Friday, January 24, 2014

Festival of the Spoken Nerd

Time for a bit of geek with the latest Festival of the Spoken Nerd tour entitled "Full Frontal Nerdity". It's an evening of science, comedy, music and as geeky as you'd expect.

The tour runs through February and is recommended. Just watch out if your bald and close to the stage you may become the target for a smoke ring cannon.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Returned Season 1 showing

Following on from the Darkplace Marathon and included in the price of the ticket was an opportunity to watch the first season of a French show called "The Returned".  I knew nothing of the show having missed it when shown on channel 4 last year but on friends' recommendations I decided to give it a go.

The story tells the tale of a small community where the town's dead come back to life. Yes, it sounds like a zombie flick but these undead just want to pick up their lives where they left off and it's more a story around family bonds, love and heart ache than gore and eating brains (there's none of that). 

I had been forewarned that the pace may be too slow, which is not what you need on an 8-hour overnight marathon, but I was hooked from the first episode and completely carried by the story so much that I didn't have to resort to drinking any of the red bull I'd taken along for the night. 

The cinematography was superb with the location set within in the mountains giving it a little Twin Peaks touch, also mirrored in the characters all having secrets that gradually get aired. I read a comment that with French productions that excel you can pause most scenes and they'll look like paintings. That comment has stuck with me and completely applied here. The effort made in shot composition and lighting particularly impressed me. Acting performances were top notch particularly with the younger cast. Jenna Thaim as Lena seems to have been picked out as the standout performance but I thought Celine Sallette as Julie's performance was stronger. I do feel sorry for Swann Nabotin who now seems destined to play creepy child for the rest of his childhood career on the strength of his performance here.

The story itself was fine, and seeing all the episodes together probably made it easier to keep the threads of the story together. Yes, there were lots of unanswered questions at the end but I didn't feel cheated as I did with Lost, and it now means I have to watch out for season 2 which is now starting filming. I'm aware there are remakes in both America and the UK being considered; I'll hold fire on those until I get through the French one first.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace 10th Anniversary showing and Q&A

Hard to believe this forgotten classic is now 10 years old, but someone in London thought it right to celebrate it's birthday with a back-to-back showing of the single season this weekend, and hats off to your sir!

For those not familiar with the show the premise is that in the 80s horror writer Garth Marenghi was commissioned by Channel 4 to produce a show about supernatural activity in a Romford Hospital, but the content was so shocking and controversial that the tapes were shelved never to be shown. Only following a drought of poor TV did Channel 4 ask for it to be dug out and broadcast with additional commentary from the shows stars to explain it.

What it means to the viewers is 6 episodes of bonkers nonsense with a nod to Airplane style humour mixed with the poor continuity and production of cheap 80s TV. With early performances from Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade, the show is a gem.

As a half-time to the episodes we had a Q&A with show creator Matthew Holness and Alice Lowe who gave their views on the show during filming and their thoughts on the show today. Apparently Matthew had never talked about Darkplace before like this so it was particularly special to be a part of this.

As with the Prince Charles all-nighters this event had attracted the right crowd making the event a bit more special, and as a final thankyou we got an airing of Matthew's new short "A Gun for George" which is now being considered for a full-length production.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book of Mormon

A show that I'd wanted to see for some time, that friends had raved over, but where I just couldn't get a ticket. So with the evening shows still mostly booked up I decided to go to the daytime matinee and can finally join the group of people who have loved this show.

The basic story is a around a pair of newly qualified Mormons who are sent to Uganda to spread their message, a country where people are dealing more with poverty, aids and the risk of attack of a local crime lord.

Yes it's wrong, but you wouldn't expect anything more from the writers of South Park, but the digs at organised at religion are so intelligently done that there's no challenge that can be made to what they're saying.

The success of this show both in the US and the UK can only be a good thing!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

American Hustle

There are films made to win Oscars, there are films that I like and if I represented these on a Venn diagram the overlap would be tiny. I just can't get into Oscar movies in the same way I can with a bit of low-budget escapist nonsense. Looking at the list of winners, Lord of the Rings in 2003 was probably the most recent winner that I can say I enjoyed. 

Now I do love the British TV show Hustle and I thought this may be a version of that but set in America; that was my reason for seeing this. It's not like that show at all. Instead we get lots of well done hair, well done costumes, and performance that involve people shouting at each other (a clear sign of a film trying to get Oscars for best performance). The British hustle always had a clever pay off, but the one in this film sucked in comparison and I left the cinema feeling that I'd been hustled over the price of the ticket. 

The coolest bit though was a strange scene featuring an adult downs victim with an afro who just smiles into the camera for about 20 seconds. That being the strongest impression left on me by the film probably says enough.

Subsequent to me seeing this the film was announced as the leading contender of Oscars this year, something I knew would happen on leaving the cinema disappointed. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Arnie All-Nighter

The always excellent Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square hosted an all-night Arnie marathon featuring 6 of his classic films back-to-back with some other Arnie material (funny DVD commentaries, his Japanese adverts etc..) to fill the gaps between the films.

All the films were great but I probably enjoyed Commando most as I loved it when I was younger and it was great seeing it on a big screen. Having written about T2 in my University dissertation I have a soft spot for that film too. The best thing about these events is that you attract a hard-core crowd and not the usual yoots that spoil the cinema experience. Here the people know the films, and know how to heckle (which is encouraged when the film is well known). Yes, you've probably seen these films countless times but probably not with an audience who all shout out the catchphrases in unison. Biggest cheer probably came from "Dylan, you son of a bitch" with "Consider this a divorce" a close second. Of course "I'll be back" didn't fail either.

and of course if you make it to the end of almost 13 hours of testosterone-fueled cinema, you get to be part of the survivor photo, which finds it's way onto the cinema's FB page.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Jerry Sadowitz @ Leicester Square Theatre

Every January, the utterly amazing Jerry Sadowitz has a run of shows in London, and when there's not much else on this is a great evening out. For those not familiar with him, he used to be on TV but at times where most people would be asleep. His material is definitely not pre-watershed fact you could argue it's not TV friendly at all. He's as un-PC a comedian can get and his act is therefore challenging for the general public to sit through however, but I love him. If you think Frankie Boyle is offensive, then consider that considerably watered-down in comparison to Jerry's act. In fact a lot of the more controversial comedians in the UK will likely admit to citing Jerry as a big influence. It's just a shame that Jerry doesn't get the publicity that they've got off him...but I don't think he'd be too bitter about that. He's also very protective of his material and not a lot of it exists online, partly because if you're not at the show you wouldn't appreciate what's being said as an act. Context is definitely key in his shows.

Aside from the comedy Jerry is THE best magician we have in the UK with some of the best sleight-of-hand you'll ever see and he usually mixes the two together in his act. Like Carr and Boyle earlier a lot of the more popular UK magicians cite Jerry as an influence. He was key in getting Derren Brown into the public eye for example. On this occasion there was a lot more magic in the act than previously, which is great by me. His card control is second-to-none and his finale featuring the trick going catastrophically wrong only to have the card appear in a grapefruit which he'd thrown to the stage much earlier on in his set was a great way to finish.

On a more serious note people are starting to take a note of what Jerry has to say. He first called out Jimmy Savile as a paedophile over 20 years ago, but it was written off by the press as just one of his comic routines. Now he's doing a similar thing calling out Pete Doherty and the Police over the apparent cover up over the death of his friend Mark Blanco. (More on this here)

Film #63: Piranha

You know you're getting old when films celebrate their 40th anniversary. This 70s horror flick comes on the back of the success of ...