DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Blow Out

Blow Out

Brian De Palma’s best film gets a UK Blu-ray release from Arrow Films.

A cinematic fusion of Antonioni’s Blow-up (1966) and Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), it draws heavily on real events (notably the JFK assassination, Chappaquiddick¬†and Watergate) and sees a sound technician (John Travolta) drawn into a sinister plot after accidentally recording what appears to be a gunshot.

Although not a financial success on its theatrical release, it stands up very well to repeated viewing, not only as a showcase of the director’s dazzling technique, but also as a gripping thriller.

Brilliantly shot by famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, it has many of the stylistic tricks favoured by De Palma: overhead shots, split-screen and split focus are just some of the visual flourishes on display.

But this isn’t just an exercise in style, as it manages to capture the bleak post-Watergate mood that lingered long after Nixon resigned, whilst also playing around with our perception of what we see and hear on screen.

Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown had just come off Kubrick’s The Shining and this was his first time working with De Palma and the smooth movements the camera allowed suited the director’s style perfectly (he also used it to memorable effect in Carlito’s Way and Snake Eyes).

The performances are also excellent: John Travolta demonstrates his more subdued side after the late 70s superstardom madness of Saturday Night Fever and Grease; Nancy Allen paints a sympathetic portrait of innocence in what could have been a clichéd role and John Lithgow is suitably creepy as the serial killer.

Blow Out is also about the filmmaking process itself: the central character has to recreate an event using sounds and images. But can we trust what we see and hear? Even if we can, what about the forces that initially shaped them?

This disc comes in a regular and steelbook limited edition with the following special features:

  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma
  • Original Dolby 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Black and White in Colour: An Interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
  • Rag Doll Memories: Nancy Allen on Blow Out
  • Return to Philadelphia: An interview with Producer George Litto
  • A gallery of on-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Collector‚Äôs booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Atkinson, a conversation between Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma and more to be confirmed

> Buy Blow Out on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Blow Out at the IMDb

Festivals Thoughts

Sundance London 2013

Sundance London 2013

DAY ONE (April 25th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 1 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

The Look of Love (Dir. Michael Winterbottom): After 24 Hour Party People (2002) Michael Winterbottom reunites with Steve Coogan for this biopic of the late Paul Raymond. The self-styled ‚ÄėKing of Soho‚Äô made his fortune with gentleman‚Äôs clubs, erotic magazines and property but his great wealth was underscored by personal tragedy.

Coogan brings a huge amount of charisma to his role, but he is backed up by a fine supporting cast including Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, Chris Addison and especially Imogen Poots, who excels as his troubled daughter. Winterbottom deftly manages to balance humour and the film makes good use of real life locations in Soho.

DAY TWO (April 26th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 2 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

Blood Brother (Dir. Steve Hoover): An enlightening and at times harrowing documentary about a filmmaker following his best friend (Rocky Braat) as he returns to a hostel in India for young children with HIV. Whilst it doesn’t break any new ground stylistically, the engaging central figure and rawness of the story makes for compelling viewing.

It is rare to see filmmakers adopt a such an extreme verite approach, but what initially starts off as a traditional narrative soon becomes something more unexpected. One scene in particular during the final third may raise questions about the moral line between documentarians and their subjects.

DAY THREE (April 27th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 3 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

The Kings of Summer (Dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts): One staple of US indie films, is the coming of age tale. This one follows three disaffected boys (Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias) in a rural Ohio town as they run away from home and try to settle in the woods.

Despite the over familiar setting Рand a considerable debt to Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me (1986) Рit manages to effectively capture the humour and frustration of those teenage years. This is mostly down to Vogt-Roberts nice eye for location and a solid ensemble cast, which includes a stand out turn from Nick Offerman from TV’s Parks and Recreation.

DAY FOUR (April 28th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 4 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

Mud (Dir. Jeff Nichols): Interesting US directors outside the LA/New York axis have been rare in recent years. A notable exception has been Arkansas native Jeff Nichols. With his first two films, Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011), he has firmly established himself as a distinct voice.

His latest comes soaked in the storytelling tradition of the Deep South, mainly Huckleberry Finn, as two young boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) come across a stranger named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) who is hiding on an island in the Mississippi river. Strong performances abound from McConaughey, Sheridan, Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepherd, but it is the confident writing and directing that really mark this out as another chapter in the career of Nichols.

Upstream Color (Dir. Shane Carruth): Ever since his remarkable debut Primer (2004) scooped the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, people have been wondering what had happened to its writer/director Shane Carruth. The answer appears to have been a period of long development hell, but his second feature is well worth the wait. If you were baffled by Primer then be prepared for this film.

Just describing it is hard as it eschews conventional notions of plot but the basic premise revolves around a woman (Amy Seimetz) who comes across a man (Shane Carruth) who may or may not have the answers to a recent trauma she’s undergone. Imagine if David Lynch and Terrence Malick remade Memento (2000) and you might get some idea of the haunting puzzle box Carruth has crafted. The performances, visuals and score all combine to dazzling effect, and it is hard to recall a more mysterious and original film.

> Sundance London
> Connect with them on Facebook ( and Twitter (@sundancefestUK)
> More on the history of the Sundance Film Festival and The O2 at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-Ray Picks: May 2013

DVD and Blu-ray Picks for May 2013

  • Billy Liar (StudioCanal) / Blu-ray / 06/05/2013
  • The Impossible (Entertainment One) / Blu-ray and Normal / 06/05/2013
  • Amateur (Artificial Eye Blu-ray / Normal / 13/05/2013
  • One Hour Photo (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) / Blu-ray and Normal / 13/05/2013
  • Rear Window (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal / 13/05/2013
  • The Birds (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / 50th Anniversary Edition / 13/05/2013
  • Bullhead (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal / 20/05/2013
  • The Sessions (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) Blu-ray with Digital Copy – Double Play / 20/05/2013
  • Blow Out (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Special Edition / 27/05/2013
  • My Left Foot (ITV DVD) Blu-ray / Normal / 27/05/2013
  • The Unbelievable Truth (Artificial Eye) Blu-ray / Normal / 27/05/2013

> The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2012
> Full DVD and Blu-ray Releases for May 2013

Box Office Thoughts

The Critical Average

2012 Critical Consensus

Can review aggregators give us a true picture of the year in film?

In April 2011 I wanted to get a critical snapshot of the first three months of that year by combining three major review hubs: Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes and the IMDb.

Using roughly the same methods this time around, the goal was to get a similar picture for a whole year.

Data from the aforementioned websites was analysed again using all the US releases listed on the Wikipedia entry for 2012. (To do global releases would have been a logistical nightmare).

There were a few films we didn’t include, such as 3D re-releases like Titanic and Finding Nemo, along with some that didn’t appear on all three of the review hubs.

We added the Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes (for the latter we used the average % score) and IMDb user rating, which was then divided by three to get a final score.

The five bands which corresponded to each score were: Excellent (100-80), Good (80-60), Average (60-40), Bad (40-20) and Awful (20-0).

Here is a chart showing the overall picture. Overall Critical Picture 2012 Chart

Here are all the films and their scores in ascending order.Critical Average List of Films Released in 2012
> Wikipedia on 2012 in film
> US Box Office Figures for 2012

DVD & Blu-ray

Blood Simple Director’s Cut

Blood Simple DVD

The debut film of the Coen Brothers gets a welcome re-release on DVD.

Whilst true fans might mourn the lack of a Blu-ray (though there is a Region 1), this Director’s Cut is a reminder of how striking their entrance into the film world was.

Bearing similar hallmarks to some of their later works, notably Fargo (1996) and No Country For Old Men (2007), this neo-noir crime drama is a dark tale of murder, cash and betrayal.

Over the next twenty years the Joel and Ethan Coen would ascend to the front rank of American filmmakers and one can see the seeds here: quirky characters, the music of Carter Burwell, confident editing and a distinct visual style would all blossom in later works.

Also established here was their fraternal working methods, as Time magazine noted in 2007:

Joel writes and directs (with Ethan’s help), Ethan writes and produces (with Joel’s help), and both edit under the joint pseudonym Roderick Jaynes.

It also demonstrated their tremendous eye for character actors, the standout here being M. Emmet Walsh, as a corrupt private investigator, who bears some resemblance to Javier Bardem’s hitman in No Country.

One wonders if the Coens were thinking of their debut film when adapting Cormac McCarthy’s novel: both are set in early 80s Texas, make use of voiceover and paint a dark picture of humanity whilst sprinkling it with humour.

The multi-Oscar winning No Country is still the more accomplished film, but Blood Simple still stands up as one of the key independent films of the 1980s.

Funded by making a trailer, which was then screened for potential investors, it soon made waves on the festival circuit, winning the main prize at Sundance in 1985.

The sense of unease blended with comedy, the startling camera moves and clever narrative twists were all rightly applauded at the time, and the performances from Dan Hedaya, Frances McDormand, John Getz and the aforementioned Walsh are exemplary.

Walsh especially is hard to forget: his eerie Cold War voiceovers about the Soviet Union, pale yellow suit , silver revolver and laugh make him among the most memorable figures the Coens have ever put on screen.

Part of the pleasure of Blood Simple is in seeing how things unravel for the lead characters, as the story takes frequently unexpected turns and ventures down some dark alleys.

Utilising Texas locations on a low-budget, the Lone Star state provides a haunting backdrop to the skullduggery on-screen.

In retrospect, one can see cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld’s raw, yet stylish, visuals as a forerunner to their long collaboration (he would later direct in his own right) and Joel’s background as an editor served him well, as sequences just click into place.

In their playful style the Coen Bros did a Director’s Cut 3 minutes shorter, along with some minor changes to the original version, and that is the one that is being re-released on DVD.

Blood Simple (Director’s Cut) is released on Monday 15th April by Studiocanal

> Buy Blood Simple on DVD via Amazon UK
> Find out more about the Coen Brothers at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: April 2013

April 2013 DVD Blu-ray Picks

N.B. There were a lot of re-releases on Blu-ray this month, so if you want to browse them all click here for a spreadsheet.

> Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2012
> Full April 2013 release schedule

Awards Season Thoughts

The Oscar Horse Race

Oscar Horse Race

With the most interesting and unpredictable awards season in years drawing to a close, it seems like a good time to reflect and speculate on what might win on Sunday at the 85th Academy Awards.

How are Oscars won and why exactly do some films become frontrunners early on only to triumph (or not) on the big night?

The simple answer is that the 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are balloted and then vote for what they think is ‘the best achievement’ in a particular category.

By this point, contenders will have emerged and then nominees are announced.

It all culminates in a globally televised ceremony in which the winners are announced and the famous gold statuettes are handed out and the arguments begin over who deserved what.

But how are they really won?

The months leading up to the ceremony are often more interesting than who wins and also provide a useful snapshot of a particular year – the book ‘Scenes from a Revolution’ by Mark Harris examining the 1967 Oscar race is fascinating and one of the best film books in recent years.

A lot of words get written about famous snubs, such as when Ordinary People beat Raging Bull for Best Picture in 1980, why the Academy took so long to honour Martin Scorsese and the lack of Best Director trophies awarded to cinematic giants like Welles, Kubrick and Hitchcock.

But there can be interesting years like 1974 (when The Godfather II was up against Chinatown and The Conversation) and 2007 (when No Country For Old Men was competing with There Will Be Blood and Michael Clayton) when an unfortunate surfeit of quality leads to classics losing out.

Amidst all the glamour and hoopla, it isn’t just the perceived quality of the films that determines winners.

Perhaps the biggest change since around the early 90s has been the aggressive behind-the-scenes campaigning, which is filled with the kind of stuff you’d expect to see on-screen: suspicion, intrigue, heroes and villains.

Of course the latter depends on who is campaigning for you and whether or not you win.

Generally speaking, the ‘awards season’ really heats up with the Telluride, Toronto and Venice film festivals at the end of August and beginning of September, although other major festivals can be important – Beasts broke out at Sundance 2012 and ¬†Amour won the the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May.

Plenty of factors have distinguished winners since the late 1920s: box office, how an actor or director was (or is) perceived by the Hollywood community, PRs, awards consultants, and (lest we forget!) excellence in a particular category.

It doesn’t always work out, and there have been some infamous snubs, but generally when the nominations come around each year there is a lot to chew on in terms of quality, unless it is a really bad year.

How is the buzz then channelled into Oscar victory?

It often starts when a movie is green lit by a studio or financier as they assemble the package, although at this stage and during production, it would be foolish to assume anything.

Other features of a potential Oscar winner might include: a period setting, heavyweight acting talent, a name director trying to make a serious or issue film, often featuring a major character with some kind of disability.

As the films go through the cogs of the awards cycle, the various critics groups and guild awards give their verdicts, and this is where the punditry and guessing games kick in.

Traditionally, this was a more restrained affair, with the studios taking out ‘For Your Consideration’ ads in the two major trade journals: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

But as both publications have lost their influence in the rapidly advancing online world, the vacuum has subsequently been lost to websites such as Deadline, Awards Daily, Hollywood Elsewhere, IndieWIRE, The Wrap, Gold Derby, Movie City News and In Contention which offer more in-depth and often better coverage via social media, podcasts and long-form video interviews.

Some of these sites measure the Oscar odds through statistics, getting out in the real world and talking anonymously to voters, and just generally gauging what they think is the pulse of the Academy mind.

There are also a raft of people with years of experience at schmoozing voters such as Harvey Weinstein (arguably the king of Oscar campaigning, first at Miramax and now at The Weinstein Company) and Cynthia Swartz (the awards strategist behind The Hurt Locker and The Social Network).

What makes this year’s race interesting is the spread of nominees in the major categories and the way in which the introduction of online voting may have affected the process – even though BAFTA have been doing it since 2003 – and members still had the option to mail them instead.

Voting opened on December 17th and the fifteen branches that make up the Academy (actors, directors, costume designers etc.) are then asked to vote for members of their particular branch, from which the final nominees are then selected.

Argo is currently the favourite for Best Picture, but Lincoln and Life of Pi are very strong contenders, and there could be a three-way split amongst the vote, mainly due to Ben Affleck’s weird absence from Best Director, which has only happened a handful of times in Oscar history.

Affleck’s omission is not the only anomaly.

It is very rare for the director of a foreign language film to get nominated, let alone his leading actress, but Michael Haneke and Emmanuelle Riva have managed to achieve recognition for their outstanding work in Amour.

The presence of 85-year old Riva and 9-year old Quvenzhané Wallis (for Beasts of the Southern Wild) in the Best Actress race is mind-blowing and testament to both their work and the unusual nature of this year, which could be the result of the change in the balloting date or just chance.

Ah, yes. Chance.

That factor we like to forget because we can’t quantify the unknown and it can make us look ignorant of things we might have missed, underlying trends and the basic fact that each year is a different collection of films voted on by 6,000 human beings with their own unique tastes and quirks.

Given the new online voting system introduced this year and the insanely eclectic list of nominees, this year’s lineup is harder to call than ever.

With that in mind here’s my take on the three frontrunners and the rest of the pack:

  • Lincoln: Daniel Day Lewis gives a remarkable performance as the iconic US president and the film marks a big return to form for Steven Spielberg, with a lucid script by Tony Kushner. For whatever reasons, The Academy has had mixed feelings about Spielberg down the years, but this is his best work since Minority Report (2002) and Munich (2005).
  • Life of Pi: Yann Martel’s novel about an Indian teenager stranded in the Ocean with a tiger was considered unfilmable until visual effects reached a certain level. That day has now come and the resulting adaptation an extraordinary technical achievement for Ang Lee and his crew. Featuring no big stars, it has been a big hit at the global box office. A definite dark horse.
  • Argo: An extremely well-constructed thriller about an unlikely true life tale, Ben Affleck’s third film as director was set against a tricky subject (the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis). Produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Affleck also stars and despite some uneasy comedy in places, the pacing, tension and Affleck’s awards campaigning make it a well liked film.

And for the rest:

  • Amour: Michael Haneke’s outstanding drama about an elderly Parisien couple is a surprising but welcome addition to the Best Picture category. It is rare for a foreign language film to get recognition in a major category but since winning the Palme d’Or in May, has ridden a wave of richly deserved acclaim.¬†Look out for Emmanuelle Riva to cause an upset in Best Actress on her 86th birthday even though Jennifer Lawrence is favourite for Silver Linings Playbook.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: Another remarkable achievement with young director Benh Zeitlin becoming the toast of Sundance with his debut film. It won’t win anything but its four nominations (including director, actress, screenplay and adapted screenplay) are a stunning achievement for both the film and Fox Searchlight, who acquired it back in January 2012.
  • Django Unchained: Tarantino’s ‘slavery spaghetti western’ may get a screenplay nod and Christoph Waltz is definitely a possibility in Best Supporting Actor, but a combination of the violence (extreme even by the director’s standards) and unnecessary last 25 minutes is likely to have put voters off.
  • Les Mis√©rables: Working Title teamed up with Cameron Mackintosh to finally bring his blockbuster musical to cinemas with mixed results. Director Tom Hooper assembled an impressive cast (Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway) but musicals are a divisive genre (generally speaking, I can’t stand them) and early on this lost momentum. However, Hathaway is red hot favourite for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: A romantic comedy about bipolar disorder might seem an unlikely contender but David O’Russell’s film shouldn’t be counted out. Not only does it contain two contemporary stars (Cooper and Lawrence) and a former legend (De Niro), but it features in all the major categories and has had the formidable machinery of The Weinstein Company behind it.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: Just three years after winning Best Picture, screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow teamed up for their second ‘war on terror’ movie. Arguably superior to The Hurt Locker, this focused on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, but it’s awards season chances were damaged by the ‘torture controversy’ that blew up before its wide release. It could get a screenwriting award for Boal as a counter blast to all its critics.

There is a strange duality to the Oscars that mirrors Hollywood’s wider mix of commerce and art: red carpet glamour is mixed with backstage whispers; careers can be boosted (or even strangely derailed) by wins, people are snubbed for years and sometimes the planets align for no particular reason.

Some years a large portion of the global TV audience is wondering why they haven’t even heard of the nominees, let alone seen the films.

Whilst all the media attention will be on who does win, remember not to take any awards ceremony too seriously.

The Academy Awards can be a useful snapshot of a particular year, but the ultimate judge of any film’s importance is time.

> Official site
> More on the 85th Academy Awards at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray

The Best DVD and Blu-Ray Releases Of 2012

Best DVD Blu of 2012


Project Nim (Icon Home Entertainment) [Read our full review] [Buy it on DVD]
In a Better World (Axiom) [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]
Boardwalk Empire ‚Äď Season 1¬†(Warner Home Video/HBO)¬†[Buy on¬†DVD¬†or¬†Blu-ray]
Melancholia (Artificial Eye) [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Roger Dodger (StudioCanal) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (StudioCanal)  [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Drive (Icon Home Entertainment) [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
The Tin Drum (Arrow) [Buy the dual format Blu-ray and DVD edition]


Tyrannosaur (Studiocanal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray] [Read our original review]
Tabloid (Dogwoof) [Buy on DVD] [Read our original review]
All Quiet On the Western Front (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
To Kill a Mockingbird (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray]
Repo Man (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]
The Conformist (Arrow Video) [Buy the Dual Format DVD/Blu-ray from Amazon UK]
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Artificial Eye) [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK] [Read our full review]
The Mizoguchi Collection (Artificial Eye) [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD box set]


The Ides of March (Entertainment One) [Read our full review here] [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Contagion (Warner Home Video) [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Anonymous (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) [Read our full review here] [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Jane Eyre (Universal Pictures) [Buy it on Blu-ray + DVD & Digital Copy] [Read our full review here]
Rabbit Proof Fence (Optimum Home Enterainment) [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Naqoyqatsi (Miramax) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK]
Moneyball (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Available on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon] [Read our full review here]
Take Shelter (Universal Pictures)


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Home Ent.)
Dracula (Universal) [Buy the Blu-ray]
Hugo (EIV) [Read our full review] [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]
La Grande Illusion
 (StudioCanal) [Buy the DVD or Blu-ray]
Bad Lieutenant (Fabulous Films) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK]


The Story of Film (Network) [Buy at Amazon]
Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight (Mr. Bongo) [Buy at Amazon]
Into the Abyss (Revolver)
The Jazz Baroness (3DD)
Treme: Season 2 (Warner Bros.)
Shame (Momentum) [Buy at Amazon]
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox)
The Artist (EV) [Buy at Amazon]


Blue Velvet (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Lost Highway (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Odd Man Out (Network) [Buy at Amazon]


Chariots of Fire (Fox)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Total Recall (Optimum Home Entertainment)
A Fish Called Wanda (MGM Home Entertainment) [Buy at Amazon]


Le Harve (Artificial Eye) [Buy at Amazon]
The Descendants (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
Marley (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Rumble Fish (Eureka)


Jaws (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Les Enfants Du Paradis (Second Sight) [Buy at Amazon]
All Quiet On The Western Front (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
James Bond: Bond 50 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
To Catch a Thief (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
That Obscure Object of Desire (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Trial (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Turin Horse (Artificial Eye)


Lawrence of Arabia (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Walkabout (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Dracula (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Frankenstein (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Wolf Man (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry (Artificial Eye)
Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
Shut Up and Play the Hits (Pulse Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Curse of Frankenstein (Lionsgate UK) [Buy at Amazon]
Woody Allen: A Documentary (Soda Pictures) [Buy at Amazon]
ET – The Extra Terrestrial (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Glengarry Glen Ross (ITV DVD)
Nostalgia for the Light (New Wave Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Company of Wolves (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
The Shawshank Redemption (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
Homeland: Season 1 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]


Citizen Kane (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Groundhog Day (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Margin Call (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
The Man in the White Suit (Studiocanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Singin’ in the Rain (Warner Home Video)¬†[Buy at Amazon]


Following (Criterion) [Buy Region 1 Blu-ray]
Searching For Sugar Man (Studiocanal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

> The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2011
> 2012 in Film

News Thoughts

The January Catchup

January Backlog 2013

For US and UK audiences, January mostly represents a barren month where studios dump their bad films as the awards season heats up.

It can also be a strange time at the multiplex, as distributors of Oscar and BAFTA front-runners (which this year include Lincoln, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty) seek to get a publicity boost from the nominations.

Meanwhile, a film like Texas Chainsaw 3D is showing in the screen next door.

I always feel like I’m playing catchup given the end-of-year rush to get the contenders out to voters.

On the more commercial side, it is also a salutary reminder that life is too short to waste on bad films (unless there is an interesting angle) and how quickly the hoopla surrounding Best Picture fades into the ether.

At the end of every year I try to watch as many as possible in order to compile an end-of-the-year list, but for various reasons that didn’t happen in 2012 – a shame since this is probably the most interesting set of Oscar nominations in years.

However, I’ve now seen most of the awards season heavy hitters and nearly completed my annual list of the best DVD and Blu-ray discs, both of which will be posted soon.

> Oscar Nominations
> The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2011

Technology Thoughts

Rewind 2012: YouTube

YouTube Rewind 2012

YouTube has come a long way since its birth in April 2005 and since people learnt how to get more views on Youtube, but what does its meteoric rise mean for the worlds of film and television?

When a young man posted a video of himself in a San Diego zoo in early 2005, no-one could have predicted it was the beginning of a revolution in on-line content.

Whilst what would become YouTube had antecedents (such as iFilm) it was a combination of timing and Silicon Valley connections that really sent it into the stratosphere, culminating in its acquisition by Google in October 2006.

Its explosive growth over that year and the sheer amount of copyrighted content being uploaded led to speculation that it would be sued out of existence.

That didn’t happen, largely because Google had the money to legally defend itself, but also because the first media corporation to take legal action (Viacom) had their claims of copyright infringement struck down in 2010.

Although they can still appeal, it looks like YouTube’s official takedown policy and their large legal budget will cover them on this front.

Perhaps more interesting is the partnerships that the site has engaged in with more traditional media organisations like the BBC and CBS (the latter who are owned by Viacom).

YouTube has become like a default TV station for the entire web.

As of January 2012, Reuters reported that it was:

…streaming 4 billion online videos every day, a 25 percent increase in the past eight months,

…According to the company, roughly 60 hours of video is now uploaded to YouTube every minute, compared with the 48 hours of video uploaded per minute in May.

A lot of this is copyrighted material, but a newer generation are growing up with the site as a regular outlet for films, television and music, but also as a launchpad for memes, funny animals, activism and all kind of weird and wonderful stuff.

Their review of the most popular videos of 2012, featured a neat interactive timeline.

The collection shows the sprawling nature of content on the site, which is now so vast that it boggles the mind to think where it will be in another seven years.

More importantly, what are the future implications for longer form content?

Will our collective attention span gradually reduce as we get used to more short-form content on mobile devices?

And what effect will this have on professionally produced shows and films?

Live sports and music won’t be immune either as the site has already made headways into streaming live cricket and concerts.

Is it conceivable that in the next few years (as broadband speeds really increase) YouTube could buy the English Premier League football rights? I certainly think so.

For the film business it represents crisis and opportunity. At a recent Hollywood Reporter round table discussion, several studio executives held forth on the state of the business.

But it was long-time veteran Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks Animation who perhaps had the most interesting things to say.

The full discussion is below but click here to go directly to his answer about the future (i.e. next ten years) of the industry:

Katzenberg’s¬†analogy with sports is astute and the discussion of the release window also hints at the underlying tensions that are still ongoing between studios and exhibitors.

Whilst the conversation about home entertainment and video on demand is often dominated by Netflix and local sites such as Lovefilm (UK) and Hulu (US), YouTube is perhaps the most fascinating VOD platform for the future.

The sheer scale of content, infrastructure and legal bills paid by Google, are likely to make it an interesting barometer for the state of the film and TV business over the next decade.

> History of YouTube
> Time Magazine article from 2006


Rewind 2012: Sundance London

Sundance London 2012 Line-up

N.B. This is part of a series of posts looking back on the past year that I couldn’t write up at the time.

The news that the Sundance Film Festival was coming to London back in April was intriguing as the log cabins and snow of Utah in January seemed a world away from the cavernous spaces of the 02.

Since its relaunch in 2007 as a music venue with a multiplex cinema, it has shed its image as the white elephant formerly know as the ‘Millenium Dome’.

For the Sundance Institute it was a chance to experiment by taking a shorter festival abroad, (just four days) with a bigger emphasis on music and its relationship to film.

I couldn’t attend every film or event, but settled on two films and two sessions, which caught my eye.

DAY ONE (Thursday 26th April)

Liberal Arts (Dir. Josh Radnor): Radnor is most famous for being on the TV show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and his debut as director ‘happythankyoumoreplease’ in 2010.

It went down well at the festival, winning the audience award, but its poor box office and mixed reviews meant that it faded away, not even getting a UK theatrical release.

To a degree, his second film has followed the same pattern – although it did secure distribution here it didn’t exactly set the box office alight.

It explores what happens when a careers adviser in his mid-30s (Radnor) accepts an invitation from an old professor (Richard Jenkins) to go back to his old Ohio college.

There he forms a connection with a student (Elisabeth Olsen) and generally takes stock of his life in much the same way that Zach Braff did in Garden State (2004).

But despite bearing some archetypal tropes of the typical US indie movie, Liberal Arts does contain some pleasures.
Radnor, Olsen and Jenkins are likeable in their roles and there is an interesting attempt to portray an early mid-life crisis that seems to be prevalent in Radnor’s generation.

But like Radnor’s character in the story, this is a US indie film that looks back with nostalgia to another era: quirky supporting¬†characters¬† acoustic guitars on the soundtrack – and is ultimately overwhelmed by that.

DAY TWO (Friday 27th April)

SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS (Dir. Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace)

Maybe it was just serendipity, but when the documentary of LCD Soundsystem’s premiered at Sundance in January, it seemed a natural fit for the inaugural London festival.

Not only did it tie in snugly with the overall ‚Äėfilm and music‚Äô theme – it is one of the best concert films in quite some time.

When the New York band announced in February 2011 that they were splitting up – effectively at the height of their career – a farewell concert at Madison Square Garden was planned for April 2, 2011.

A four hour show with appearances by Arcade Fire, Reggie Watts and others, this was essentially The Last Waltz (1978) for the Pitchfork generation.

In a decade of turmoil for the music industry, it seemed a curiously appropriate gesture.

Like Scorcese’s classic concert film about The Band’s farewell show, it intercuts concert footage with interviews, although much of this is dominated by frontman James Murphy.

The main advantage of seeing a concert film (or any film for that matter) in a cinema is the superior sound system (no pun intended) and the dynamic shifts were not only aural but visual.

Directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace, who previously made the Blur film No Distance Left To Run (2010), pace the action so that it becomes as much an intimate portrait of Murphy as a standard concert movie.

We see him the day after the concert inspecting the band’s instruments, fielding unanswered voicemails and (in a very meta moment) being interviewed by a journalist about the end of the band.

Ultimately the theatrical potential for any concert film is limited in the modern era and most people will watch this on Blu-ray and DVD (it has since been released along with the full 4-hour concert).

But there was something joyful and exhilarating about experiencing the swansong of this band on the big screen.

It might not be in the same league as The Last Waltz or Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense (1983).

N.B. A longer review of the Blu-ray will be forthcoming.

DAY 3 (Saturday 28th April)

The idea of a ‚ÄėDocumentary Flash Lab‚Äô wasn’t one I was familiar with, but ultimately very impressed by.

A two-hour event hosted by Cara Mertes, director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Program and Fund, it was possibly the best event of its kind I’ve ever been to.

Sometimes Q&A-style events at film festivals can be poorly hosted and plodding affairs with rambling non-questions from the audience.

Here was a textbook example of how it should be done: Mertes went through the history of Sundance and the importance of documentary to the festival and she was joined by directors Lauren Greenfield (The Queen of Versailles), Eugene Jarecki (The House I Live In) and Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Ice).

All gave informative insights into their respective films but about twenty minutes in, as Mertes introduced Orlowski, a familiar figure entered the room.

It turned out to be a surprise appearence by the founder of Sundance himself, Robert Redford.

He apologised for being delayed in London traffic, but went on give a quick speech about his love of documentary and how he first got hooked on factual content whilst watching a televised military hearing in the 1950s.

It was just a taste of Redford’s commitment, but it has been a mainstay of the festival since the beginning, and his sincerity and contribution was obvious.

Over the years the festival he began has arguably become the global mecca for both filmmakers looking to sell their documentaries and distributors looking to buy them.

In retrospect 2012 has turned out to be a particularly strong year but it has also reflected both the frustrations and possibilities for documentarians.

Although each spoke eloquently about their films and the issues they explored, the question of how you actually get audiences to see them is another matter.

Eugene Jarecki expressed his desire to explore new was of getting his film out there, almost like a travelling musician going from city to city and forgoing more traditional distribution models.

On the one hand, it has always been difficult for documentaries to get attention in the theatrical marketplace, but reduced production costs (enabled by cheaper digital cameras, editing systems and prints) have dramatically levelled the playing field.

Representing the UK perspective was Jess Search, CEO of Channel Four BritDoc Foundation, and her enthusiasm matched that of her US counterparts as she went through the newer funding and distribution possibilities afforded by the web (e.g. Kickstarter, YouTube etc).

Two hours flew by and although there are deep anxieties about the technological revolution currently engulfing cinema, it was a session that left me excited about the shift to digital and the stories that will enable.

The downside is there will be plenty of bad films and documentaries made in the coming years, but overall I’m optimistic about the cream rising to the top.

DAY FOUR (Sunday 29th April)

Sunday afternoon was my personal highlight as Harry Gregson-Williams gave a two-hour talk on film music entitled ‘Film Music from the Composer’s Point of View’.

A composer probably best known for his collaborations with the late director Tony Scott (Unstoppable, Man on Fire), Ben Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, The Town) and various animated films such as Shrek.

Accompanied by the setup he uses on films and a group of musicians, the auditorium resembled a makeshift mixing stage.

After being introduced by Peter Golub, director of the Sundance Film Music Program, Gregson-Williams not only provided valuable insights into scoring for films but also dropped in some amusing anecdotes.

One of these was Ben Affleck’s disarming honesty in admitting that he actually wanted Thomas Newman to score Gone Baby Gone (2007) – there is a distinct Newman-esque vibe to the opening titles.

Not only that, but two years later for The Town (2010), he again admitted Affleck wanted Newman (!) before eventually hiring him.

It is hard to compress the session into neat sound bites but his music setup was connected to the screen and he was clear as he could be about the different stages in scoring a film, with practical examples on the screen behind him.

Throughout he displayed a refreshing self-deprecating wit and if the composing work ever dries up he could start a side-career as a public speaker.

He also spoke of the importance of Hans Zimmer to his career and discussed how scores are done on software programmes like Cubase, Logic and Pro Tools, but also how that ties in with live musicians.

When he first started out, his Zimmer told him to lock himself in a room for several days and learn Cubase – the audio software programme he still uses to this day.

One thing that struck me after the session was how long the digital revolution has been with filmmaking process.

In the 1980s computers became more prominent in scores and chart music generally; the 1990s saw the arrival of the Avid and non-linear editing; and in the last decade we have seen cameras and projection switch to digital.

Ultimately the step-by-step way he broke down the elements of a film score was fascinating.

Using a sequence from Unstoppable (2010), he began by showing time-coded footage and gradually added in the elements that made up the final mix.

At the time he was scoring a film at Abbey Road Studios and another nice touch was that he passed around the vintage microphones and instruments from that iconic studio.

They still actually use them and it was a salient reminder that although the digital revolution has enveloped the music and film world, there is still a place for analogue pleasures.

> Sundance London
> Connect with them on Facebook ( and Twitter (@sundancefestUK)
> More on the history of the Sundance Film Festival and The O2 at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Picks: Monday 10th December 2012


The Colditz Story (Studiocanal): This 1955 World War 2 drama directed by Guy Hamilton (who later went on to direct several Bond movies) is based on the book ‘The Colditz Story’¬†by¬†Pat Reid. Starring¬†John Mills¬†as Reid,¬†Ian Carmichael¬†and¬†Lionel Jeffries, it is one of the most notable depictions of the Nazi prison. Extras include a 53 minute documentary about the castle and a feature on the restoration.¬†[Buy the DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon]

Following (Criterion): This Region 1 import of Christopher Nolan‘s debut feature is worth seeking out, especially if you admire his later films like Memento (2000) and The Prestige (2006). An extraordinary production achievement (it was shot in London for just ¬£6,000 on weekends), it attracted enough attention at festivals for the next step in his career.¬†[Buy from Amazon]

[N.B. The Blu-ray is region encoded for America, so if you don’t have a multi-region Blu-ray player get the DVD instead]

> Find out more about Colditz at Wikipedia
> More on Following at Film Notes at Criterion

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Picks: Monday 3rd December 2012


The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Home Video): The opening of most anticipated blockbusters of the summer was overshadowed by a tragic shooting incident and a slightly less-than-stellar critical reception. Nonetheless, whilst it may not quite have scaled the heights of The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan managed to bring his customary intelligence and technical skills to the comic book genre. Like the previous two Blu-ray releases this disc comes with a lot of extras, with the option of watching them ‘in film’. Full technical details can be found at DVD Beaver and I’ll write some longer thoughts about the film soon. [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray at Amazon UK]

Luck: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video): Another project that was overshadowed by unfortunate events was this HBO crime series set amidst the world of US horse racing. Created by David Milch, and executive produced by Michael Mann (who directed the pilot), it was ultimately cancelled after three horses died during production. Solid reviews and the pedigree of the participants (Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Nick Nolte and Michael Gambon) might make this a cult favourite in years to come. [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray at Amazon UK]

Umberto D. (Argent Films): One of the greatest Italian films to emerge in the post-war period is this classic 1952 neo-realist drama. Directed by Vittorio De Sica (who also made¬†Bicycle Thieves), it explores the struggles of an old man in Rome and his trusty dog Flike (called ‘Flag’ in some subtitled versions of the film). Masterfully written, directed and edited, in light of recent European austerity this deceptively simple tale takes on a new resonance sixty years on. It also features perhaps the greatest performance by a dog in cinema history.¬†[Buy on DVD¬†at Amazon UK]

> DVD and Blu-ray Picks from April to November 2012
> The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2011

Lists News

Sight And Sound’s Top Films Of 2012

This year‚Äôs Sight and Sound end-of-year poll has been topped by Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

As usual, the UK film magazine polled around 100 critics and but have refrained from publishing it online for now.

But my print copy arrived in the post this morning and I can confirm that the list is as follows:

1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)

2. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, Portugal/Germany/France)

3. Amour (Michael Haneke, France/Germany/Austria)

4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, France/Germany)

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, USA)

=  Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, UK/Germany)

7. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, USA)

8. Beyond the Hills (Christian Mungiu, Romania/France/Belgium)

= Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, Canada/France/Portugal/Italy)

= Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Bosnia & Herzegovina)

= This is Not A Film (Jafar Pahani & Mojtaba Mirtahmaseb, Iran)

N.B. Because of the crossover of UK and US release dates some titles have been duplicated from last year’s list.

> Sight and Sound on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
> 2012 reviews at Metacritic
> Wikipedia on 2012 in film

DVD & Blu-ray

Rewind 2012: DVD & Blu-ray Picks from April to November

One of the major changes in home entertainment over the last year was the rise of video-on-demand, with services such as iTunes, Lovefilm and Netflix eating away at the disc market.

But discs are still alive and studios still control the major releases on Blu-ray and DVD, with some releases coming with the cloud-based format called UltraViolet, which allows users to legally rip a digital copy.

We’ll have to wait and see how Christmas sales pan out, but¬†we are currently living through a profound change in how we watch films in the home.

At the time of writing, the current situation resembles a confusing technical soup with various companies having to figure out some very difficult problems in how they produce and distribute their content.

But that is the subject of a longer post.

Here are my DVD and Blu-ray picks .


The Story of Film (Network) [Buy at Amazon]
Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight (Mr. Bongo) [Buy at Amazon]
Into the Abyss (Revolver)
The Jazz Baroness (3DD)
Treme: Season 2 (Warner Bros.)
Shame (Momentum) [Buy at Amazon]
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox)
The Artist (EV) [Buy at Amazon]


Blue Velvet (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Lost Highway (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Odd Man Out (Network) [Buy at Amazon]


Chariots of Fire (Fox)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Total Recall (Optimum Home Entertainment)
Some Like It Hot (MGM Home Entertainment)
A Fish Called Wanda (MGM Home Entertainment) [Buy at Amazon]


Le Harve (Artificial Eye) [Buy at Amazon]
Orlando (Artificial Eye)
This Must Be The Place (Trinity)
The Descendants (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
Marley (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Rumble Fish (Eureka)


Jaws (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Les Enfants Du Paradis (Second Sight) [Buy at Amazon]
All Quiet On The Western Front (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
James Bond: Bond 50 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]
To Catch a Thief (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
That Obscure Object of Desire (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Trial (StudioCanal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Turin Horse (Artificial Eye)


Lawrence of Arabia (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Walkabout (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Dracula (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Frankenstein (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
The Wolf Man (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry (Artificial Eye)
Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
Prometheus (Fox)
Shut Up and Play the Hits (Pulse Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Curse of Frankenstein (Lionsgate UK) [Buy at Amazon]
Woody Allen: A Documentary (Soda Pictures) [Buy at Amazon]
ET – The Extra Terrestrial (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Glengarry Glen Ross (ITV DVD)
Nostalgia for the Light (New Wave Films) [Buy at Amazon]
The Company of Wolves (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
The Shawshank Redemption (ITV DVD) [Buy at Amazon]
Homeland: Season 1 (Fox) [Buy at Amazon]


Citizen Kane (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Groundhog Day (Sony) [Buy at Amazon]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Universal) [Buy at Amazon]
Margin Call (Paramount) [Buy at Amazon]
The Man in the White Suit (Studiocanal) [Buy at Amazon]
Singin’ in the Rain (Warner Home Video)¬†[Buy at Amazon]

> The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2011
> 2012 in Film


Rewind 2012

Although there’s grumbling every year that films are getting worse, 2012 did seem to be a lean year for cinema releases and the wider industry is still struggling to readjust from the financial and technological shocks of the last four years.

However, some notable events included:

Among the DVD and Blu-ray releases that came out were:

I’ll try to do as many ‘rewind’ posts as possible to cover some of the above, as well as notable end of year releases such as Argo, Amour and The Master.

If there is anything you want to ask about, just leave a comment below or get in touch.

> 2012 in film at Wikipedia
> Worldwide box office figures at Box Office Mojo


Back to Blogging

So, regular blogging finally resumes after a 6 month break.

A more detailed post explaining my absence lies somewhere in the future, but for now it feels good to be back.

P.S. Can anyone name the film the image above is taken from?

DVD & Blu-ray

Some lenders allow you to take out an interest-only mortgage which means that your monthly payments only cover the interest that accrues (check here). In the example above, if you borrowed $100,000 at 5% and paid $25,000 annually, you’d only owe $80,000. This is good for someone who wants to pay for home education, but many borrowers are in this situation because they are new to the housing market. The interest-only interest is calculated for 12 months (not 12-36 months), and you will get a $0.25 payment per $1,000 you borrow. This is similar to the interest rate for conventional mortgages, but the payment amount is much higher (up to 15% above the cost of borrowing).

However, if you borrow $100,000 and pay an annual $25,000, you would then owe $109,000, but with no interest. Interest-only loans aren’t always that low, but they are affordable when compared to conventional mortgages.

Home Loan Interest Rates: Housing Loan Interest Rates in India | Indiabulls Home  Loans

Loan to Value Ratio

A Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV) is the amount of debt to a specific home value. LTV is calculated by multiplying the cost of the property by the number of days the property is owned by the buyer. For example, a $300,000 home has a $50,000 LTV and a 10-day period to own the property. If you are buying a home for a family of three, the LTV of the property would be $250,000 (10 x $50,000). In this example, the lender would give you $75,000 up front, but the remaining $35,000 would be compounded each month for 18 months.

A Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV) is the amount of debt to a specific home value. LTV is calculated by multiplying the cost of the property by the number of days the property is owned by the buyer. For example, a $300,000 home has a $50,000 LTV and a 10-day period to own the property. If you are buying a home for a family of three, the LTV of the property would be $250,000 (10 x $50,000). In this example, the lender would give you $75,000 up front, but the remaining $35,000 would be compounded each month for 18 months. The LTV calculation is an important consideration for the investor because a low LTV will result in a higher interest rate.

Taxes. There are numerous tax deductions that can be claimed by an investor. Since a property is sold for its face value, taxes will also be calculated. To see how a property tax calculation works, see the article on Tax Implications of a REIT Investment in Real Estate.


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 27th April 2012


Avengers Assemble (Disney): The eagerly anticipated blockbuster brings together the super hero team of Marvel Comics characters. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk and others are united on the screen or the first time. Directed Joss Whedon, it stars Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Renner [Nationwide / 15]


Damsels In Distress (Sony Pictures): A group of style-obsessed college girls take in a new student and teach her their misguided ways of helping people at their grungy university. Directed by Whit Stillman, it stars Greta Gerwig, Carrie MacLemore, Aubrey Plaza and Adam Brody. [Key cities / 12A]

Albert Nobbs (E1 Films): Drama set in late 19th century Ireland, about a woman posing as a man so she can work as a butler in an exclusive Dublin hotel, Albert meets a handsome painter and looks to escape the lie she has been living. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, it stars Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, and Brendan Gleeson. [Key cities / 15]

Being Elmo (Dogwoof): Documentary about Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo of Sesame Street, as he chases and ultimately achieves his childhood dream of working with master puppeteer Jim Henson. Directed by Constance Marks, it features Kevin Clash, Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg. [Key cities / U]

Buck (Revolver): The story of the American cowboy and real life ‘horse whisperer’ who travels the US for nine grueling months a year, helping horses with people problems. Directed by Cindy Meehl, it features Buck Brannaman and Robert Redford. [Key cities / PG]

The Monk (Metrodome): Drama about a 17th-century Spanish monk (Vincent Cassell) and his descent into evil. Directed by Dominik Moll. [Selected cities / 15]

Outside Bet (The Works): British period piece set in the 1980s directed by Sacha Bennett and starring Bob Hoskins, Jenny Agutter, Adam Deacon and Emily Atack. [Key cities / 12A]

Strippers Vs Werewolves (Kaleidoscope Entertainment): Another British film whose title is perhaps self-explanatory. Directed by Jonathan Sothcott, it stars Adele Silva, Robert Englund, Billy Murray, Martin Kemp, Ali Bastian and Steven Berkoff. [Key cities / 15]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
> Recent UK DVD & Blu-ray releases

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 23rd April 2012


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sony Pictures Home Ent.): David Fincher brings his full digital armoury to¬†Stieg Larsson‚Äės¬†bestseller¬†and the result is a masterful adaptation hampered only by the limitations of the source material.¬†[Buy the Blu-ray or DVD]

Dracula (Universal): The classic 1931 adaptation¬†of Bram Stoker‘s¬†novel¬†directed by¬†Tod Browning,¬†starring¬†Bela Lugosi¬†as arguably the most iconic version of¬†the famous vampire. Digitally restored as part of Universal’s 100th anniversary celebrations.¬†¬†[Buy the Blu-ray]

Lifeboat (Eureka): Another vintage dual DVD & Blu-ray release from the Masters of Cinema collection, this 1941 drama from Alfred Hitchcock sees American and British civilians stuck in a lifeboat in the North Atlantic. Like Rope (1948), Dial M for Murder (1954), and Rear Window (1954) it sees the director explore a limited setting. Stars Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Heather Angel and Hume Cronyn. [Buy the dual edition DVD/Blu-ray]

La Grande Illusion¬†(StudioCanal): Studio Canal have digitally restored Jean Renoir’s classic 1937 anti-war film exploring the relationships between French officers and their German captors during World War One. Starring Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay and Erich von Stroheim, it is currently screening at selected UK cinemas and is available as a dual DVD and¬†Blu-ray. [Buy the DVD¬†or Blu-ray]
Faces (BFI): A¬†1968¬†drama directed by¬†John Cassavetes¬†starring¬†John Marley, Cassavetes’ wife¬†Gena Rowlands,¬†Seymour Cassel¬†and¬†Lynn Carlin, who both received¬†Academy Award¬†nominations for this film. Shot in high contrast 16¬†mm black and white film stock it was an inspiration for indie filmmakers in the pre-Sundance era. [Buy the DVD/Blu-ray Dual Edition]

Il Boom (Studiocanal): 1963 comedy by Vittorio de Sica set amidst the backdrop of the post-war Italian economic miracle which transformed the country in the span of a decade, from the late 1950s to the onset of the 1970s. It stars Alberto Sordi and Gianna Maria Canale. [Buy the DVD]


Apollo 13 (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Back to the Future (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Bad Cop (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Being Human: Series 4 (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
Despair (Park Circus) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Despicable Me (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Fury (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Gladiator (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Hirokin – The Last Samurai (Signature) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Jurassic Park (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
King Kong (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Mamma Mia! (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Nanny McPhee (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Paul (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sansho Dayu/Gion Bayashi (Eureka) [Blu-ray with DVD]
Shaun of the Dead (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Blues Brothers (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Lady (EV) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Mummy (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Son of No One (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Ugetsu Monogatari/Oyu-sama (Eureka) [Blu-ray with DVD]

> Recent DVD & Blu-ray picks
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2011


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 20th April 2012


Gone (Entertainment): Thriller about a woman (Amanda Seyfried) who is convinced that the serial killer who kidnapped her two years ago is the same man responsible for kidnapping her sister. Directed by Amanda Fuller, it co-stars Jennifer Carpenter and Wes Bentley.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Lionsgate UK): The story of a fisheries scientist (Ewan MacGregor) approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) to a Yemeni sheikh (Amr Waked) with a scheme involving salmon. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, it co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Catherine Steadman and Tom Mison. [Nationwide / 12A]

Lockout (Entertainment): Sci-fi actioner about a man (Guy Pearce) who is wrongly convicted of spying against the U.S. but is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace) from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates. Directed by Heitor Dhalia. [Nationwide / 15]


Marley (Universal): Kevin Macdonald’s documentary about the life and career of reggae legend Bob Marley. With contributions from his family members, former collaborators and Chris Blackwell. [Selected cinemas / 15]

Elles (Artificial Eye): A well-off Parisian journalist investigates the lives of two student prostitutes for a magazine article and is forced to confront her own sexual fears and desires. Directed by Malgoska Szumowska, it co-stars Anais Demoustier and Joanna Kulig. [Select cinemas / 18]

Fury (Revolver): Crime drama about a veteran grifter (Samuel L Jackson) trying to go straight, but who is sucked back in by the son of his former partner looking for vengeance for his dad’s death. Directed by David Weaver, it co-stars Luke Kirby, Ruth Negga and Tom Wilkinson [Select cinemas / 18]

Elfie Hopkins (Kaleidoscope): An aspiring teen detective stumbles into her first real case, when investigating the mysterious new family in her neighborhood. Directed by Ryan Andrews, it stars Jaime Winstone, Ray Winstone, Aneurin Barnard, Rupert Evans, Kimberley Nixon and Kate Magowan. [Selected cinemas / 15]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
> Recent UK DVD & Blu-ray releases

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 16th April 2012


Naqoyqatsi (Miramax): Godfrey Reggio’s third and final film in his¬†Qatsi trilogy, which previously consisted of¬†Koyaanisqatsi¬†(1983) and¬†Powaqqatsi¬†(1988), explores the concept of ‘life as war’. This was highly apt as on its release in 2002, the world had recently plunged into conflict. As before, the music of Philip Glass provides a haunting backdrop to images of the world.¬†[Buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Bad Lieutenant¬†(Fabulous Films): Harvey Keitel gave one of his greatest performances in Abel Ferrara’s intense drama about a corrupt New York cop. Playing like a darker version of Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973), it came out the same year as Reservoir Dogs (1992) and like Tarantino’s film is a bold, dark work that lingers long in the memory.¬†[Buy on DVD or Blu-ray¬†from Amazon UK]

Last Tango In Paris (20th Fox Home Entertainment): Bernardo Bertolucci’s erotic drama about an ageing American¬†widower (Marlon Brando) who has an affair with a younger Parisian woman (Maria Schneider) scandalised audiences in its day but seems relatively tame today. Chiefly notable now for Brando’s performance and Vittorio Storaro‘s visuals.¬†[Buy the DVD or Blu-ray¬†from Amazon UK]


54 (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
A Midnight Clear (Second Sight) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Battle Royale (Arrow Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Dream House (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal / Triple Play]
Earthflight (Acorn Media UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Griff the Invisible (Matchbox Films) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Recoil (Entertainment One) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Rob Roy (MGM Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Accidental Spy (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Ledge (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Thor – The Hammer of the Gods (KSM) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Titanic (ITV DVD) [Blu-ray / Normal]
West Is West (The Movie Partnership) [Blu-ray / Normal]

> Recent DVD & Blu-ray picks
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2011


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 13th April 2012


Battleship (Universal): Aliens arrive on Earth to build a power source in the ocean when they come in contact with a navy fleet. Directed by Peter Berg, it stars Taylor Kitsch, Tom Arnold, Alexander Skarsgard, Jaqueline Fernandes and Rhianna. [Nationwide / 12A]

The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate UK): A group of friends at a cabin retreat scratch the surface of something so massive and horrific that they can only begin to fathom it as time quickly runs out. Directed by Drew Goddard, it stars Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Kristen Connolly and Jesse Williams. [Nationwide / 15]


Delicacy (Studiocanal): A French woman (Audrey Tautou) mourning over the death of her husband three years prior is courted by a Swedish co-worker. Directed by David Foenkinos and Stephane Foenkinos. [Selected cinemas / 15]

Gospel of Us (Soda Pictures): Filmed version of the Passion player spread over several days at venues in and around Port Talbot. Directed by Dave McKean, it stars Michael Sheen, Di Botcher, Francine Morgan and John-Paul Macleod. [Selected cinemas]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
> Recent UK DVD & Blu-ray releases

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 9th April 2012


Die Hard Quadrilogy (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment): Blu-ray box set featuring all four films, including a plentiful of extras such as director commentaries, various features and killer sound. [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]

Las Acacias (Verve Pictures): Drama about a long distance truck driver (German de Silva) who agrees to drive a woman (Hebe Duarte) and her 5 month old child from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. A road movie which explores solitude, loss and the unlikely bonds which can form between strangers. [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]


Cowboys and Aliens (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Dragon Eyes (G2 Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Lipstick and Bullets (Renderyard) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Mother and Child (Verve Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Switch (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Texas Killing Fields (EV) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Howling – Reborn (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) (Blu-ray / Normal)

> Recent DVD & Blu-ray picks
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2011


Film Notes #14: Following (1998)

Christopher Nolan’s debut film is #14 in our Film Notes series.

For newcomers, this series of posts involves me watching a different film every day for a month, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a current cinema release.

Hopefully it will capture my instant thoughts about a movie, providing a snapshot of my film diet for 30 days and some interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Following (1998) which I watched on DVD on Friday 6th April.

  • The debut film of Christopher Nolan that he made for just ¬£6,000
  • Originally conceived as ‘no budget’ movie, it is just 78 minutes long
  • Idea of the narrative was to not just tell a story chronologically but to construct a modular narrative that consists of three sections that pull at one another
  • The plot is about a young writer in London who starts following random strangers but when he comes across a burglar named Cobb, he gradually becomes sucked into a web of deception.
  • We absorb the story of the film in the fractured, fragmented way we do in real life.
  • Shot in and around London – principally Central London, Southwark and Highgate
  • Bolex wind up camera used to shoot Central London scenes at the beginning
  • There is a shot of Hungerford Bridge by Charing Cross Station
  • Nolan used a lot of natural light and real locations that he was able to get some kind of access to.
  • Although he often only had a day’s notice to shoot scenes on location, his actors had done 6 months rehearsal so they could adapt pretty easily to most situations
  • They shot without permits using real locations, which often included flats belonging to friends or family.
  • Did they use Framestore CFC as the location for the cafe?
  • Producer Emma Thomas can be seen in the background of that cafe scene early in the film.
  • Nolan got the idea for the film when he lived in Central London and constructed a story around the idea of focusing on one person in the crowd.
  • The story explores the barriers we put up by virtue of having to live in a city. In a sense it covers similar themes to¬†TAXI DRIVER (1976) and CROCODILE DUNDEE (1986).
  • Note that the burglar character is called Cobb – also the name of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in INCEPTION (2010).
  • The other influence on the script was when Nolan’s flat was burgled in the early 90s and he realised that it wasn’t the lock on the door keeping them out but social convention.
  • Police told Nolan after his robbery that thieves often steal a bag during the robbery to their things in. He worked this into the script.
  • All the flats belonged to relatives or friends.
  • Shooting on rooftops is a handy way of getting a landscape view of city without permits.
  • Nightclub scenes shot at a bar called Detroit in Covent Garden.
  • Only had 3 or 4 lights to use in the nightclub – although it was “murderous” lighting job, it would have been harder to do in colour.
  • Note that make-up gets less severe as the film progresses
  • The Batman logo is on the door of the flat they rob!
  • Theobald’s physical appearance is a signifier of where the plot and narrative is at.
  • Nolan used an ARRI BL camera to shoot
  • The film plays very different on subsequent viewings – even then Nolan was very interested in the narrative possibilities of cinema.
  • Cobb knows the hidden side of London, which is what Nolan used for the locations.
  • Fractured narrative recalls Nic Roeg’s BAD TIMING (1980)
  • The guy who has his skull smashed looks a lot like Harry Potter
  • It would be interesting to know what system Nolan edited this on. It was just as digital, non-linear systems were becoming mainstream.
  • Black and white lighting is used to very good effect – gives it a film noir vibe
  • Typewriter and Minolta camera Theobald uses are actually Nolan’s.
  • Dialogue is a bit on the nose in parts but given the unusual structure that’s perhaps intentional.
  • Lucy Russell’s line on the intercom was ADR’d by Emma Thomas at the last minute as they needed it for the sound mix the next day.
  • The rooftop fight sequence posed a problem for post-synching as most no-budget films can’t really afford it.
  • Nolan got around this by maintaining the rough, unpolished vibe of the piece. The sound mix works within the world of the film.
  • You can see the seeds of MEMENTO (2000) in this film: haunted protagonist, fractured narrative, people deceiving each other and the rug being pulled out from the audience
  • Director’s uncle John Nolan is the policeman questioning Theobald at the beginning and end.
  • Note the pacing and editing as the film reaches its climax.
  • Final shot of the film was done at waist height so no-one could look into the camera (although if you look carefully somebody does for a split second).
  • The film was written and designed for the budget it was shot on – it made very good use of it’s limitations.
  • Is this the lowest budget feature film of all time?
  • It¬†premi√®red¬†at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1998 and Nolan got an agent and attention from other festivals including Slamdance, Amsterdam and Toronto.
  • He began principal photography on MEMENTO (2000) in September 1999 and it later had its world¬†premi√®re¬†at Venice in September 2000.


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 6th April 2012


Titanic 3D (20th Century Fox): Re-release of the 1998 blockbuster starring Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio. Directed by James Cameron, it has been digitally restored frame-by-frame and post-converted into 3D. [Saturation / 12A]

Mirror Mirror (Studiocanal): Modern take on the Snow White tale with the traditional story jettisoned in favor of an edgy and modern tale. After her evil stepmother (Julia Robert) kills her father and destroys the kingdom, Snow White (Lily Collins) bands together with a gang of seven quarrelsome dwarfs to reclaim what is rightly hers. Directed by Tarsem Singh, it co-stars Armie Hammer, Sean Bean and Nathan Lane. [Nationwide / PG]

The Cold Light Of Day (E1 Films): Thriller about a young Wall Street trader (Henry Cavill) whose family is kidnapped on holiday to Spain and he’s left with only hours to find them and uncover a government conspiracy and the connection between their disappearance and his father’s secrets. Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri, it co-stars Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver. [Nationwide / 12A]


Headhunters (Momentum): Norwegian thriller about an art thief who gets dragged into a game of corporate cat-and-mouse. Directed by Morten Tyldum, it stars Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Synnove Macody Lund. [Key Cities / 15]

Le Havre (Artificial Eye): When an African boy arrives by cargo ship in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home. Directed by Aki Kaurismaki, it stars Andre Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel, Elina Salo and Evelyne Didi. [Key cities / PG]

This Must Be The Place (Trinity Filmed Entertainment): A bored, retired rock star (Sean Penn) sets out to find his father’s executioner, an ex-Nazi war criminal who is a refugee in the U.S. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, it co-stars Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton, Eve Hewson and David Byrne. [Key cities / 15]

La Grande Illusion (Studiocanal): Re-release of Jean Renoir’s anti-war classic starring Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim, Jean Gabin and Dita Parlo. [Key cities / U]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
> Recent UK DVD & Blu-ray releases

Film Notes

Film Notes #13: The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

SPOILER ALERT: Plot details will be revealed!

Sylvain Chomet’s delightful animated film is Number 13 in my Film Notes series.

For those unfamiliar, this series of posts involves me watching a film every day for 30 days, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a current cinema release.

It will hopefully capture my instant thoughts about a movie provide a snapshot of my film diet for 30 days and curate interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Triplets of Belleville (2003) which I watched on DVD on Wednesday 4th April.

N.B. For some reason it was released in the UK as Belleville Rendez-vous but it seems the title has now realigned with the rest of the world.

  • I first saw this at 20th Century Fox in London during July 2003
  • It is still a film I return to and marvel at for it’s incredible surreal charm.
  • This was Chomet’s first feature and an international co-production between companies in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Canada.
  • The ‘period’ opening is very well done, establishing the notion of the Triplets as famous singers (even though they are very much supporting characters)
  • This is a film I often recommend to people if they are bored of mainstream animation and want something a bit different and unusual.
  • It combines the imaginative panache of SPIRITED AWAY (2001) with the wordless charm of THE ARTIST (2011)
  • I actually want to live in Madame Souza’s house with a dog like Bruno.
  • Sound is vital in lending the slightly surreal animation a sense of realism. Especially since there is virtually no dialogue.
  • The emotional distance between the young boy and his grandma is well established.
  • Touching scene when we see the boy’s parents – presumably Souza’s son/daughter?
  • Great touch that Bruno goes crazy at the passing trains – clearly this was written by dog owners.
  • The use of a Hoover, whisk and mower for a cycling warm down is hilarious
  • Interesting circular shot as Souza puts the model wheel on the model Eiffel tower
  • Absence of dialogue makes us focus on the nuances of character
  • Interesting choice of shots when we see Champion from above and when Souza reflects on the photos before turning the lights off
  • Love the way Bruno jumps on the bed the way big dogs actually do.
  • Bruno’s dream sequences are genius.
  • Souza’s whistle is another good example of sound in the film (Foley is actually
  • The gangsters bodies have an interesting geometric shape – note that all characters in this are distinctive but have key differences
  • The kidnap of Champion happens slowly – in a lot of movies they happen in a flash
  • The pedalo sequence is unexpectedly moving
  • Belleville is a cross between Tim Burton’s Gotham in BATMAN (1989) and the environments of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (1995)
  • Hamburger restaurant scene seems to be some kind of commentary on American obesity and capitalism
  • In the triplets apartment even the Oscars are overweight (the film was nominated for Best Animated film)
  • The fishing for frogs scene is an instant classic
  • Transitions between scenes are worth keeping an eye on – note how¬†frog spawn¬†becomes the moon
  • Why does one of the Triplets stop Souza from doing the hoovering and reading the paper? (Maybe the latter is a stage prop?)
  • I love the fact that the sisters all watch TV together in bed
  • What exactly is going on with the kidnapped cyclists? Contraband electricity?
  • Residents of the nightclub seem suitably grotesque.
  • I read once that despite eating fattier food, rates of obesity in France are much lower than the US. Why? Healthier ingredients and smaller portions.
  • Like the visual image of gangsters in pairs
  • The betting scene reminds me of THE DEER HUNTER (1978) – it also appears to be some kind of commentary on the film technique of rear-projection
  • The framing, composition and overall visual storytelling are excellent.
  • Almost every scene is punctuated with a surreal, inventive humour.
  • Theatre scene reminds me of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)
  • Note the yellow headlights on the gangster’s cars.
  • I like the fact that one of the ‘vehicles’ during the climax is effectively a portable cinema.
  • Nice payoff with Bruno barking at the train on the level crossing
  • It just struck me that the gangsters all look like Neville Thurlbeck
  • What other film ends up with four old women and a dog being chased by gangsters in a car chase?
  • Chomet’s follow up film would be the equally marvellous THE ILLUSIONIST (2010)

Hitchcock Interesting

Rear Window Timelapse

Jeff Desom has constructed an ingenious timelapse video using footage from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954).

It plays chronologically but the effect is quite startling, especially if you are a fan of the film (I’d place it amongst his very finest).

More information on how it was made is here:

The music used is Hungarian Dance No. 5, composed by Johannes Brahms (arranged by Hugo Winterhalter).

[via Metafilter]

> Jeff Desom
> Rear Window at the IMDb

Film Notes

Film Notes #12: Total Recall (1990)

SPOILER ALERT: Plot details will be revealed!

Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi actioner is Number 12 in my Film Notes series.

For those not familiar with this series of posts, it involves me watching a film every day for 30 days.

The following rules apply:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as curate interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Total Recall (1990) which I watched on DVD on Monday 2nd April. Give these people air!

  • Wonderful trailing opening titles that suggest SUPERMAN (1978)
  • Pounding title music by Jerry Goldsmith that recalls another Schwarzenegger film – Basil Pouledoris’s main theme to CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)
  • Love the intensity of the opening Mars scene – Verhoeven really knows how to sell visceral violence (e.g. You really feel those eyes are popping out of his head)
  • Slightly disappointed that he chose to go for the ‘it’s only a dream’ edit in which Arnie sits bolt upright. Has anyone ever woken up from a dream like this?!
  • Note that Sharon Stone is actually pissed off and jealous at the dream – a sign of things to come
  • Verhoeven got his Hollywood breakthrough with ROBOCOP (1987), which blended 80s action movie with surprisingly sharp political satire
  • TOTAL RECALL (1990) continues the trend with its social commentary blended within the framework of a sci-fi thriller.
  • Films like THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998), THE MATRIX (1999) and INCEPTION (2010) played around with similar concepts
  • Nice touches: fingernail polish, x-ray machines and video walls
  • The x-ray machines are now standard in US airports!
  • Production design is great – clever blend of sets and Mexican subway system.
  • Love the recall salesman / travel agent – he’s actually selling me on this holiday
  • Arnie’s line “don’t bullshit me” seems ADR’d
  • The scene where Arnie explains what kind of woman he really
  • Like the pacing in this film – no dicking around. 15 minutes in and we’re off.
  • Sharon Stone is at her¬†glamorous¬†best in this film – you can see why Verhoevan cast her in BASIC INSTINCT (1992)
  • The videophones are basically Apple FaceTime (they even have a portrait screen)
  • Fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed by Vic Armstrong – we really feel every punch and crunch.
  • Michael Ironside is a genuinely great villain. Charming, ruthless and we get the vibe he doesn’t mess around.
  • Subway shoot out is brutal fun. Think they had to make cuts for the theatrical release.
  • Notice how this is really a continuation of the previous chase (which hadn’t really ended).
  • The tracking device predicts the current debates about the surveillance society
  • Love the dryness of Arnie’s lines.
  • Verhoeven¬†has been deftly handling action and narrative now for about 20 mins
  • Sound design and Rob Bottin’s make up work are A-grade in the bug removal scene
  • Good miniatures for the spaceships on Mars. Although this was made on the cusp of the ILM revolution ushered in by TERMINATOR 2 (1991) and JURASSIC PARK (1993) it still stands up for the most part.
  • Kuato is freedom fighter who in this film we are expected to sympathise with but I wonder how the remake will play around with this idea in a post-9/11 world.
  • Rob Bottin’s make up is excellent in the airport scene.
  • Note the use of a vertical set to simulate zero gravity (a trick Vic Armstrong
  • Cohaagen¬†is to Mars what NCP was to Detroit in ROBOCOP (1987).
  • Sets are believable because Mars is an indoor world anyway.
  • Cab driver: “I’ve got five kids to feed!”
  • Apparently during filming the crew all thought Rachel Ticotin was going to be the big star, not Sharon Stone
  • The hotel room scene was almost certainly a big influence on INCEPTION (2010).
  • Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a sci-fi starring Arnie – this is very good genre writing
  • Lot of product placement in this film (Sony, Fuji Film and Miller Lite)
  • Great female fight, expertly arranged by Vic Armstrong who really wanted to stage a memorable scrap
  • The pacing is brilliant during Quaid and Milena’s escape – back when action was cleanly edited and featured smooth camera work
  • Rob Bottin’s make up work is outstanding – especially the cab drivers arm and Kuato
  • The villains have a devilish wit which gives the film a pleasing light touch.
  • Obligatory ‘explanation scene’ is actually an interesting exercise in making the audience uncertain
  • Even by modern torture porn standards, the brainwash scene is brutally violent.
  • Quaid’s line “Give these people air!” was referenced in Judd Apatow’s KNOCKED UP (2007).
  • Even the goldfish die.
  • Quaid: “Screw you!!!”
  • Slightly dated rear projection work with the reactor
  • The pace in the second half of this film is absolutely tremendous
  • Sound design also excellent. You can really hear guns and punches.
  • The fight on the lift is another corker – notice the foley on
  • I’ve always loved Ronny Cox’s line about being “home in time for cornflakes”
  • Climax also features great use of vertical sets
  • Satisfyingly visceral gore of Cohaagen’s eyes popping out. More brilliant work from Rob Bottin.
  • I think the VFX crew used the old milk in tank trick to simulate to clouds on the mountain. Also used in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and POLTERGEIST (1982).
  • Nicely ambiguous ending which allows different interpretations (Verhoevan’s is considerably darker than Arnie’s)
  • Cameras by ARRI

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 2nd April 2012


Hugo (EIV): Martin Scorsese’s tribute to Georges Melies used the latest filmmaking technology to craft a passionate love letter to the early days of cinema and one of its true pioneers. [Read our full review] [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]

The Deep Blue Sea (Artificial Eye): Terence Davies’ adaptation of¬†Terrence Rattigan’s play was a welcome return to the big screen, with juicy roles for Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale. [Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray]

Another Earth (20th Century Fox): A low-budget drama with a big sci-fi premise offers us a startling blend of genres. The debut feature of writer-director Mike Cahill has fashioned a story that’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone scripted by Kryzstof Kieslowski. [Buy it on DVD and Blu-ray]


Alvin and the Chipmunks: Collection (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / + DVD and Digital Copy]
Life Is Beautiful (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Special Edition]
Queen Elizabeth II: The Diamond Celebration (Odeon Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Emperor and the White Snake (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Revenant (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Titanic (1953 Version) (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]

> Recent DVD & Blu-ray picks
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2011


Film Notes

Film Notes #11: Blow Up (1966)

Michaelangelo Antonioni’s classic exploration of the dark side of Swinging Sixties London is Number 11 in my Film Notes series.

For those not familiar with this series of posts, it involves me watching a film every day for 30 days.

The following rules apply:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as curate interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Blow-Up (1966) which I watched on DVD on Sunday 1st April.

  • Great opening titles set against the green grass, which will be important later on.
  • The strange performance troupe are charging around The Economist building. Was that deliberate social commentary?
  • Antonioni’s second colour film after RED DESERT (1964) and the first to have a leading man.
  • Verushka can’t really act, but maybe that’s the point.
  • How was the cliche of the 1960s London photographer ever done before this film?
  • Cuts in the photo shoot are like photo rather than film edits.
  • Clever for Antonioni to use a photography studio as a location, as he can play around with the idea of photographer as director. The park (location), studio (soundstage), models (actresses), propellor (props) and darkroom (lab) can all be seen as analogues for the filmmaking process. After all what is cinema but photography at 24 frames per second?
  • As you might expect from Antonioni, the compositions are absolutely tremendous: interesting, playful and formally brilliant.
  • 1960s fashions are a mixture of the cool and grotesque.
  • There’s something dark and unknowable about Hemmings – although dark and strange things happen to him, he remains an ambiguous, unlikeable character.
  • The way he leaves the models waiting in the studio is the sign of an inconsiderate ass. But that’s also why he’s an interesting protagonist.
  • The way he talks to the models shows that he has significant social status within this world
  • Blue house on Woolwich Road shows his eye for interesting buildings.
  • This is definitely one of the great London movies – Antonioni brings an outsiders eye to Swinging London.
  • Why does he go into the antiques shop? Just browsing? Conversation with the Irish guy is very Pinteresque.
  • The famous scene in the park begins around 23m
  • I bet Nikon were glad one of their cameras got featured in one of the most analysed scenes in movie history!
  • Note how calm the editing is as the scene unfolds
  • The sound of the wind is key, although subtle it’s always there. Wonder what equipment they mixed it on.
  • Vanessa Redgrave and her lover are deliberately kept at a distance so see them as though we were looking through Hemmings’ viewfinder.
  • Redgrave: “This is a public place!” (Irony that she expects privacy in a public place)
  • All this outdoor dialogue between Redgrave and Hemmings is post-synced
  • We find out that the action takes place on a Saturday morning, as the girl selling him the propellor says “that’ll teach you to fall in love with things on Saturday morning!”
  • What the hell does he want with a propellor anyway?
  • Love the shots of him driving around London. It is bleaker and more interesting than people might remember.
  • Hemmings: “Already there are queers and poodles in the area”
  • Peter Bowles as his agent is good value. I’m curious as to what publications he is selling those photos to.
  • One thing about watching films of this era is the post-synced sound design. Makes you appreciate the rich mixes of the post-5.1 era.
  • When Hemmings says he’s fed up with London and those “bloody bitches” we suspect he’s disillusioned with the shallow lifestyle he’s leading.
  • His portfolio is clearly that of a social voyeur.
  • Note the clever, elliptical cutting of the stranger at the restaurant window – most directors would have clearly showed his face
  • Is there is a significance in the “Go Away!” sign that he seems happy for the protestor to put in his backseat
  • Redgrave looks great when flustered.
  • How does her character know he is home?
  • Obligatory 60s jazz on the soundtrack.
  • Hemmings plays louche disinterest very well well. Not as easy as it seems.
  • Hemmings: “Sorry love. The bird I’m with won’t talk to you” (People forget how common ‘bird’ was as a slang phrase until the 1990s.
  • Hemmings seems more intrigued by the cryptic game Redgrave is playing than the sex she seems to be offering him
  • Good use of pauses and silence
  • Hair stuck in the film visible at 54.55 as Redgrave leaves – this film needs a frame by frame restoration on Blu-ray
  • Hemmings developing his photos is actually a great procedural scene.
  • It not only gives the movie its title but is perhaps how audiences today and in the future will get to see how photographic film was developed in the pre-digital era
  • We see (and don’t see) what Heemings sees.
  • Even though I’ve seen this film many times, the examination of a still image in a motion picture is a striking idea.
  • Sound design is used to recreate the atmosphere of the park as we relive the scene through the photos
  • The implication seems to be that Redgrave and an accomplice had her lover in the park bumped off.
  • Although it seems tame by today’s standards the scene with the frolicking girls would have provided invaluable publicity and buzz
  • Colours on the girls dresses appear to have been carefully chosen
  • Ansel Adams once had a line: “A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words”. That’s also a pretty accurate description of this film.
  • The scene where Hemmings goes back to the park at night reminds me of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)
  • Sarah Miles looks curiously pained when she observes Hemmings watching her have sex – it just occurred to me what an interesting scene that really is just typing that last sentence out.
  • It seems Hemmings uses Kodak film (always the best!)
  • Hemmings: “I saw a man killed this morning”
  • This would make an interesting double bill with either THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974) or BLOW OUT (1981). All films play on the notion of sound and vision being unreliable.
  • Sarah Miles has incredible hair in this scene.
  • This is one of those films that you never get bored of watching – perhaps because it is about the act of observation itself.
  • What other 1960s film features The Yardbirds?
  • Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck in an Antonioni movie! This scene was overflowing with talent.
  • Note the recurrence of the colour purple.
  • Love how the party shows the lazy decadence of 60s London. Someone’s been murdered and they don’t give a toss!
  • Closing sequence is one of my all time faves. I’ll leave you to debate in the comments below.

Film Notes

Film Notes #10: Man on Fire (2004)

Tony Scott’s 2004 revenge drama starring Denzel Washington is Number 10 in my 30 day Film Notes series.

For newcomers, this month-long series of posts involves me watching a film every day for 30 days.

The following rules apply:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Man on Fire (2004) which I watched on BBC1 HD via PVR on Saturday 24th March.

  • There is a weird Harry Potter connection to this film: JK Rowling’s agent Christopher Little also represents the A.J. Quinnell – author of the book on which it is based.
  • It has been filmed once before in 1987, with Scott Glenn in the Creasy role.
  • In that film the action was in Italy but here it has been relocated to Mexico.
  • Chanting music over opening titles, interchanging film stocks and the AVIDs are working overtime!
  • Walken and Washington have an instinctive rapport – we immediately get the vibe that these guys know each other
  • Dialogue establishes that they have been involved in some heavy stuff (ex-special ops)
  • Harry Gregson’s score has been used in a lot of news documentaries
  • Note the sound on the lighting of Mickey Rourke’s match – Scott loves a visceral audio mix.
  • The fleet of cars driving across the landscape recalls REVENGE (1990) another revenge themed film Scott shot in Mexico.
  • Some stylistic similarities between the two films, even though Scott has utilised the advances in digital editing and post-production
  • Neat trick making Dakota Fanning a precocious child – she’s essentially playing a version of herself.
  • Radha Mitchell was coming of the success of PITCH BLACK (2000) – she looks beautiful but her role is rather underwritten
  • First time I’ve seen this in HD and the clarity of image and golden hues are stunning (like his brother Ridley, Tony Scott is a master of light).
  • Nice tension created about a possible kidnapping in the traffic through cutting and camera.
  • Mitchell and Washington’s conversation is unusually constructed – use of zooms into the mirror used as well as conventional edits.
  • The ‘Creasy getting drunk’ scene is a little overcooked.
  • Like the fact that Walken has several phones – well researched detail.
  • Pita at the pool sequence is a good example of Scott’s attention to sound.
  • Pita: “Creasy, what’s a concubine?”
  • Nice chemistry between Fanning and Washington
  • Build up to the kidnapping is nice – interesting blend of camera moves, edits and sounds
  • Note the calm of the classical piano
  • Scott is using digital editing systems almost as a paintbox
  • Old school editors must be turning in their grave at a film like this
  • Like the fact that Spanish is spoken and the way the subtitles are done – slinking along the screen in sync with the words
  • Bursts of Lisa Gerrard’s vocals are used in this film to indicate emotion – her extraordinary voice was first used in THE INSIDER (1999) and then GLADIATOR (2000)
  • The visuals used to denote the kidnappers are insane
  • Ransom demand scene is not quickly edited (although it feels like it) but the flashing and speeded up effects give that vibe.
  • Like the way “La Hermandad” pops up in sync with dialogue.
  • Reverse chopper shot of Mexico skyline used from earlier?
  • Walken’s performance has a nice easy vibe that provides some welcome relief from the heavy drama.
  • Rachel Ticotin previously filmed TOTAL RECALL (1990) in Mexico.
  • Creasy quickly becomes a vengeful badass but that’s logical given his line of work.
  • Finger cutting scene is intense but it’s the kind of sequence that would infuriate the late Pauline Kael and her many acolytes.
  • Car falling off cliff recalls similar scene in THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991).
  • Creasy looks a bit out of place at the rave with that head scarf.
  • I think Tony Scott should do a whole film set at a rave – really go to town.
  • Split screen, bleach bypass, hand cranked cameras – this is visual overload!
  • One way Scott and his DP Paul Calderon relieve the furious style is to cut to a relatively pristine image.
  • The dancers cheering Creasy’s shotgun blasts is an effective touch – shows the atmosphere of mayhem.
  • Great night time photography in the conversation between Washington and Ticotin
  • Walken line about Creasy’s art is priceless – still not sure if it’s delivered with a metaphorical wink to the audience
  • Would it really be practical to fire a rocket launcher into a busy Mexican high street?!
  • Impressive explosion and flames however, plus this scene gave us the poster image.
  • Great location for the ass bomb scene. Really notice the lighting in HD.
  • It would have been really cool if the on screen stopwatch had synced in real time.
  • Washington’s delivery of his lines in this scene is excellent.
  • I bet someone somewhere has actually used the line “I wish. You had. More time!” just to be a badass.
  • Tony Scott was clearly born to shoot in Mexico.
  • Interior lighting of characters is tremendous.
  • Radha Mitchell doesn’t seem that distressed her husband has just blown his head off in their home.
  • It would be fair to say that this film is not a study of the social conditions that produce violence and kidnapping.
  • Creasy refusing money and blowing the hand off the Voice’s brother shows he really doesn’t care about what drives the ransom business (i.e. money)
  • Nice reverse offer from The Voice (“I will give you her life for your life”).
  • Interesting choice of time and location for the climax (often films end
  • Great shooting and use of music for the end.
  • Film has a slightly different resonance after the Fritzl case and all the subsequent kidnap films which almost became a Euro subgenre.
  • Like the way a mainstream film doesn’t wimp out at the end.
  • Nice symbolic touch of him dropping the St Jude medallion at the end and the credit that gives the date of the final day (Dec 16th 2003)
  • Alternate ending has Creasy going to the house of the Voice and blowing it all up.

Film Notes

Film Notes #9: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

* SPOILER WARNING: Details about the film will be revealed *

Lewis Gilbert’s 1977 Bond film is Number 9 in my 30 day Film Notes series.

For newcomers, this month-long series of posts involves me watching a film every day for 30 days.

The following rules apply:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) which I watched on ITV4 on Friday 23rd March.

  • Roger Moore’s third and best outing as Bond, even though LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) is more purely enjoyable.
  • The opening scene with the sub sinking is very similar to THE ABYSS (1989), only minus the aliens.
  • The theme on Triple XXX’s music box is Lara’s Theme from DR. ZHIVAGO (1964).
  • The other Lean film theme referenced in the desert sequences is LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1964)
  • Subsequent stunt where Bond skis off a cliff is stunning – one of the best live action jumps ever.
  • Bond films provide an interesting gauge of the Cold War – the Russian characters are usually consistent with Moscow relations
  • The shark death at the beginning was surely a cash in on the success of JAWS (1975)? They even named one of the henchman after it!
  • Stunts are mostly impressive for the time, blending live action, rear projection and miniature work.
  • Marvin Hamlisch’s score is unusually funky for a Bond film.
  • All the stuff with the Pyramids creeped me out as a 6 year old watching this on TV.
  • The sexism of the era is apparent in the cheesy gags but the Bond girl is more integral to the story.
  • Lotus coming out of the sea features the obligatory scene where a drunk man does a double take at his bottle.
  • Some occasionally sloppy shots, such as Bond and Anya being lowered down to the US submarine.
  • Guessing this was shot on anamorphic, but why do ITV persist in cropping widescreen films to 1:85? Will the audience complain?
  • The miniature of the speed boat as Anya and Stromberg leave is woeful even by standards of the day.
  • Stanley Kubrick advised his old colleague Ken Adam – who designed the iconic War Room for DR STRANGELOVE (1964) – on the lighting for the enormous submarine set – at that time one of the largest ever built.
  • They must have needed a lot of orange boiler suits to film the climactic gun battle.
  • The climax of TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997) references the climax of this film with the big fight on the sub.


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 30th March 2012


The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (Sony Pictures): The latest film from Aardman is about a group of swashbuckling pirates who team up with different historical and fictional characters. Directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, it features the voices of Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek. [Nationwide / U]

Wrath Of The Titans (Warner Bros.): A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) Рthe demigod son of Zeus Рis attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, it co-stars Rosamund Pike, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Toby Kebbell, Bill Nighy and Edgar Ramirez. [Nationwide / 12A]

Streetdance 2 (Vertigo Films) (PG): After suffering humiliation by the crew Invincible, street dancer Ash (Falk Hentschel) looks to gather the best dancers from around the world for a rematch. Directed by Max & Ania, it stars Sofia Boutella, Falk Hentschel, George Sampson and Tom Conti. [Nationwide / PG]


Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life (Revolver): Werner Herzog’s latest documentary explores capital punishment in Texas. [Selected cinemas / 12A] [Read our full review]

The Island President (Dogwoof): Documentary about the efforts of then-Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed to tackle climate change. Directed by Jon Shenk. [Key cities / PG]

This Is Not A Film (Palisades Tartan): Iranian documentary by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb which was smuggled out of Iran in a flash-drive hidden inside a birthday cake and then specially screened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. [London West End / U]

Tiny Furniture (Independent Distribution): Feature debut from writer-director Lena Dunham which gets a UK theatrical release two years after its US premiere at SXSW. [Key Cities /15]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
> Recent UK DVD & Blu-ray releases

Film Notes

Film Notes #8: Working Girl (1988)

* SPOILER WARNING: Details about the film will be revealed *

Mike Nichols’ romantic comedy about a plucky secretary from Staten Island is Number 8 in my 30 day Film Notes series.

For newcomers, this month-long series of posts involves me watching a film every day for 30 days.

The following rules apply:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Working Girl (1988) which I watched on Film4 via PVR on Wednesday 29th March.

  • Mike Nichols directed two films released in 1988, the other was Biloxi Blues.
  • Love the snap of how we go straight from the Fox logo right into the opening chord of Carly Simon’s song.
  • Brilliant opening helicopter shot, as the camera swings around the Statue of Liberty to reveal the Twin Towers.
  • Nice fade on to the Staten Island ferry that maintains the smoothness of shot from the chopper – maybe a Steadicam on a built set?
  • When watching films of this period I find it very hard to accept that the World Trade Centre is not there any more.
  • Opening titles reveal the serious talent that worked on this movie: Mike Nichols, Michael Ballhaus (DP), Sam O’Steen (editor), Ann Roth (costumes) and Carly Simon (song).
  • Interestingly Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver get top billing over Melanie Griffith – maybe that proves the theme of the film?
  • It is almost a companion film to WALL STREET (1987) – although a comedy-drama, it is about yuppies and the struggle to get promoted in late 1980s New York, and two hungry outsiders (Tess McGill/Bud Fox) who ultimately betray a mentor figure (Katharine Parker/Gordon Gecko).
  • Good screenwriting in the opening scene ¬†– dialogue reveals early on that Tess is thinking of evening classes on her birthday (shows her determination and desire early on)
  • It is a¬†kaleidoscope¬†of 80s fashions on the office floor.
  • Very good contemporary costume work by Ann Roth – sometimes it is easy to forget how hard it is to create a non-period film.
  • Oscars for Best Costume are so often awarded to the obvious period movies.
  • A pre-X Files David Duchovny can be seen behind Alec Baldwin in the¬†surprise birthday scene
  • Alec Baldwin as the Staten Island boyfriend and Kevin Spacey as the coke snorting, champagne swilling arbitrageur shows the depth of talent in the cast.
  • Nichols and his casting director Juliet Taylor have a great eye for talent
  • Drug taking, porn watching and sexism on Wall Street – this is all too relevant to today’s banks. Only now the taxpayer is paying for it!
  • Tess’ revenge on the office floor is brilliant because it really hits Oliver Platt where it hurts (insulting his manhood)
  • Olympia Dukakis in a small but notable cameo as the personnel director (the year her cousin Michael lost out on the Presidency to Bush Snr.)
  • Tess is 30 years old ¬†and it was¬†clever touch to have Sigourney Weaver’s character a few days younger than Melanie Griffith – it gives their relationship an extra tension and Tess more motivation
  • Weaver’s dialogue is great: I wonder how many people were tempted to use that trick of saying “I’m in a meeting rather on another line”
  • Katharine: “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman – Coco Chanel!”
  • Clothes actually important to the story – not only are they are sign of status but an indicator of Tess’ social mobility.
  • Nora Dunn – another fine casting choice. Look out for her as the Christiane Amanpour type in THREE KINGS (1999).
  • Tess reads a lot because “you never know where the big ideas might come from”. Good advice for anyone.
  • The lighting suggests Weaver’s corner office may be a set (if I was watching it in HD I could probably tell)
  • Sam O’Steen’s editing is impeccably smooth – no wonder he Nichols kept returning to him after his legendary work on THE GRADUATE (1967).
  • Weaver’s red dress in the dumplings scene is absolutely striking.
  • Katherine: “Never burn bridges. Today’s junior prick, tomorrow’s junior partner”
  • Tess has a radio idea! Does this tie in with the numerous mergers in the late 80s? Mel Karmazin, Infinity and all that? Or was that later?
  • The uncomfortable reactions from Baldwin towards the idea that Tess has a female boss are well played.
  • It is so perfect that Weaver’s character has a skiing accident – the yuppie boss brought low by the ultimate yuppie sport.
  • Great production design for Weaver’s apartment – the Warhol painting, exercise bike and personal dictaphone all nice touches.
  • Nice use of sound design to reveal key plot point e.g. Katharine has lied and stolen Tess’ idea
  • Early use of email in a film on a IBM PS/2 70 computer¬†¬†(this was two years before the world wide web was invented!)
  • When Tess catches her boyfriend having sex notice the clever repeated line of dialogue. Baldwin: “No class?” Griffith: “No class”. The question and statement reveal a lot about their characters.
  • For Tess the Staten Island Ferry seems to be her equivalent of the beach at the end of THE 400 BLOWS (1959) – a place where she finds solace in solitude
  • We get Katherine’s full CV in one shot – a typically status obsessed Who’s Who entry.
  • The whole film is basically a morality play about the power a secretary has over her boss – kind of like WALL STREET (1987) meets MY FAIR LADY (1964), but in reverse.
  • The fact that Tess is wearing Katherine’s dress is nice – functions as revenge for stealing her idea and also highlights their respective gulf in salary (Tess has to drop a Valium on learning the price “$6,000!”)
  • Joan Cusack is terrific in a supporting role as Tess friend
  • Tess on justifying cutting her locks off: “You want to be taken seriously, you need serious hair”
  • Harrison Ford – who had top billing remember – only appears about 30 mins into the movie.
  • It is a convenient movie coincidence that Tess and Jack hook up so quickly, but maybe he was subconsciously attracted to Katherine’s dress (which Tess is wearing).
  • Ford was great in the 1980s – in the Indy series and here he showed comic timing, screen presence and old school charm.
  • Note the contrast between Ford’s old school gentleman and Weaver’s hypocritical boss
  • Nice shot composition as Ford offers Tess a nightcap
  • Mercifully Nichols spares us a jazz-flavoured sex scene (all the rage in the 1980s) by tastefully cutting straight to the morning after
  • Nice zoom shot to indicate Tess twigging that she has just spent the night with one of the guys around the table.
  • Is the stock repurchase Tess suggests the same as the leveraged buyouts Gordon Gecko (and actual Wall Street guys were doing).
  • Joan Cusack plays the “coffee, tea, me?” bit perfectly. I imagine Nichols knew it would get an audience reaction.
  • Tess: “Why didn’t you say you were you last night?” Key line which applies to Tess as much as Jack.
  • Jack’s gift to Tess actually means something (although he doesn’t know it yet).
  • Tess’ costume change (“you look different”) marks the distance between her new career and old life
  • Thankfully Nichols resisted the temptation of not having Tess actually wear a red dress to Chris Deburgh’s Lady in Red.
  • Baldwin proposal scene is splendidly awkward.
  • Ford getting changed in his office (and getting applause from his co-workers) is a great visual gag (again the motif of clothes – so key in the workplace).
  • Tess: “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life working my ass off and getting nowhere just because I followed rules that I had nothing to do with setting up.” Let’s get this engraved somewhere. Seriously.
  • Katherine is deliciously saucy in the hospital bed scene. We just know she has done something filthy¬†off-screen¬†with that doctor.
  • Street scenes in New York are where the ADs really earn their dough – you can easily spot extras staring into the camera
  • It’s nice that Jack has some insecurities about deal making that mirror Tess’.
  • Ann Roth’s costumes in the wedding scene are brilliant – note that Tess is wearing a white dress at the wedding but it blends in anyway.
  • Ricki Lake has a cameo at the wedding.
  • This is a wonderful riff on the conventional movie wedding – it plays like a heist scene crossed with a business deal and the acting from Ford and Griffith is delightful
  • Notice how the short scene when they celebrate the deal is free of dialogue – just a passionate kiss
  • Sex scene reflects the occasional awkwardness of love making (e.g. Men have trouble getting their shirts off as the cuffs stick)
  • Simple but effective compositions in the bedroom scene
  • Katharine returns almost like a spoilt child – is the gorilla toy a King Kong reference?
  • Ford and Weaver’s chemistry is fantastic – you really do get the feeling that they’ve been a couple.
  • Solid visual comedy with Griffith eavesdropping on the unsuspecting couple in the bedroom.
  • Katherine: “Can Little Jack come out to play?” LOL.
  • Filofax provides key plot turning point – Katherine is betrayed by Tess (parallels to the way Gecko finds out about Bud’s betrayal)
  • Ford and Griffith convincingly say “I love you” to each other – not an easy thing for any actor ever to do.
  • Note the Arthurian round table, which might reflect Bosco’s good heart.
  • The analogy Philip Bosco’s character makes about the deal with the vehicle stuck in the tunnel is great and reflects the whole story of the film (i.e. Tess is the 10 year old girl who has the good idea)
  • Weaver is splendidly villainous in the climactic boardroom scene
  • Beautiful shot of Tess and the Statue of Liberty at magic hour as she contemplates what might have been.
  • Tess turquoise dress and Baldwin’s tuxedo are more examples of Ann Roth’s costume work.¬†Shades of EDUCATING RITA (1984) in that scene – possibly an influence on the whole script?
  • Katharine: “Oh my god. She’ll stop at nothing!”
  • When Tess does the elevator pitch to Philip Bosco and refers to the Forbes and Page Six articles the talk show host she mentions (“Bobby Stein”) is clearly referring to Howard Stern.
  • The climactic comeuppance for Katharine is beautifully written and played by all concerned (“get your bony ass out of my sight”).
  • Tess on why she didn’t explain the truth earlier: “No one was going to listen. Not to me. I mean, you can bend the rules plenty once you get upstairs but not when you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.”
  • Lunchbox briefcase that Jack gives Tess echoes his earlier briefcase present.
  • Really great closing scene. Plays with our expectations and the characters at the same time – that’s proper filmmaking.
  • Tess is also told to hit SHIFT-ESC for her schedule on her IBM DOS PC. Early days for office computers.
  • A great closing scene to a movie can cover all manner of sins. To a really good one it just gives the audience an extra lift e.g. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
  • Tess: “I expect you to call me Tess. I don’t expect you fetch me coffee unless you’re getting some for yourself. The rest, we’ll just make up as we go along. OK?”
  • Film ends on a nice note of female solidarity to balance out all the feuding with Katharine – it also echoes an earlier scene but you get the feeling that Tess is really going to be the boss Katherine should have been.
  • Old school optical effect for the closing shot of Tess in window?
  • Nice symmetry to the beginning and end of the film – camera move pulls back to reveal Tess as part of the Manhattan skyline.¬†This contrasts with the opening where it swooped in on here going to work.

Film Notes

Film Notes #7: Etre et Avoir (2002)

* SPOILER WARNING: Details about the film will be revealed *

Nicolas Philibert‘s¬†documentary about a small rural school in France is Number 7 in my 30 day Film Notes series.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  1. It must be a film I have already seen.
  2. I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  3. Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  4. It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Etre et Avoir (2002) (English translation: “To Be and to Have”) I watched on watched on a DVD on Wednesday 28th March.

  • Acclaimed French documentary about a primary school in the Auvergne region.
  • Very sparse and simple opening titles reflect the style of what is to come.
  • Shot of the turtles waddling about the classroom unexpectedly funny because it is real.
  • Opens in winter – was this shot over a six month period?
  • I’d forgotten that French van headlights are yellow
  • The school is in Saint-√Čtienne-sur-Usson in the Auvergne region of France
  • Camera movements very still and editing very considered, presumably not to freak out the kids
  • Mr Lopez looks remarkably like Steve Jobs
  • Opening lesson of drawing and discussion is quite soothing to watch
  • Bit where kid says he’s seen a ghost and scares the girl opposite him is charming
  • One can’t watch this without thinking of Antoine in THE 400 BLOWS (1959) even though the teacher in Truffaut’s film is a dictator
  • Philibert captures a lot of the human drama of a primary school classroom
  • Natural lighting had to be used to keep the pupils reactions real, but one wonders how the film differed from the unfilmed lessons
  • The way Lopez talks to Jojo about the fish and the purpose of school is remarkable – patient, considered and wise
  • English schools can learn a lot from the cooking scenes – notice how Lopez doesn’t mind mistakes and injects genuine fun into them.
  • Lopez mediating the fight between Julien and Olivier is visually interesting – notice how the camera stays on the two boys and we only hear the teacher.
  • The shot is held for an unusually long time – was this out of necessity (e.g. conditions of filming in a school) or a stylistic choice?
  • Hard to watch the kid on the verge of tears – shows what a tough time childhood can be
  • Do five year olds drive tractors in France?!
  • Kid at kitchen table learning pointless maths exercises brings back flashbacks!
  • Maybe every generation of parent has to cope with hopeless arithmetic set for their children?
  • Mr Lopez seems genuinely interested in the fact that one of his pupils wants to be a vet – why can’t all careers advice be like this?!
  • Getting pupils to draw and think about numbers is a very good idea
  • This was presumably shot in the winter of 2001-02 as it premiered at Cannes in May 2002
  • The problems the parent discusses of her child being distant are handled by Lopez with a tactful wisdom (also highlight the long term dilemma of teaching maths!)
  • Lopez says he’s been teaching dictations for 35 years and at this particular school for 20.
  • The discussion of Tahiti and Brittany is classic
  • “Middle school” seems such a long way off – funny how life divides up into different periods
  • Child washing paint off his hands and a wasp provided the poster
  • Lopez handles the Jojo pushing incident like King Solomon
  • Kid of five preparing pasta! No wonder the French have the best chefs in the world
  • Lopez talking to camera about 60 mins in is almost a monologue scene, breaking with the verite style
  • He clearly is a natural born teacher – loves the job and finds it genuinely rewarding.
  • Lopez’s father was a Spanish immigrant from Andalucia – maybe he left because of the Civil War?
  • This part of the film should actually be used in teacher recruitment.
  • Kids using photocopier unexpectedly hilarious – even adults still get things upside down.
  • Despite Lopez’s explanation I still don’t understand the whole masculine/feminine thing in the French language.
  • I realise language evolved this way but does it really make sense to apply gender differences to objects like windows or pens?
  • Nice cut to the photocopier repair man, hinting that the two pupils broke it earlier.
  • College sequence brings memories of making the leap from primary to secondary school.
  • Film accurately reflects how massive that seems at the time.
  • Discussion of counting billions between Lopez and Jojo is actually philosophically interesting.
  • Love the way Lopez handles Julien in the garden – his father presumably has throat cancer? – but he handles the situation with his customary wisdom and sensitivity
  • Natalie’s birthday is a nice small snapshot (one of many)
  • The shot of rainbow suggests the filmmakers were either a) unbearably patient b) lucky or c) it was a stolen shot
  • Jojo on the train: “What does derail mean?”
  • Idyllic picnic in the French countryside.
  • New pupils arriving (so small!) show the cycle
  • Two Valentins reflects the fact that classrooms often contain more than one name
  • The way Lopez handles the infant boy crying for his mum is very cool indeed
  • Scene where Lopez deals with Natalie’s shyness contains more drama than many features.
  • The leaving scene makes French kissing on the cheeks seem normal (even to an Englishman).
  • Shot on film rather than digital
  • Used natural light because spot lights would have freaked out the kids
  • There are brief moments when you can catch the kids glancing into the camera
  • Philibert wanted to make a film out of the drama of “life’s little nothings”
  • Childhood is a very big deal whilst you are actually living through it – the film reflects this
  • He never does films “about” but rather “with” – desires to tell a story without heavy handed narration or didactic voiceover
  • This makes it very different from the instructional form of documentary that we often see on TV
  • The film is a experiential reconstruction of events rather than
  • Filmmaking choices were often made on the hoof
  • Sensitive film stock used along with wide angle lenses (and¬†presumably¬†quiet Arriflex cameras)
  • It was never intended to be an inspiration to teachers, but it may have that effect on viewers
  • Patience, ability to listen and sense of calm are key to Lopez’s success as a teacher
  • His words
  • Note how pupils are encouraged to help one another – helps build confidence and solidarity
  • Philibert thinks the documentary form can have a poetic and metaphoric quality rather than just showing facts
  • The film is a wonderful counterblast to the notion of teachers as lazy or useless (the standard right wing line about the profession)
  • Ultimately it is about how the transmission of knowledge and experience can be a wonderful thing.
  • The real life postscript to the film is incredibly sad.
  • I prefer to remember his words as he trims his hedge:¬†‚ÄúEverything that you put in, the children always return it.‚ÄĚ


Title Design Viral Video

22 Bond Intros in 1 Minute

My favourite part of this Bond split-screen video is the sound of 22 MGM lions roaring in unison.

For audiences of different generations, both the Leo the lion and the Bond theme are iconic.

So when somebody had the idea of doing the first 22 James Bond intros at the same time, you get two for the price of one.

It’s an interesting visual experiment as you can see how little has changed since Dr. No (1962).

That Bond film still has the best opening titles, which were designed by Maurice Binder.

> Find out more about MGM and the James Bond franchise at Wikipedia
> Art of the Title

Film Notes

Film Notes #6: The Omen (1976)

* SPOILER WARNING: Plot details will be revealed *

Richard Donner’s horror film about a biblical prophecy forms the sixth film in my 30 day film watching experiment.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  1. It must be a film I’ve already seen.
  2. I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  3. Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  4. It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Omen (1976) which I watched on watched on a PVR on Monday 12th March.

  • This was green lit on the back of the enormous success of The Exorcist (1973)
  • Nice font on the credits – big blocky and elegant – and the creepy image of a Damien’s shadow forming an inverted cross.
  • The film starts straight off with a movie taboo – the death of a child – and the pacing is very good. No dicking around, straight into the story.
  • In a way, Ambassador Thorn (Gregory Peck) reasons for adopting the baby and lying to his wife are understandable.
  • There’s a lot going on in the shot of Peck, the baby, the nun and the priest – interesting composition that fills the screen and reflected .
  • What was exactly going on with the hospital in Rome? Didn’t anyone notice a Jackal giving birth? ūüėČ
  • Donner a very underrated director, his background in television gave him a solid grounding in storytelling.
  • Like so many films of the 1970s that I first saw on TV in the 1980s, it is interesting to see it in proper aspect ratio (2:35).
  • Widescreen lensing and compositions are more interesting than many modern horrors.
  • Richard Donner is actually a visually interesting director who just happens to work in mainstream cinema.
  • Gregory Peck and Lee Remick make a nice couple – Peck is actually looks like a US ambassador
  • “You know, you could be too sexy for the White House” – Peck’s character is not wrong when he says this to Remick.
  • Good use of fades to denote scene changes and strange – but very efficient – photo montage to take us up to the birthday party scene.
  • When you stop to think about it, the scene where the babysitter hangs herself in front of a party of schoolchildren is seriously messed up (talk about a party pooper).
  • The sound effect with the satanic dog is unnecessary.
  • US embassy in the 1970s very different to the fortress it now resembles post 9/11. Peck’s office is a convincing location – would probably be some crappy green screen work now.
  • Patrick Troughton is perfectly cast – he looks like the definition of a haunted man.
  • The ambassadorial country house is the old Guinness estate near Woking.
  • Billie Whitelaw is effectively creepy as the nanny. Shrewd to cast one of Samuel Beckett’s favourite actors in a supporting role.
  • Damien’s freakout is at Guildford Cathedral. Effective scenes that shows that a horror set-piece doesn’t have to involve a death.
  • Good build up in the Windsor Safari Park sequence – first the giraffes and then the baboons! Reminds me of the animal freakouts in the US version of THE RING (2002) and its sequel THE RING 2 (2005).
  • Jerry Goldsmith’s score – in particular the piece ‘Ave Satani’ – is frequently mistaken for Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’.
  • The film cleverly plays on post-natal fears – there is a lot of focus on Lee Remick’s doubting herself as a mother.
  • Widescreen compositions of Troughton’s face in the Putney Bridge meeting are ace – DP Gilbert Taylor also shot REPULSION (1965) and STAR WARS (1977).
  • The biblical rhyme is pretty creepy.
  • Note the outside lighting changes for the satanic storm that immediately whips up after Peck leaves and features some old school practical effects.
  • The move Peck plays with Damien by holding his hands is rather funky.
  • Was that sequence where Cathy falls an influence on THE SHINING (1980)? E.g. kid on bike
  • The fact that Damien lets his (adopted) mother fall and subsequent bit where Cathy says to Robert “don’t let him kill me” is kind of chilling.
  • Empty spaces of the manison are depicted well.
  • Editing style is a reminder that you can maintain pace and tension without the need of quick cutting on an Avid.
  • Script by David Seltzer is very tight and well paced – events click into place and there are several memorable moments e.g. David Warner showing Peck the ‘marked’ photograph
  • The biblical hokum could be ridiculous but the way Donner handles all the elements really sells it.
  • Burnt priest and subsequent graveyard scene very effective. Another creepy image – this time of a infants skeleton, which reminds us of the child murder that began the whole plot.
  • Graveyeard scene is almost certainly a studio soundstage but is good work from the production design team.
  • Cathy’s death reminds me of the opening of Donner’s LETHAL WEAPON (1987) – also featuring a woman slamming into a vehicle from a great height.
  • Peck delivers some fine acting on hearing of his wife’s death – nice shot of his head as he recites the poem and the anounces he wants Damien to die.
  • More great location work in the Israel sequence.
  • Did the bit where the photographer’s head gets cut off through by ‘accident’ influenced the entire FINAL DESTINATION franchise? It really is spectacular and shows what can be down with a fake head and editing.
  • Peck’s doubts about kiiling a child are eminently reasonable.
  • Interesting (almost) wordless sequence where Gregory Peck goes back to murder Damien – only dialogue spoken is when Billie Whitelaw says “Run, Damien, Run!”
  • The church at the end is in Staines.
  • Bit where Damien says “please Daddy, no!” is very clever as it puts you right in Robert Thorn’s shoes and plays on his doubts about killing a child.
  • The graveyard at the end is Brookwood Cemetery, one of the largest in Europe.
  • Apparently Donner struggled to get the kid playing Damien to smile at the end.
  • The idea that Damien is heir to the US presidency is a highly effective pay off.

Film Notes

Film Notes #5: Wall Street (1987)

* SPOILER WARNING: Plot details will be revealed *

Oliver Stone’s 1987 drama about corruption in American finance forms the fifth part of my Film Notes series.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I‚Äôve already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I‚Äôm watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can‚Äôt be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Wall Street (1987) which I watched on a Blu-ray on Monday 26th March (today).

  • Opening sequence is tinged with a post 9/11 sadness as it features prominent shots of the Twin Towers (I last saw this film in October 2000)
  • Big, old style Hollywood fonts on the titles
  • Hal Holbrook’s character is based on Oliver Stone’s father who was a stockbroker
  • The green text and lack of GUIs on the computer screens is noticeable
  • But the film reflects how technology even then was changing the nature of finance
  • Before the subprime crisis of the late 2000s, there was the crazy period in the 1980s
  • No-one had done a mainstream business film in years partly because of ROLLOVER (1981) and also because the genre is not deemed sexy enough
  • Richard Gere turned down the role of Gecko and later regretted it – possibly why he played a similar character in PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
  • Jeff Beck (not the guitarist) was the adviser on the Gecko character but Stone and Douglas later found out he had lied about being in Vietnam.
  • Confidence is the key to Gecko’s appeal and the fact that he knows how to aggressively play the system.
  • Ellen Mirojnick did the costumes, which are actually a key part of the film.
  • Douglas was not ‘on text’ for the first few days of filming, meaning that Oliver Stone had to pull him aside and get him to stick to the script.
  • His final performance is really precise and on point – clearly the pep talk from Stone worked (like Gecko’s to Bud!)
  • Lighting change at the end of the squash club sequence goes to dark (shadows form around Gecko’s head), possibly reflect Bud’s crossing over to the dark side.
  • British business tycoon played by Terence Stamp is apparently based on Sir James Goldsmith
  • Gecko’s line about British arrogance might have been influenced by certain people he had worked with
  • Music is interesting: Sinatra, Eno/Byrne and score by Stuart Copeland.
  • Bud becomes Gecko’s corporate spy because of the allure of the closed world of Wall Street.
  • Stone filmed actual sessions on the trading floor.
  • The Anacott Steel deal is loosely based the dispute between Jimmy Goldsmith and Carl Ichann over TWA
  • Stone cameo in the square block 60s montage
  • Sean Young pissed off Stone by saying she was Dariane in front of Daryl Hannah (who eventually won the role). Ironically Hannah ended up not liking the role.
  • Julian Schnabel provided most of the paintings in Gecko’s house.
  • Ernest Lehmann’s punchy dialogue for THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) was an influence on Stone and Stanley Weiser’s screenplay
  • Stone cast Terence Stamp after seeing him in THE HIT (1984)
  • Robert Richardson’s visuals are interesting – lots of real locations mixed with beautiful shots of the Manhattan skyline
  • Yuppie lifestyle now looks tame and understated compared to the boom of the 2000s
  • Hard to state how influential this film was on the real Wall Street: dialogue, red braces and juicy dialogue all were a big inspiration on a generation of traders.
  • Gecko’s famous speech works because it contains elements of truth about corporate bureaucracy.
  • Stone intended it for to be ambivalent – equating evolution with greed.
  • The phrase “greed is good” has become synonymous with that era of late 80s greed – one of the most resonant lines in film history.
  • People even write about Gecko as though he’s a real person.
  • Ivan Boesky once said “greed is right” and Stone modified it to “greed is good”Boesky once said “greed is right” and Stone modified it to “greed is good”
  • A paper company is a brilliant metaphor for stodgy, indulgent business as practiced by old, complacent men.
  • Scene on Gecko’s jet very well lit – notice how the light moves up and down Charlie Sheen’s face (apparently Robert Richardson’s first plane sequence).
  • Douglas is brilliant in the dinner party sequence – he really sells the deal with the unions and the look of pride on his face is noticeable
  • The argument between the Sheens has added juice because the actors are actually father and son.
  • Nice swinging camera movements in the elevator scene and in Spader’s law firm
  • Jeff Beck of Drexel Burnham plays someone in the scene where Bud finds out Gecko has betrayed him – he was a leading light of Wall Street who knew Douglas socially and was an influence on the Gecko character
  • Stone claims that Kirk Kerkorian asset stripped MGM in the same way Gecko strips Bluestar Airlines
  • David Byrne’s wife plays the woman who tells Bud his father has had a heart attack
  • Moving scene between the Sheens provides the emotional motivation for Bud’s rescue plan.
  • Gecko’s meltdown after Bud tells him not to “get emotional about stock” is shot intriguingly wide and then Richardson goes for the same lighting trick that he did in the squash club scene (i.e. Gecko’s head fades to black)
  • Unusually long tracking shot as Bud is led out by Stock Watch
  • Confrontation scene in Central Park was shot in the July, 1987 on a wet summer day.
  • Final music cue is great as the camera pulls back on the Manhattan skyline – this scene was shot on July 3rd 1987.
  • Stone feels that BROADCAST NEWS (1987) was favoured by Barry Diller (who ran Fox then).
  • Scott Rudin – then a Fox executive – had left before the theatrical release and Stone felt they had lost an ally of the movie.
  • Stone felt that they shouldn’t have opened wide immediately on 2,000 screens and instead gone for a buzz-building platform release, like they did with BROADCAST NEWS which earned several Oscar nominations
  • Although WALL STREET was only nominated for one Oscar (Best Actor) it ended up winning – one more than BROADCAST NEWS – that year was dominated by THE LAST EMPEROR (1987).
  • It ended up making about the same money as BROADCAST NEWS but has had a much longer legacy, even though.

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 26th March 2012


Rabbit Proof Fence (Optimum Home Enterainment): Phillip Noyce‘s¬†2002 drama is¬†the true story of Aboriginal¬†girls in 1931 who used the Australian¬†rabbit-proof fence¬†to return to their community at¬†Jigalong, a journey of 1,500 miles. Starring¬†Everlyn Sampi,¬†Kenneth Branagh¬†and¬†David Gulpilil¬†it is a deeply moving story and along with The Quiet American (2002), marked a remarkable return to form for Noyce. [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The first feature film from the Monty Python team is this 1975 comedy written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin), and directed by Gilliam and Jones. A riotous retelling of the story of the legend of King Arthur, it features a treasure trove of extra features, some of which are exclusive to the Blu-ray. Terry Gilliam’s once-lost animations, outtakes, deleted scenes and audio commentaries are just some of the delights. [Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]

The Gospel According to Matthew (Eureka/Masters of Cinema): Vintage 1964 drama based on the the life of Jesus Christ, from the Nativity through to the Resurrection. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the dialogue is taken mostly from the Gospel of Matthew, this Blu-ray comes with a brand new transfer and extras including Pasolini’s 53 minute film on the scouting of locations, 1963 newsreel extract and a 36-page booklet. [Buy the Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon UK]

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel¬†(Anchor Bay Entertainment UK): A documentary about the famed B-movie producer, who has exerted a major influence on modern Hollywood over the last 40 years. A¬†civil engineer’s son who became Hollywood’s most prolific writer-director-producer, he not only set the template for independent filmmaking but also gave career breaks to the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron.¬†[Buy the Blu-ray or DVD]


Arrietty (StudioCanal) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Final Destination (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Happy Feet 2 (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition + 2D Edition + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy]
Justice (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Leon the Pig Farmer (Network Releasing) [Blu-ray / with DVD – Double Play]
Malena (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Puss in Boots (DreamWorks Animation) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Awakening (StudioCanal) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Big Year (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Chemical Brothers: Don’t Think (EMI UK) [Blu-ray / with Audio CD]
The Thing (2011) (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / with Digital Copy – Double Play]
The Yellow Sea (Bounty Films) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Wuthering Heights (Artificial Eye) [Blu-ray / Normal]

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