your man.

Oh, and know your story in advance.

I’m sure Robert Zemeckis has written a good script. Surely. It’s just that Jim Carrey… well, he loves those voices. one minute he’s the cast of Eastenders, next he’s Roy Cropper in Corrie. Honestly, I enjoyed the film, but I could barely understand a word he said.

Right. That’s that. Got to go and get that train. To Hither Green, not the North Pole. Sadly.

If it hasn’t come across, I did enjoy both of today’s films.

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The Boring Stuff

Sometimes it’s the boring stuff I remember most.

So says Russell, a Wilderness Explorer (heck, I don’t know; think of him as a boy scout) as he talks to the other main character of Up, the recently widowed pensioner Carl Fredrickson.

I’d be warned about Up. I’d been told the first 15 minutes or so might make me cry. And so I should have been prepared.

The young Carl Fredrickson meets the young Ellie. They’re kids; full of adventure. One quiet and shy, the other daring and brazen. Put things like this together and you may get a couple. Sure enough they stick.

Years later, married, setting up home, they paint their names on the mail box. Ellie, the confident, daring, adventurous, brave one watches as shy Carl messes up. He puts his paint-covered hand on the mail box and accidentally leaves his print. Some people might not tolerate this kind of clumsiness. Ellie; she adds her print to his.

I’m crying and we may be all of four minutes in.

15 minutes later and I’m in pieces.

It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life condensed. We expect, demand, hope, that life is going to be one long adventure. And then it’s not. Except maybe it is and it’s being hiding. Maybe it’s in the boring stuff.

Up is full of the boring stuff and the adventure stuff. I don’t want to spoil any of it for you. The film’s first twenty minutes are delightful and moving. There’s enough jokes for the kids but, just as I was warned I’ll warn you, the grown ups might find themselves hiding their tears behind their 3-D glasses (though as The Beacon pointed out recently on Twitter all glasses are 3-D glasses).

Then the adventure starts, as 78 year old Carl and the young Wilderness Explorer Russell head off in search of Paradise Falls; the place Ellie and Carl dreamt of moving to all those decades ago. Carl’s house, held up by thousands of balloons, floats away and the two meet a rare flightless bird, “talking” dogs and a bad man who looks like a cross between Kirk Douglas and Bruce Forsyth. He’s a villain alright, but one it’s possible to partly sympathise with. He has his own story, and if people had had faith in him they way in which Ellie had faith in Carl, maybe he would have turned out differently.

Oddly, this film reminded me of Bad Santa. Now Bad Santa isn’t something you’d want to take the kids to. Indeed, it would be downright illegal. Bad Santa is one of the rudest films you’ll ever see. But, like Up, it shows an hilarious and moving relationship between a (seemingly) grumpy adult and a loner of a fat lad.

Here’s the bit from Bad Santa where the kid quizzes Bad Santa about his reindeers:

How can they drop me onto my own head?

Ok, I seem to have moved away from the Disney feel this post started off with. But do see Up. And Bad Santa. Me and the family watch Bad Santa every Christmas. Even my mum, who will often offer to make us all sandwiches.

And don’t get your Up‘s confused. It’s the Disney/Pixar one you want to take the kids to.


suitable for kids


not suitable for kids

Time for a poll.

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Hither Green Cinema


I went to Hither Green Cinema the other day. Now, for those of you who don’t know Hither Green (and unless you live here you’re unlikely to) you may be thinking what’s the big deal; we all go to the cinema.

Except Hither Green Cinema doesn’t really exist anymore. The building does, but now it sells lots of things for 99p. Before it became a 99p shop it was Kids Korner Nursery. It used to look like this (picture courtesy of This Is Local London you can find their piece on the cinema here).

Hither Green cinema in its heyday

Hither Green Cinema, built in 1913

I’m guessing this photo was taken in 1930 or just after. I’ve guessed that because hey! they’re showing Talkies; Canaries Sometimes Sing and True to The Navy starring Clara Bow. And both made in 1930. And look! There’s a man too cowardly to walk under a ladder.

Here’s Clara having a whale of a time with 42 sailors.

The building stopped being a cinema in 1957. Here’s how the cinema looked a short while ago- post Kids Korner– pre 99p shop.


And now, looking at this picture, I am confused. is it Kids Korner or Kid’s Corner? No wonder they went out of business. Anyways, you’re getting bored of this history lesson, let’s get to the races. A local group calling themselves Hither Green Hall have already been instrumental in saving the building from demolition and now they plan to reclaim the building and turn it into an arts centre. Good luck.

To highlight their campaign, and also to have some film fun, they had a Hither Green Cinema day on the 18th October. Sadly not at the cinema (it’s a 99p shop don’t you know) but just round the corner at the disused Firemasters warehouse. Firemasters, who used to sell fire extinguishers; useful when you choose to show some golden oldies (I knew I’d learn something from seeing Inglourious Basterds).

You can see the cinema at the top of this post. It might not look like much, but the film hasn’t started yet.

In the “foyer”- a loose term, this was a cold and derelict fire extinguisher warehouse don’t forget -they had some lovely ladies looking like refugees from an unpublished “upbeat” Patrick Hamilton novel serving tea and cakes. Delightful.

So I settled down with my tea and cake to watch a film I’d never seen before. My Fair Lady. Yes, ok, so I’ve never seen it. Big deal. Someone’s got to not have seen it. And I’ve seen it now.

Quick review and verdict: Audrey Hepburn, awful. She made Dick van Dyke sound like a cockney. And when she went posh she sounded like, well, Audrey hepburn, with that odd clipped European accent. Her singing was good though. She’s got a great voice. What?! It wasn’t her? Stanley Holloway, excellent. Rex Harrison, genius. I wasn’t prepared for Professor Higgins to be such an unlikeable and foul man. And yet, I grew accustomed to him. To play such a monster, and for us somehow to sort of like him… it’s a performance ten thousand times better than that of De Niro in Branagh’s Shelley’s Frankenstein thing. Well done Rex. So, great, I enjoyed it.

Next up, The Balloonatic, a 1923 Buster Keaton short with live piano accompaniment from Costas Fotopoulus. I loved watching the parents with their kids, nudging them with their elbows, looking down into their faces, encouraging them to find this film funny.

And then not quite knowing how to react when Buster bonks a bear on the head with the butt of his gun and accidentally shoots the other bear dead. It’s great, watching Buster crawl around, a real bear behind him, practically sniffing his arse. I think they might be moon bears. Here’s the bear business,  minus the great piano playing of Costas:

The last film was Pool of London, described in this summary taken from the Hither Green Hall website:

‘Basil Dearden’s paean to London docklands in the 1950s is as enchanting and as murky as the river: a noir-ish heist tale, liberally suffused with a fable of forbidden love and unrestrained passion. The heist element of Pool of London (1951) is well crafted and suspenseful, but the most striking aspect is Dearden’s tentative venture into racial politics, with the first interracial relationship in a British film’ Carl Daniels (screenonline.org)

Pool of London

Basil Dearden’s last film was one I have always loved, even though I have only seen it once, and that would have been when I was 13. He made The Man Who Haunted Himself. Roger Moore plays Mr. Pelham, who crashes his car and ends up on the operating table. Later, once recuperated, it seems as if there are two of him. Imagine that! Two Roger Moore’s, one haunting the other. Both with moustaches. It’s the alternative taking of Pelham. And shortly after the film’s release Basil Dearden died in an horrific car crash on the A40, close to where Moore/Pelham crashes his car in the opening scenes. How can this not be a great film.

Thank you to all involved with making the Hither Green Cinema such a success. I look forward to the next one.

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Must try easier

Ok, the other day I said was going to see Up on Sunday. Well, I didn’t. I’m nothing if not inconsequential.

But I did get a double bill in, and possibly the most distressing double bill since I went to the then Peckham Premier a few years back on a Sunday to see the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Finding Nemo. I’ll leave it to you to work out which one of those was the most distressing.

Today I picked The Soloist, followed by Away We Go. If the following seems overly harsh or angry then I apologise. One of these films has put me in a hideously dark and furious mood.

Let’s get The Soloist out of the way quickly, because it’s not the offender, and I feel that on any other given Sunday I would likely be kinder.

Great cast. Three of my favourites; Robert Downey Jnr, Jamie Foxx and Catherine Keener. I’ll watch them in anything.

A sweet and true story, though a little slight; not much that can be done there since it’s true… and of course ongoing. So good luck in particular to the real Nathaniel Ayers (a schizophrenic and, initially, homeless musician played by Jamie Foxx who is exploited… sorry, helped… by LA Times journalist Steve Lopez, played by Robert Downey Jnr).

I like the director’s style, but I always feel he needs to relax a bit. It’s directed by Joe Wright. He obviously knows what he’s doing but sometimes I feel he tries too hard. Sometimes his direction gets in the way and shouts out at us. Other directors (Scorsese, De Palma) are flashy show-offs too but they seem to serve the story more. Joe (I feel I can call him Joe since he’s not gone for some high falutin’ Joseph, and also it makes me think of my grandpa and my godson, and so, in a long and roundabout way, makes me feel less shameful for criticising him when I know nothing) …Joe, does some great stuff, but it’s as if he knows it’s great and can’t stop himself from doing it some more. There’s a lovely moment where Ayers talks of the pigeons from the street rising and flapping their wings, clapping the music. It’s a poetic image that Joe brings to life. To the music of Beethoven the pigeons rise and fly up from the subway. We follow them. They fly by a bridge, they fly higher… the music and the pigeons fill our world. They soar. It’s beautiful and we get it. And then they fly straight upwards into the heavens, like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2- Die Harder. Something lovely, through being overegged, becomes silly.

But I cried and felt that even if it doesn’t get the Oscars it seems to want it’s a film that has its heart in the right place, and we can only be moved and wish well to the people of the Lamp Community in their battle to end homelessness.

I’m starting to feel ill as I approach writing about Away We Go. No trailer is going to be put up here. No free publicity. If it’s true that there’s no such as bad publicity then what can I do? That’s that. I’ll do my best to give it the worst publicity going and no doubt increase it’s bloody box office. Hell, as I sit here in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall, drinking my second pint of Theakston’s, I tap my computer keys so aggressively and with so much fury and anger someone has just come up and asked me if I am an installation.

Away We Go tells the tale of a quirky, sweet-natured couple who, upon finding they are going to have a baby and that the only living grandparents of the baby are about to move to Belgium, decide to go on a road trip, visiting friends and family thoughout the States and Canada. They do their road trip and they learn a thing or two. All sounds fine. But this is a film that takes the maybe somewhat elastic definition of an indie film and then chooses to… well, fuck it. And not in a nice way.

If, let’s say, Jordan represents all indie films, it’d be like she gave an interview to a Sunday tabloid and refused to name Sam Mendes as the man who so savagely abused her. Hell, I feel like he’s done me over too.

It might not be his fault. It’s not the actors. They all do their damnedest. This anger within me is not to do with liking this or that character; identifying with this or that character; hating this or that character. All my anger is firmly aimed at whoever wrote this piece of fraudulent shit. (Ok, I know it was written by two people- Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida- but I don’t want to know anymore about them in case I get cold feet and start to backtrack on how annoyed they’ve made me).

It’s just an out and out cheat of a film. No character is believable. The film would have worked better played as a Will Ferrell style arch comedy. Will Ferrell would have been great as the hippy nutjob of a partner to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character. They are visited in Madison and this is where one of the biggest cheats of the film takes place; just for the sake of a joke.

Our couple, Burt and Verona, ask another mother where they might find the Maggie character. With some venom, this seemingly aggrieved other mother points them in the direction of Maggie, declaring her to be the mother “without a stroller”.

Our couple meet Maggie and are quicky subjected to her alternative lifestyle.


Bloody hell! How often do I use capitals? Or Unnecessary extra exclamation marks? I’m so livid. It was just a big CHEAT to create a supposedly comic moment that had no right to exist.

I’ve had it. I’m finishing my pint and I’m off. I would like to see this film put in a brazier. I would like to see Wes Anderson, Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows, Miranda July, Jim Jarmusch… and anyone else who wants to join in… I’d like to see them all dump on this film and then drop a match in.

Let’s end on something fun. Here’s the trailer from a film I love. When is Miranda July going to make her next film?

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Halloween II

After spending the morning at a writers’ meeting for a new show for Nickelodeon and then watching two episodes of iCarly I thought it was only right to head off to the pictures and see Halloween II.

This is Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, not the Rick Rosenthal Halloween II from 1981. It’s the sequel to the remake, or the remake to the sequel. It’s Halloween II 2.

I expected it to be rubbish. Not sure why. Halloween II (1981) was disappointing (I think. Truth is I have no memory of it) but up until now I’ve enjoyed Rob Zombie’s horror films. Particularly House of 1000 Corpses; it was mad, bad and fun. His films are not for the squeamish, the faint of heart, the ones who hide behind their fingers when, say, a little boy sees dead people. They’re macabre, funny, freaky, grungy and with great soundtracks. They’re as gory as hell, but I don’t think Rob’s films qualify as Torture Porn. They’re too much fun. And they have people in them with funny names; like his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie.

So, Halloween II is great fun. Scary too. I not only jumped out of my seat; at one point I yelped. And I laughed at the new Dr Sam Loomis. Who could replace the late great Donald Pleasance? How about a suitably over the top Malcolm McDowell, wandering through hotel lobbies, barking out orders for cups of PG Tips? He’s nuts and he suits this film.

And then there’s the great Brad Dourif, Chucky from Child’s Play, and possibly the hardest working actor in the world as the seediest sheriff ever. But he’s sweet and has a heart of tarnished gold.

You can’t help but feel that Rob Zombie loves his characters. They’re all outsiders, freaks, dropouts; unshaven and ill-looking, tattooed and tortured, but for the most part (maybe Mike Myers excepted) kind.

This film won’t be for everyone. But there’s an integrity to a Rob Zombie film that I admire. He knows what he wants and he knows what his audience wants.

If you like horror and you have a strong stomach give it a go.

If not try Up. I hear that’s great. I’ll be off to see it on Sunday.

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Making a monkey out of God

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Creation, a film showing us the troubled mind of Charles Darwin leading up to the publication of his world-changing book On the Origin of  Species, is the very first thing we see. Film studios, distributors, funders; they all have their logos; and up at the top of the film is Icon; the independent film production company founded by Mel Gibson. Yes! The maker of The Passion of the Christ puts his faith in a film so potentially shocking to US viewers (well, the odd few stupid enough to believe in creationism) that is hasn’t even got a release date in America.

Maybe this is very big of Mel. Magnanimous Mel. Maybe he’s mad. Mad Mel. Maybe he’s untouchable. It’s not the first time I’ve been staggered by seemingly incompatible pairings. Years back I wondered what was going on when 20th Century Fox made Fight Club. It was as if Rupert was saying “bring it on. Have a go. See if I care. See what changes.” And the sad truth? Fight Club came and went 10 years ago… no doubt you can regularly catch it on Sky Movies. Maybe the Sky Indie Movies channel.

Or maybe Mad Mel’s happy to be involved because Creation doesn’t set out to be an I told you so film. This character is troubled by the by-product of his research. He doesn’t set out to prove there is no God; it’s just unlikely given what he discovers. Or, to paraphrase Tyler Durden, maybe we have to consider the possibility that God does not like us. That he’s perverse, cruel, mean, childish. Why would a good God make a wasp that paralyses caterpillars as living food for its eggs? Not nasty enough? How about worms that burrow into childrens eyes. Nature isn’t knowingly cruel of course. It’s just doing its job.

Darwin was troubled deeply by the  consequences of his findings. His most beloved daughter Anna –  the one shown to have the greatest aptitude for her fathers’ research, the one who comforts her sister when their dad shows them a skulking scheming fox rip apart a lovely wide-eyed bunny – well, she becomes sick, she dies. Charles Darwin had married his cousin, Emma Wedgewood (played in the film by Jennifer Connelly- in real life married to Paul Bettany). Was this inevitable? Did Darwin kill not just God, but also his most precious daughter? Well, no, he obviously didn’t kill Anna. But maybe natural selection did. Maybe he should never have married blood. The film shows a pigeon parallel, a pigeon breeders trials and errors; good pigeons, bad pigeons.  Charles and Emma had ten little pigeons; Anna died aged 10, and two died in infancy. The others did well and eventually flew the coop.

This is a good natured film. It’s not setting out to rock the ark. It’s the natural selection for a saturday night at the movies. Cheeky poster though.


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Clooney’s loonies

Funny trailers disturb me. I laughed at the trailer for The Ugly Truth. Admitting that is an ugly truth in itself, though I feel somewhat purged. I worry that all my laughing will be done and gone by the time the film comes out. But every now and then a film comes along with a funny trailer, then the film is funny, and then it goes on being funny every time you see it. And for some reason Clooney’s always involved. How many times have you laughed at Burn After Reading, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Batman and Robin?

Ok, so he does his best work with the Coen Brothers.

And now here comes The Men Who Stare at Goats; a film that looks like it could be a Coen Brothers film, but isn’t.

It’s based on Jon Ronson’s book of the same name and the TV series called Crazy Rulers of the World. That was a three-parter for Channel 4, so, if The Men Who Stare at Goats is a hit hopefully we can have two more; Funny Torture and Psychic Footsoldiers. Good old Jon (“I liked him so much I bought the guardian“) Ronson.

I’m so full of excitement I could even laugh at the Orange adverts that are now part of every cinema trip. Bring back the Sawyze one as a tribute and drop the worst yet, the Juliette Lewis horror. (2nd ugly truth confession… I’ve started to laugh at Steve Furst’s “glug glug glug glug” bit, right at the top.)

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District 9


I thought I knew what I was going to get with District 9. I expected a sombre sci-fi movie; an allegory for South Africa’s hideous apartheid past. I didn’t expect The Office meets The Fly. I didn’t expect it to be so much fun.

The film is set in modern day Johannesberg, South Africa. Twenty years ago an alien craft hovered over the city. There was no attack, no musical sign language, no “take me to your groot krokodil“. The aliens were all too ill. They were malnourished and leaderless, with a broken spaceship and no way home. And so they were housed in District 9- a ghetto on the outskirts of the city.

The poor things. Well you would say that if they were small and sweet and could sit in the basket of your bike. But no; they’re big and insecty-looking with no glowing fingertips. And twenty-odd years down the line they’re not wanted… at least, not so close to the city.

And this is where David Brent comes in. Or rather his South African equivalent, Sharlto Copley as Wikus van der Merwe; a penpusher placed in charge of moving the 1.8 million aliens to a new District… Hey! District 10!… 240 km outside of Johannesburg.

Brent- sorry, Wikus- talks to the camera, documentary style; joking and planning, bossing and laughing. He’s a nerd-monster, an office idiot, prone to trying all sorts of devious tricks to get the aliens to sign forms legitimising the mass forced exodus. At one point he torches a host of baby alien eggs, laughing at the “alien abortions” and how they “crack like popcorn”.

The aliens are referred to as “prawns”; a derogatory term (unless you’re a prawn). In one of the many vox pops that help give the film the feeling of watching news unfolding, a black passerby has sympathy for the humanitarian need to offer refuge to the dispossessed… but he talks of it in terms of human foreigners only. Not aliens. Not prawns. Not these scumbags. No one wants them.

It’s happened before. Apartheid, for nearly 50 years, in South Africa. The Stolen Generations in Australia. It still goes on around the world. You don’t need an idiot like me to list the countries and the abusers. And it could be seen as facile for a film such as District 9 to draw parallels with true atrocities. But somehow this film manages to be daft, exciting and moving. And at its heart is a possible solution to racism; empathy.

Yes! Wikus soon has to re-evaluate his position when two things happen. Firstly he meets a “prawn” called Christopher, and secondly he gets sprayed with alien juice. And things change. before you know it Wikus is a sort of hero. The sort of hero you don’t see too often in mainstream Hollywood action films. He’s a snivelly little shit of a hero who more often than not does the wrong thing, the mean thing, the selfish thing. But, when pushed, does the right thing. And why? All because one of the despised can’t be dismissed as a prawn any longer. He’s Christopher. And Christopher has a little boy… well, ugly little alien thing, but you get the drift.

District 9, directed by first-timer Neill Blomkamp, is a rare thing. A film that starts off like a snazzy Newsnight report and then becomes as daft and gory as… well, one of Peter Jackson’s earlier films like Bad taste or Braindead. Which comes as no biggy surprise since he is the producer. The team have made a film that clearly references other sci-fi classics such as The Fly, Robocop, Aliens, Starship Troopers, E.T., Close Encounters, and yet it’s the presence of The Office that makes it like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

And it’s a film full of swearing. The same word said over and over. Fucking this, fucking that. The South African accent is like no other until it comes to the F word. Every time it was said by our distressed (anti)hero Wikus, he turned, just for a moment, into Noel Gallagher.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife

“You have to swallow it whole, or not at all” said The London Paper (leaving me to no longer wonder why it’s going out of business). They were talking about The Time traveler’s Wife, the film that’s getting some people worked up because an “l” has gone missing in another time zone. Others are worrying about the rules of time travel and hence the swallow it whole or not at all line. Me? I swallowed some of it, but there were also large chunks I wanted to just spit out.


I spent the first half hour worrying about Eric Bana. His whispered lines, his gruff voice, his constant troubled look. Even when he’s happy (like in this  picture) he looks as if death is banging away inside his skull. Chopper, Hulk, Munich– all obsessed, troubled nutters. in Troy he played Hector; the name I’m giving to all of his demons. He also kept reminding me of someone else, and then it hit me. He’s Liam Neeson. He’s Darkman.

But who is Rachel McAdams? I saw her and liked her in Red Eye, but in this she’s just any old attractive Hollywood actress. In these kind of daft time travel romances it’s essential for us to fall in love with the performers. Otherwise why will we cry? We fall in love with them, we care, we realise that the sadness of their doomed romance is also the sadness of our own failed lives, and we cry and cry and cry. Then go home.

I didn’t want to be Bana and I didn’t fall in love with McAdams. It’s not their fault. They’re good looking, they’re good actors. But someone forgot to give them character. McAdams is Clare Abshire, an artist. And that’s it. Bana is Henry DeTamble, a librarian and troubled time traveler. And that’s that.

Sure, there’s other things to know. Henry’s dad is a violinist and a mess, because his wife, and Henry’s mum, died years ago. And that’s the explaining about it. Oh, and Clare’s dad is a hunter and a Republican. And this is how the film works. Republican, hunter = bad. Artist = good and sensitive. Librarian = troubled and lonely.

And just in case you haven’t got it yet- that these are lovely people, troubled people, finding troubled love- just wait and see what they pick for their first dance at the wedding. Only “Love will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, played by a band who make Joy Division look like the Jonas Brothers.

Though the film is called The Time Traveler’s Wife it spends far more time being about the time traveler. He’s the one leaping around from time to time. He’s the one who forms the life of his wife. He meets her first when she is a young child. He’s in his thirties I guess. He turns up naked in a field where she is playing. And from then on he keeps visiting her, in this field; a grown man and a child. Interestingly, this isn’t as creepy as it sounds. Just fairly creepy.

And everything is set in place for a romance devoid of free will.

But it’s fun. It’s ok. it made me cry just a little bit. But, and I guess this is a fairly big but, not as much as that other daft time travelling romance The Lake House. That’s an anomaly. Let’s call it the Bullock Factor.

Two films that deal with time and love that I will see again and again and again are Synecdoche New York, a feelbad time-jumping film about love and death and free will (and the terror it brings) and a lovely feelgood time travelling romance, Time After Time.

Please see this one. It’s in the Top Ten list of films you need to see if you haven’t seen them. Malcolm McDowell plays H.G. Wells. David Warner plays Jack the Ripper. When Jack the Ripper is on the run in Victorian England he jumps into Wells’ time machine and transports himself to 1979 San Francisco. And so H.G. Wells goes after him. With me so far? And there Wells meets and falls in love with Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen… and if you’ve never fallen in love with her then get out of here now). But she’s doubtful about this weirdly dressed gentleman… oh, and she’s a feminist (which leads to a nice time-travelling trick later in the movie). So to prove that he is who he says he is, he takes her to an H.G. Wells museum and they clamber into the Time machine. He takes her forward a day or two and shows her a newspaper to prove it. And the headline? Well, that would be telling. Here’s a clue; they’ve not managed to catch Jack yet. See it now.

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The really ugly truth

UglyTruthPosterEveryone’s got it in for The Ugly Truth. I can’t think of a film in recent times that’s been so roundly bashed by the critics. I’ll stop and think for a moment… nope. Nothing. Not even Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus. For a new film to be as hated as much as this one it would have to be called Kissing Hitler.

Yesterday, I had time to kill. Armed with my Unlimited cinema monthly pass I felt compelled to give it a go. It can’t be that bad. I like films. Even bad films. And the trailer made me laugh. I like the poster too. This one; not the new one showing a smirking Gerard Butler and a, well, smiling Katherine Heigl (does she do anything else?)

The film’s a comedy. Or not. Poor old comedy films. The only genre that demands a vocal response from the audience. See a horror film and you can be scared without screaming out loud; a tearjerker and you can silently weep. But a comedy? Laugh or don’t laugh. That simple. Oh sure, you can laugh on the inside, but that’s not a comedy film; it’s some smart-arsed cleverclogs we get the references type of thing. Like laughing at Shakespeare.

Ah, Shakespeare! Not funny. It’s true! Don’t go getting all itchy and jumpy. Men dressed as women, women dressed as men; it’s like pantomime without the Krankies. But Shakespeare can be made funny. All you have to do is get rid of the Shakespeare. Take Ten Things I hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew) or… ponders… She’s the Man (Twelfth Night). Ok, drop  She’s the Man. But it can be done. Both of these films were written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirtsen Smith. Oh, and they wrote The Ugly Truth, along with Nicole Eastman. Maybe basing it on Shakespeare’s deleted scenes.

It’s a shame that a film so damned should be written by three women. It’s a shame that this may reinforce  the foolish notion that women can’t be funny. For the record, Ten Things I hate About You, Legally Blonde, The House Bunny… all funny. Not just because I think so, but because I have heard the laughter in the dark.

But yesterday? I sat in a half full cinema (or half empty. Me? I’m more of a half full cinema kind of critic) and no one laughed. A comedy that got no laughs. I couldn’t even laugh at the bits that made me laugh when I saw the trailer. I laughed more at the orange Text Fu Juliette Lewis thing. I didn’t laugh, but I did cry. At the end, when the two of them get together. I’m such a softy for a happy ending.

Something’s poisoned this not very good film. It is a bad film, but I’m not sure it deserves the hate being flung at it. I suspect a bit of schadenfreude. Smiling Katherine Heigl came to most folks attention through starring in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up; a film I’ve seen and now can’t remember. And Smiling Katherine Heigl had the temerity to call the film “a little sexist”. Note “a little”. She hardly tried to shoot Apatow’s bollocks off. But the nerve of the ungrateful smiling she-devil! How dare she criticise the Godapatow; the comic genius who gave her her big break.

So now it’s payback time. She’s executive produced, she’s earning a fortune, she got her gang of crazy feminist writers to come up with the ideal vehicle… and it’s not quite worked out. Better luck next time. Keep smiling.

P.S. If you like laughing, and you like funny and sexy women (writing and performing) look out for 30 Rock, Anchorman; the legend of Ron Burgundy and Sports Night.

P.P.S. I like Judd Apatow. The 40 Year Old Virgin had me laughing out loud. And I’m looking forward to Funny People.

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