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FESTIVE BEHAVIOUR 2012 PART ONE
It’s that time of year again when London Film Festival hits town. The amount of films I see each year depends on what else I am doing at the time and this year, fortunately or unfortunately, I have had a week without freelance subbing, so I could catch a few of the films on offer.
The first thing I saw was Robot & Frank, a science fiction movie set in the near future starring Frank Langella as Frank, an elderly former cat burglar who has an estranged son Hunter (James Marsden) and a flaky daughter Madison (Liv Tyler). Frank’s son is worried about his well-being and so he gets him a robot companion to assist him (the voice of Peter Sarsgaard), something the old man initially resents. But of course, before too long, Frank gets attached to the robot and begins to see him as his only friend. Langella is excellent as is Susan Sarandon as librarian Jennifer. Sarsgaard also displays vocal dexterity as the voice of the robot and considering that this is director Jake Schreier’s feature debut, it’s a pretty assured work. Robot & Frank is a film that makes you think, that stays with you after you leave and is exactly the sort of film that the London Film Festival should be showcasing…
Beware of Mr Baker is a documentary about former Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Made by Rolling Stone journalist Jay Bulger, which shows just what a headcase Baker is. The musician was interviewed down in South Africa by Bulger, who gives us a chronological chart of the subject’s life, from his teen years obsessed with jazz to meeting Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in the Sixties. He is definitely a larger-than-life character and this helps to make Beware of Mr Baker an entertaining watch. Rock stars should be scary mavericks and Ginger Baker certainly falls into this category. Bulger has assembled an interesting biographical documentary although sometimes the use of animation to illustrate points in Baker’s life can be a little grating at times and you aren’t sure how much of the doc is staged…
Grassroots is an American indie film directed by American TV staple Stephen Gyllenhaal and starring Jason Biggs and Joel David Moore about a local council election in Seattle. Biggs is journalist Phil Campbell, who gets sacked from his job on the Seattle Stranger, and so decides to help his friend, Grant Cogswell, (Moore), run for office. You get to see the usual political cliches here (sleeping with political allies, betraying your girlfriend, doing unethical things to get noticed) but it’s pleasant enough, if extremely lightweight. Biggs works well on screen and Moore stays just the right side of annoying. Support from Lauren Ambrose as Campbell’s put-upon girlfriend Emily Bowen is likeable enough. Grassroots tries to make some serious socio-political points but Gyllenhaal doesn’t have the weight and gravitas as a writer/director to pull it off…

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HIT THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST PART ONE

It’s been a while since I went to a US show, partly because of the flat move last year. So when Wonder Con announced that they would be at Anaheim rather than San Francisco this year, I decided to try a new show. Emerald City Comic Con has been running for a decade and since I hadn’t really been to Seattle before (I spent an afternoon and an evening there about a decade ago while I was staying in Portland), I thought it was worth a proper visit. It has a reputation for rain and on a few of the days, this reputation was deserved. We did see some sunshine though including on the Monday after the show when myself and travelling companion Andy C walked to the Space Needle, which on a clear day does have some fantastic views. I did a number of interviews during the show with comic creators like Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Chris Burnham, Barry Kitson, Darick Robertson and Georges Jeanty and took loads of photos (there’s a shock, eh?;). Andy C and myself also got to catch up with Andy Grossberg and Susie Lee, who we haven’t seen since San Francisco last year. We wandered down to Pike Place and the market, which made for a fun couple of afternoons and also checked out the Elliot Bay Bookstore, a great bookshop. I didn’t realise that it would be quite as hilly as it was but this did give it some interesting vistas. I felt that we had only scratched the surface of the city with our six-day stay there. So here’s a selection of my photos both at the show and in the city itself…