Category Archives: popular culture

X-Factor 6:2

The new blog may have started, but it won’t contain material like this. In the spirit of silly fun, I’ll again be liveblogging tonight’s second episode of series 6 of X-Factor. Will anyone be able to stop the Danyl Johnson juggernaut? At 7pm BST:

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[NOW CLOSED but still viewable]

Zac Efron and Bulge

On the set of The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud

(via Towleroad)

X-Factor 6:1

This year I’m not going to tweet my comments about the new series of X-Factor, I’m going to liveblog them. You’re welcome to add your comments as well (and by Twitter, if you let me know in advance that you’d like to). It’ll kick off at 7pm BST and that’s when you:

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[NOW CLOSED but still viewable]

Film Countdown: Avatar

Vodpod videos no longer available.

By now many of you will have seen the trailer for James (‘Titanic’/’Terminator’) Cameron’s ‘Avatar’. What not so many of you will have seen is the 3D IMAX footage which was first tested at the San Diego Comicon, and was yesterday released to preview cinema audiences worldwide. To be honest words fail me. The storyline seems interesting enough – an interstellar, cautionary environmental tale – but the 3D IMAX footage just blows it through your mind and out the other side. The entire production is in 3D – not just the odd wheel flying at your face or one part of an animation, rather every single thing on screen. My brain struggled to process what I was seeing, which was a remarkable experience – certainly not one I’ve ever had at the cinema before, amplified by a complete synthesis between fantasy and reality. Cameron blends CGI and live action, making the boundaries completely unclear, and delivering a whole new cinematic experience. From what I saw it’s unlikely to win any awards on the writing side (although I could be wrong), but noone will be able to avoid the unforgettable experience.

‘Avatar’ is released on the 18th December. I can’t imagine any of you will be mad enough to miss it…

Daniel Hannan Is…

It’s about time someone told it as it was (although James Delingpole amusingly disagrees, which considering he blogs for the Telegraph must surely have been the point…)!

For the 3 of you not in the know, Daniel Hannan is the British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) responsible for:

a furious row over Hannan’s recent appearance on US television, in which he told Fox News that the NHS was a “60-year-old mistake” and urged Americans not to adopt a similar system if they wanted efficient, effective healthcare.

Hannan was rapidly slapped down and branded an “eccentric” by Cameron, who has pledged to preserve the health service, and to increase spending on it, without subjecting it to radical structural reform.

Film Review: Adam (Spoilers)

Worthy, nice, interesting, well-meaning – you can say all of these things about ‘Adam’, but very little else. As a character study it’s interesting, even engaging, but it wilfully skirts the difficult questions, and leaves the exploration of Adam and his world piecemeal at best. Adam (Hugh Dancy) is a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s high functioning, lives alone (having just lost his father), and has a rewarding job as an electrical engineer for a toy company. Enter new neighbour, teacher Beth (Rose Byrne), who takes a shine to him and forces him out of his restricted world; they fall in love. Happily ever after? Not quite…

The film for the most part is a charming look at their fledgling relationship, the compromises she and he have to make to be present in each other’s worlds. Writer/director Max Mayer parallels this with her seemingly strong relationship with father Peter Gallagher, and tensions arise when Gallagher turns out to be a judgmental fraudster. The apple turns out not to fall far from the tree – despite Byrne’s supportive behaviour, she is all-too-willing to manipulate Adam to her own benefit, yet not to sacrifice anything genuine for him. He though ultimately embraces change, largely as an effect of their relationship. That’s it.

What conflict there is is minimal, there’s very little plot and what there is doesn’t challenge the characters worth a damn. Dancy is fired by his boss, who uses his autism to get away with discriminating against him, and when he goes to Byrne’s school is stopped by the police as a suspected paedophile. Both of these are interesting sub-plots, but they’re quickly discarded. The performances however are charming – Gallagher hogs the screen as ever, and Dancy is quite convincing as a young autistic American, but none of them really grab the attention. Max Mayer gives us a gentle, overly theatrical look at a difficult, challenging subject, leaving more questions than answers, and delivers a nice but unfulfilling film. ‘I’m not Forrest Gump,’ jokes Dancy – he’s not Rain Man either. 6/10

Film Review: Inglourious Basterds (Spoilers)

The master is back. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is a thrilling return to form for the caper movie master after Tarantino’s truly awful ‘Death Proof’. As you would expect, the violence is excessive, the dialogue crisp and plentiful, the tone is geeky as hell, and yes this is the WWII movie which could only have come from the mind of Quentin Tarantino, but it’s a solid piece of work and self-indulgent in, well, the ways only he would indulge in. It by no means ranks amongst ‘Jackie Brown’ or ‘Pulp Fiction’, it doesn’t emotionally engage where it probably should – it’s a cheap thrill but with a solid narrative behind it, but that was probably the intention.

Pitt and his crack commando unit the Basterds are sent in by the US Army to infiltrate occupied Europe and wantonly kill Nazis as gruesomely as humanly possible, to send a message to Hitler and co that what they’ve meted out to others (in particular Jews) is coming for them too. And their reputation quickly passes up the chain of command to Hitler himself – killing, scalping, braining, mutilating – there’s no limit to what the Basterds will do to terrorise Nazis. So far so over-the-top funny, but the writer/director has learned from the misfire of ‘Death Proof’. Their involvement is only tangential to the very serious cat and mouse game between Jewish cinema owner Mélanie Laurent and Nazi Jew hunter Christoph Waltz. Waltz starts the film by massacring her entire family in occupied France, before unwittingly encountering her once more as the unwilling object of desire of Major Daniel Brühl, who as both a Nazi war hero and the new pin up Nazi boy of Joseph Göbbels’ fledgling Nazi film industry, intends to hold the premiere of his latest propaganda film in Laurent’s cinema. The Basterds meanwhile get wind of the premiere through German actress and double agent Diane Kruger, who informs them the entire Nazi high command (including Hitler) will be in atendance, giving the Basterds the chance to kill them all and end the war. Laurent meanwhile sets about her own ruthless plan for revenge.

It’s a hugely entertaining, acid trip of a movie, which regularly lapses into self-indulgence (this is however a Tarantino film) and boasts some truly stellar performances. Laurent is a true find and more than holds much of the movie on her own, but Brühl (‘The Edukators’, ‘Goodbye Lenin!’) shows again why he’s a name to watch in world cinema, delivering a thoroughly rounded, completely believable performance of a character doubtlessly written as a caricature. They, the Basterds and indeed Pitt himself are all however out-acted by Christoph Waltz, who quite rightly won Best Actor at Cannes as SS Colonel Hans Landa. A thoroughly affable man, he’s far smarter and wilier than even the Basterds; where they’re a blunt instrument he’s refinement and grace, yet no less dangerous. It’s to Tarantino’s credit that he allows him to steal the entire film. It’s horribly bloated (the scene with Winston Churchill and aide-de-camp Mike Myers adds nothing whatsoever to the film other than a cheap laugh at Myers), the occasional voiceovers by Samuel L Jackson detract from otherwise sound storytelling, Pitt never quite breaks out from caricature, and the frequent discussions about European cinema ring more like Tarantino’s internal dialogue than the characters’, but these really aren’t significant quibbles.

It’s clearly two films – marketed as the spaghetti western gorefest, yet that element is unexpectedly but rightly downplayed in favour of the serious film centering on Waltz and Laurent. Tarantino just manages to blend them together in his own inimitable way, and the result is like nothing you’ll have seen before. It might not be in the top 5 for the summer, but don’t you dare miss it. 8/10