Friday, 22 November 2013

Future Film Friday: Tolkien

Following the success of last year's Hitchcock, Fox Searchlight have announced that they are working on a JRR Tolkien biopic which will capture his time during both university and as a soldier during WW1, as well as his well-publicized friendship with CS Lewis.

Whilst it may be surprising that no such film has already been produced, it is worth noting that the Tolkien estate are notoriously protective over usage of Tolkien's outputs, so I'll wait with bated breath to see if this comes to fruition.

I have my own personal family reasons to hope that this film gets the greenlight; my great-grandad was in his year at school and my great-aunt was matron of the hospital where he was treated for trench-foot so I'm looking forward to pointing out "nurse #4" and pretending she is an ancestor.  All jokes aside, Tolkien is probably the most innovative and imaginative authors of all time, so it will be fascinating to see the man behind Middle-earth.

Talking of Middle-earth, Google has made sure none of us forget the imminent release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Some of The Hobbit's well-known locations are  now open for virtual tours, thanks to the new interactive map from Google.
Incorporating, audio passages, character biographies and Elvish muzak, users can explore Trollshaws, Dol Guldur and beautiful Rivendell.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Lloydy's round-up: Batkid, Pudsey and an odd sequel

I have to begin this post with the most heartwarming story I've ever heard.

For one day only, San Francisco transformed into Gotham City, especially for Miles Scott (Batkid), a five year old leukemia sufferer, and the city's residents were all in on the secret (courtesy of Make-A-Wish Foundation).

The day began with an ABC news report calling for Batkid's help and his day progressed with saving a damsel-in-distress and apprehending the Riddler.  To reward him for all of his help, Batkid was rewarded with the key to the city.  

This is an absolutely wonderful story, and something that I'm sure was brilliant fun to be part of. Bravo San Francisco.

Very Important Pudsey

The second charity-meets-entertainment story of the week revolves around our favourite charity mascot, Pudsey (bear not dog).  

Stars from stage, screen and music came together to design a very unique range of Pudsey's to raise money for this year's Children in Need.  Those participating included Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Terry Wogan, Dame Helen Mirren and Joanna Lumley's (see below).

And now something bizarre...

A sequel to It's a Wonderful Life is in the works. Yup.

It's a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story (hmm...) will follow Bailey's unpleasant grandson, with angel Zuzu showing him how much better the world would have been without him.

I don't even know what to say.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Lloydy's round-up: Thor, Classics and Odd Promotions

Last night I saw Thor: The Dark World.  Despite the mixed reviews that it has received, I really enjoyed it, especially the many humourous interludes, courtesy of Loki, Darcy and  Erik. The science chat mostly went over my head but I got the gist of what was going on.  It did feel a little Lord of The Rings-esque at times but on the whole, a well-told story.

Other things happening in the movie world this week...

Star Wars casting

The first auditions for Disney Star Wars: Episode VII were held in Bristol this weekend, but I'll leave it up to these two to tell you more...

Blasts from the past

Ghostbusters 3 could well be on the cards, with reports suggesting that both Jonah Hill and Emma Stone have been offered roles. We shall have to wait and see if any more news surfaces...

Similarly, Jurassic World (due for a 2015 release) has a rumoured casting list of Jason Schwartzman, Bryce Dallas Howard (The Twilight Saga, The Help), Nick Robinson (The Kings of Summer) and Ty Simpkins (Insidious).

Jungle Book updates

Back in July, I spoke about Disney's planned live-action remake of The Jungle Book, and it looks like the wheels are well and truly in motion, with Jon Favreau in negotiations to direct.  I'd be really interested to see what the genius behind Elf could do with another family classic.

Odd Hunger Games tie-ins

One news story that I saw circulating all over the internet this week, was the proposed Hunger Games theme park. Now, I understand why this would appeal. Both The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter were roaring successes, and as a franchise with a similar fan base, I can appreciate why this would be a concept. However, the main difference is that Hogwarts, and all associated with it, is a world that as you read (or watch) you desperately want to be part of. You certainly do not want to be involved in any of the various civilizations within Panem, or the arenas for that matter.  I can imagine the rides themselves would be suitably exhilarating but I'd love to be a fly on the wall during the development process.

The second Hunger Games related news that has caused quite a frenzy amongst fans is the Subway US promotion alongside Catching Fire. Admittedly, it is an odd choice, a film revolving around starving citizens, sponsored by sandwiches. I think Subway have really missed a trick here.  The Catching Fire sandwiches on offer are the 'Sriracha Chicken Melt', the 'Sriracha Steak Melt', Buffalo Chicken and the Turkey Jalapeno Melt.  However, hardcore fans will know that a particular meal is referenced quite prominently throughout the novels (although admittedly they don't linger on it in the movies), which consists of lamb stew and plums.  To me, this sounds like a potentially delicious sandwich! Come on Subway!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Future Film Friday: Get your tissues ready...

If I Stay
Director: R.J. Cutler
Writers: Shauna Cross & Gayle Forman (author)

If I Stay is the story of 17 year old Mia, a gifted cellist, who has to choose between life and death after a horrific car accident that kills the rest of her family.

Production for this began last week, with some spot-on casting, including Chloe Grace Moretz as the lead role. Moretz has even been learning the cello in preparation.


I discovered the book by Gayle Forman only this week and I devoured it in one day. It's tremendously sad, but balanced perfectly with characters that are so awesome that you'd wish you were part of their world. I haven't felt that emotionally involved in a story in years, so I'm interested to see if the film will have the same effect or if it is Forman's writing that I was solely gripped by.

The Fault in Our Stars
Director: Josh  Boone
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber & John Green (author).

Along a similar vein (but also completely different) is The Fault in Our Stars, a love story between Hazel and Gus, two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.  As with IIS, the characters are incredibly likeable and share an acerbic wit that will make you laugh out loud, a couple of paragraphs after crying hysterically.  The screenwriting team behind 500 Days of Summer adapted the screenplay which I am thrilled about and the film is slated for release 6 June 2014. Author John Green has been very active during the whole filming process, providing regular updates for his fans via social media as to the progression of the movie.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Review: Captain Phillips

Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Billy Ray & Richard Phillips, Stephan Talty
Main Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman 
Certificate: 12a (UK)
(Source: IMDB)

Richard Phillips (Hanks) makes the trip to Oman to captain a cargo ship to Kenya.  However, whilst voyaging through hazardous Somali waters, the MV Maersk Alabama becomes the first American ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. Phillips risks his own life and is taken as hostage by the pirates.

What I respect the most about this film is its refusal to demonize the Somalians, yes they are the bad guys, but we understand the reasons behind what they do.   We sympathize with Bilal, the youngest, he doesn't want to be there, but has ended up there out of desperation, and you find yourself simultaneously hoping both he and Phillips survive.  Then there's Muse, played by Barkhad Abdi, a native-Somalian with no previous experience in acting.  He captures both the desperation and intelligence of the person who is perhaps just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As this is based on a true story, it is surprising how tense this film is, despite knowing how it'll end.  Greengrass previously directed United 93, and so had already proven how adept he is at taking a well-known situation, but still keeping the audience gripped to the very end.  Hanks is also responsible for this, there is something very comforting about knowing you will be spending the next 90+ minutes in his company, and is such a decent man that we are immediately concerned for him. Indeed, the last scene, whilst having probably the least amount of action of the whole film, is definitely the most raw and powerful, and is Hank's acting at its peak - you could have heard a pin drop.

Cannot recommend this film enough.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Review: Prisoners

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Main Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terence Howard, Paul Dano
Certificate: 15 (UK)
(source: IMDB)

Prisoners is a tense thriller that sees the families of Keller Dover (Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Howard) have their lives turned upside down when their daughters are kidnapped during a Thanksgiving party.  All fingers point towards Alex Jones (Dano), whose RV was parked outside during the time of the abduction, and it is up to Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) to get a confession out of him.

Except, he can't... and Dover takes matters into his own hands, resulting in some horrifying consequences.

The plot twists and turns throughout the movie, with the camera always lurking ominously around the corner, with the anticipation that danger is always round the corner, and someone is always watching.

The questions that the film makes the audience asks itself veers on a slightly political edge - what lengths would you go to, if you thought you could rescue a loved one?  As a result, some of the scenes make for very uncomfortable viewing - not because of any particular gratuitous violence, but because of what is implied and the discomfort of the situation makes us question our own morality and the choices we would make.  We are also constantly aware of the "race against time", to find the girls and to save the girls, and this nervous apprehension only adds to the menacing tone of the film.  

Both Jackman and Gyllenhaal give brilliant, believable and distressing performances, but attention must also be given to both Dano, whose silence portrays a thousand words, and also Howard, whose anguish is completely heartbreaking.

You will be on the edge of your seats with your hands clamped over your mouth until the very end, and beyond and, if anything else, this film will perpetuate the notion to never buy a house with a basement...