A PICTURE OF MODERN PHOTOGRAPHY
2011 sees the World Photography Organisation hosting their photography festival in London for the first time. Located at Somerset House on The Strand, this week-long celebration of the best in world photography runs from 26th April to 1st May and features many of the world’s finest photographic practitioners. Thanks to the generosity of the organisers, who have kindly donated a promotional code that gives visitors here 15% off entry.
This special offer ends on April 4th – don’t miss out: buy your Festival pass today before it’s too late!
To benefit from the 15% discount, enter now the following promotional code PROMO15 in the gift voucher box using this link: http://bit.ly/h7IHC4
I’ll be visiting the festival myself and it’s a stunning venue located right on the river Thames.
To see the festival’s schedule, just visit this link: http://bit.ly/eFsd45
ALLEN GOES AYCKBOURN
Woody Allen’s last film, Whatever Works, with Larry David, was particularly awful and pointless. So expectations for his latest effort, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, weren’t high. Returning to shooting in England (partly because these days European money seems to be the only kind he can get), You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is a drama about Helena Shebritch (Gemma Jones), married to Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and their daughter Sally Channing (Naomi Watts). Sally is married to American writer Roy, played by Josh Brolin. When Alfie splits with Helena as part of some late mid-life crisis, and takes up with brainless bimbo Charmaine (Lucy Punch), the rest of the family’s life seems to feel the ripples. Sally’s husband Roy takes a fancy to gorgeous neighbour Dia, played by Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) while Helena goes to ‘find herself’. You can tell from the offset that none of it is going to end well but one of the biggest problems here is that it’s such a slight concept that it leaves your brain almost as soon as you have finished watching it. Allen doesn’t seem comfortable in this world of English manners and foibles and dialogue comes across as stilted and unconvincing in the mouths of the predominantly British cast. The character portrayed by Antonia Banderas as Sally’s boss is redundant and Punch as gold-digging airhead Charmaine comes across as unreal and caricatured. Watts turns in a decent performance as does Hopkins, who underplays things for a change. So You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is an improvement on Whatever Works but it’s hard to believe that this was the same writer/ director responsible for Annie Hall, Manhattan and even Bullets Over Broadway. So worth catching on DVD when it comes out but nothing would be gained by seeing it at the cinema.
I went to see The Eagle, a film based on Rosemary Sutclif’s novel written in the 1950s about the Roman legion who lost their standard and were routed by Picts in Scotland. The story is the same one that was depicted in Neil Marshall’s Centurion but here we have a slightly larger budget, Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Touching The Void) and American beefcake Channing Tatum. The big problem with The Eagle (which was originally called The Eagle of The Ninth but the makers thought that the simpler name would make it more appealing) is that it is filled with inconsistencies and historical mistakes. Tatum plays Marcus Aquila, a centurion determined to regain the honour of the lost legion by retrieving his father’s legion’s golden eagle emblem and restore his reputation. He is assisted by his slave Esca (Jamie Bell) and so they make their way over Hadrian’s Wall. They are captured by the Picts and Aquila’s status is reversed, making him the slave. The Picts look more like Native Americans, carrying tomahawks, and Guern (Mark Strong), one of Aquila’s father’s legionaries, has an American accent for no apparent reason. Presumably the producers thought that, if they shoved Americans and American-sounding actors into The Eagle, it would play better in the States but it detracts from the story. The script isn’t up to much, Tatum is lumpen and rather wooden but, to be fair, Bell is pretty good. Centurion made for a much better film for a fraction of the cost and came across as far more credible. The Eagle is just about worth watching on DVD but it really does feel like a wasted opportunity…
DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SETS
Over the last thirty years, Philip K Dick has had a lot of his work adapted to the big screen, some more successful than others (Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly and Total Recall, to name but a few). The Adjustment Bureau, directed by George Nolfi and starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, is the latest attempt to bring Dick’s work to the cinema, loosely based on Dick’s short story ‘Adjustment Team’. Damon plays politician David Norris, who, on the night that the results of his election contest are announced, meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) in the men’s toilets at the hotel he is watching the results. So this chance meeting causes Norris’s destiny to change course and we are introduced to the existence of The Adjustment Bureau, a group of shadowy figures whose role it is to make certain that peoples’ lives run according to a grand plan. Norris is warned by Richardson from the Bureau (Jon Slattery from Mad Men) that he is not intended to be with Elise as eventually he will end up as President of the US. But of course, this being a movie, the viewer knows that Norris will never settle for this. The Adjustment Bureau has a likeable cast, is well-directed and a decent script but the problem is that it’s all too light. When you are first introduced to the shadowy figures, you are expecting a dark and thrilling adventure tale a la The Matrix or Dark City but as it progresses, the romance overbalances it. Damon is very good and Blunt makes for a fairly captivating female lead but, at the end, there’s no meat on the bones. So it’s not a bad film, by any means, and is certainly worth watching but there is something lacking here…
This week sees the release of one of my favourite British films of all time on DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s no exaggeration that Brighton Rock (1947) is a movie that’s up there for me with other classics like Get Carter, The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa as the best of what Britain can produce in this genre. Based on the seminal Graham Greene book, Brighton Rock, directed by John Boulting and known as Young Scarface in the US, is the story of Pinkie Brown, a violent sadistic young gangster and his gang of cronies in the archetypal British seaside town of Brighton. Pinkie has a rival in the shape of Italian Colleoni and so he is battling to maintain his piece of the action. The problem is that Pinkie’s gang kills newspaper man Fred Kite, bringing down all manner of aggrevation on themselves. This is Richard Attenborough’s first major role and as the lapsed Catholic Pinkie, he is magnetic on screen, with his character’s youth forcing his adversaries to underestimate his power. The future Doctor Who, William Hartnell, as Pinkie’s heavy Dallow, brings a rare menace to the screen and Hermione Baddeley as the blowsy Ida, who is drawn into the web as the last person to see journalist Fred alive, more than holds her own. Boulting is a wonderful director and Brighton really does become a character in its own right here. The script is faithful to Greene’s book with the best lines lending it almost a literary feel on screen. Hans Mays’s music only serves to increase the tension and drama here intercut with some of the best editing on any film before or since. It is a true slice of British cinema history and, with the release of Rowan Joffe’s film of the same name (set in the 1960s), this should attract attention when it comes to Blu-ray and DVD. The extras are not much to write home about, although the interview with Joffe, who seems to know a lot about the Boulting precursor, makes for intriguing viewing. Brighton Rock is a British film masterwork and anyone who is a serious cineaste should have it in their collection. This restored edition is worth the price, if only for the film itself…