“Jersey Boys” at the Rex

This week I went to see “Jersey Boys”. It was amazing. (This is my whole review of the film. Just amazing. That’s all you need to know. But if you want another opinion, I recommend Dan the Man).

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You may have noted that I’m a little behind the times in seeing this film as it was released some weeks back. Well my friends, there is a very good reason that I held off until now, which is that I was waiting for it to appear at my favourite cinematic establishment, the Rex.

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The Rex is a 100 year old picture house in Elland, West Yorkshire. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but there is a treasure trove inside waiting to be discovered. Walk with me.

Through the glass panelled doors, which stick slightly with age, a smiling face extends a welcome from behind the counter. Once tickets are purchased (at a very reasonable price. At least half the price of your regular cinema ticket), an array of neatly presented treats await your inspection. There’s the obligatory popcorn (sweet, obviously. We’re not animals), chocolate in all its forms, cans of pop and you can even get a hot brew. There is always an interval in the showings, so plenty of time to replenish the treats later on. Ice-cream is always a winner.

The Rex was built in 1912. After over half a century of success, turbulence and closure, the cinema was given a new lease of life with a full refurbishment in 1988. The décor in the entrance is respectful of the history of the building. You can almost picture a 1920s couple, resplendent in their fedoras and fur cloaks, excitedly purchasing tickets for the latest Hollywood picture. The dark, wooden panelling is adorned with black and white photographs in heavy frames. There is a collection of old cinematic paraphernalia, carefully displayed and informatively labelled. Its part cinema, part museum. Very interesting for any film enthusiast.

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Inside the auditorium there is a gentle sloping incline that looks down onto the smaller than usual screen. The red curtain exudes a charming warmth reminiscent of a theatre rather than a cinema. On this particular visit, we were treated to extra entertainment before the film and during the interval in the form of an organist. Very vintage-carousel-a-la-Blackpool-Pleasure-Beach. Have you ever seen an organist play live? Even if can’t get on board with the hollow pipe sounds and the oom pah of the bassline, watching an organist play is most fascinating.

So there you have it. That’s why I think the Rex is just brilliant. Its just a gorgeous night out.  Its a rare, independent gem, worth digging out every now and again as an antidote to our busy modern cinemas. Its so perfect for avoiding the rush, if you enjoy watching films but are not too bothered about being the first person to see it and/or have a low tolerance to overproduced, over amplified noise levels. Hearing aid/ old lady jokes welcome on a postcard.

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For the latest releases and film schedule at Rex Cinema click here.

Enjoy

Photographs of Rex are mine.

Jersey Boys pic from imbd.com

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Seth MacFarlane, you bloody genius.  I want to kiss your brain.

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If you’re already a fan of Mr MacFarlane, (and who isn’t?!) then I really don’t need to sell this to you.  You like Family Guy, American Dad, Ted?  Then you are free to go and spend your day as you please. You have already done your homework and have passed with flying colours.  Good day to you. But wait!  I spot a few loiterers who do not shine with joy at the mention of this brilliant man’s name! Sit.  You have much to learn.

There are several reasons why A Million Ways to Die in the West is very brilliant and rib crackin’ funny.  Some of you were not blessed with the comedy appreciation gene. It’s not your fault, but let’s talk it out and think about why you are so wrong, while discussing the highlights of said film.

First of all, great characters.  What’s not to love about a sheep farmer who can’t control his sheep (SETH MACFARLANE); a prostitute who works loudly upstairs at the inn (SARAH SILVERMAN), while her adoring, dim-witted betrothed awaits patiently below, clutching a bunch of flowers (GIOVANNI RIBISI); a spoilt, whiney ex-girlfriend with curly golden hair spooled onto her head so high it needs its own scaffolding (AMANDA SEYFRIED); a rugged, cape wearin’, hat cockin’ baddie (LIAM NEESON); a devastatingly gorgeous and hilarious blonde who can take care of herself thankyouverymuch (CHARLIZE THERON); a moustache twirling love rival with a penchant for beauty products and himself (NEIL PATRICK HARRIS).  What a cast.

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Secondly, great theme.  Death.  While not your traditional frolicsome subject, add in a bit of slapstick and a few beautiful people to laugh about the whole thing and hey presto! You’ve for a movie.  Also, this topic was quite educational. I had no idea that huge blocks of ice were transported around the western frontier for whole towns to consume. I know now that this is a true fact because Wikipedia tells me so. Amazing.  However, the way in which I learnt this fact means that I will never again eat ice without imagining it covered in a sticky red substance while lodged in a person’s gaping neck, where the head should be.  Shudder.

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Thirdly, great storyline.  It’s your customary gun slinging, horse riding, sheep herding Wild West caper with a few MacFarlane style twists thrown in.   I especially enjoy the digs at the obvious flaws in the world of the western frontier; the giant ass cage that women wore under dresses for instance.  Just, why?

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Fourthly, great cameos.  Two words.  Emmett Brown.

Fifthly, (is that word even possible to say out loud? Try it. Fifthly. Fifth. Ly.  Does it feel like your mouth is clogged up with feathers? Stupid word) great music.  Joel McNeely has done a sterling job of whisking us off to the orange, cacti lined deserts of the western frontier.  Brilliant.

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So, are we all agreed that this is a really good film and you should go watch it immediately if you have not done so already?  All those in favour say “Yee Haaaaa!” and then join me in congratulating Mr Seth MacFarlane (and all those other very talented people who made this film possible).

Thank you for making this film, Mr Macfarlane.  Big fan.  Keep it up, sir.  Lovin’ the work.

Hero and/or Villain and True Love’s Kiss

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So I went to see “Maleficent” last night.  Definitely a firm favourite already.  I can’t wait to get this in my DVD collection.  The idyllic scenery is breath-taking, Ange is on fire as the eponymous hero and/or villain while the story is captivating.  The nuts and bolts of the story as we know it are there, but rearranged quite darkly.  The characters that we expect to be “good” find themselves ferreting about in the shadows, while the “villain” is twisted into a much more favourable light, as you will see.

I’ll just say this now.  While I’m not a fan of spoilers, I fear that there may be some lurking below.   So, if you haven’t seen this film yet and you don’t want to inadvertently find out any crucial info that may ruin your enjoyment of the film, I wouldn’t risk it.

Anyone still with me?

I’ll take that as a yes…

Moving on.  I do enjoy a retelling of a classic tale (hence my all consuming obsession with Once Upon a Time), because it allows the audience to delve that little deeper into the world of the story.  Classic fairy tales can sometimes be seen as a little outdated with regards to morals and ideals, particularly with regards to a woman’s place in the world.  But by retelling these tales and putting a modern spin on it, we still get to keep the characters and the stories that we know and love while experiencing them from a different perspective and learning something new about the world that we thought we already knew.

(SPOILER ahead) One of the most important messages in “Maleficent” as a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”, is that the hero and the villain of the piece are not always as they seem.  First impressions are powerful things, but dig a little deeper and your assumptions are probably wrong.  At the end of the movie, the narrator, who turns out to be a grown up Aurora, tells us that the prophecy stating that either a hero OR a villain would unite the two lands, was wrong.  She says that in the end, it was one who was both hero AND villain in the form of Maleficent, the good fairy turned bad.  I found this statement particularly interesting, as we have been discussing this very thing in this week’s Write Now session – the protagonist hero with a dark side.

(More SPOILERS in this paragraph) I don’t agree with Aurora’s closing statement.  I don’t think Maleficent was ever the villain at all. She was always good.  She just reacted, quite understandably, in a negative way to the violation and heartbreak that she suffered at the hand of Stephen.   She experienced intense pain and torture at the loss of her wings and the betrayal of her childhood sweetheart.  But she does not let this pain defeat her. She powers on and takes a stand against the real villain in the piece – Stephen.  Sure, some of the things she does seem a little mean.  Yes, it isn’t socially normal to curse a baby on her christening day. And yes, turning birds into humans into wolves into horses into dragons to do your bidding and thereby perpetrating casual slavery does seem somewhat tyrannical, I’ll give you that. But what was the girl to do?  She was heartbroken!

Throughout the film, Maleficent shows her true nature in her developing relationship with Aurora.  She can’t help but shower Aurora with motherly love and in the end, it is this love that saves Aurora from the curse.   I like the idea of exploring the nature of true love’s kiss.  It’s an intrinsic fairy tale device and is something that has cropped up in a few movies recently – showing true love’s kiss as being something much more substantial than that between a boy and a girl who have met once before if at all.  Not good messages for the young brains absorbing these stories.

In “Enchanted” (2007) Princess Giselle desperately longs for her prince to come along so that she can experience true love’s kiss.  Her wish comes true when the very dashing Prince Edward gallops into her life. This film begins with a typical fairy tale happy ending; a situation that is all based on looks and chance meetings. As the film develops, Princess Giselle realises that she has nothing in common with her “true love” and she eventually finds a meaningful relationship with the right person.  Happy times.

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In “Frozen” (2013), true love is depicted as sisterly love, rather than the traditional romantic connotations.

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Again, in “Maleficent”, the nature of true love is depicted as that deep bond between family and friends rather than random handsome boy who has just met random beautiful girl.  After all, Aurora is awakened from the curse by the only person who truly loves her despite everything that they have been through. And despite the “prince” being drafted in to plant a smacker on the poor girl.

In Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) Maleficent was a pure baddy.  There was not a jot of good in her.  “Maleficent” 2014 has shown us that there is more to the story than we thought.  Would a straight up villain save the day and undo the wrong that she has inflicted? No, no she would not.  Maleficent will always from now on be a hero in my eyes.  Good job, Disney folk.

In conclusion, I love this film.

The End.

 

PS the soundtrack for Maleficent is so beautiful.

“The Artist” 2011

So this weekend, I finally watched “The Artist” (2011).  I am now obsessed with silent movies.

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For those of you who have not seen this film and are therefore not yet obsessed with silent movies, here are some reasons why you should watch it, immediately.

1.  Black and white films are so beautiful. Every silhouette adds to the story and every scene looks as though it should be framed on a wall.  It screams Hollywood from every angle.  If you like looking at pretty things, you will love “The Artist”.

2.  “The Artist” is a silent film, about the film industry as it progressed from the silent film era into the production of “talkies” in the early 1930s.  Amazing film plus a history lesson.  Two birds.  One film.  Win win. 

3. As it is a silent film, the actors are super expressive because they obviously can’t use their vocal chords.  Expect extravagant facial expressions that should never apply in real life, and wonderful dance moves that often resemble chickens attempting to take flight.  Life would be so much more fun if we all had to communicate this way.

4. While it is usually possible to work out what the heck is going on from the action on screen, it is also quite fun trying to lip read.  I am terrible at lip reading.  If the actor was saying, “Hey John, its good to see ya! How’ve ya been?”, I’d probably come up with “Firefly, pretty little picture! Where’s the bin?” and it would make no sense whatsoever.  But its ok! Help is at hand with the artistic calligraphy style signs that give us snippets of conversation

 

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5. The star of the show is undoubtedly Uggie, George Valentin’s all singing, all dancing, life saving dog.  He is amazing. Every home should have one.

6. Alfred Hitchcock, Hollywood genius, said this – “Silent Pictures were the purest form of cinema”.  He obviously knows what he’s talking about, therefore everyone should love silent movies.

7. The music makes the movie. I believe this about all film and TV productions anyway, but it is especially true in silent films.  Ludovic Bource has done a smashing job with the score in “The Artist” and even won an academy award for it.  Good job Ludovic.  Very well done.

8. I love the relationships portrayed in this film. I especially enjoy the old switcheroo between Valentin and Miller.  At the beginning he is the biggest star of Hollywood and she is just starting out as an extra on set.  He gives her a boost up and watches out for her.  As Miller climbs up into the rafters of stardom, Valentin finds himself being hoisted down, a little too quickly.  But Miller never forgets what Valentin did for her and returns the favour by looking out for him when he is down on his luck.  Cute. It helps that they are both super gorgeous and fancy the pants off each other.

 

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9.  There’s something very wholesome about watching a silent movie. I can often find myself drifting off from the TV, and getting caught up in doing my nails or deciding which cupcake recipe to try next. But a silent movie demands your whole attention.  There is so much to focus on; the gestures, the aforementioned facial expressions and lip reading, the music and the artistic shots.  Each element is equally important in developing the world and the story on screen.

10. After watching this film you will want to realise lifelong ambitions, previously unknown to you, to a) tap dance b) have a beauty spot c) live in black and white (instagram can help here) d) own a bowler hat and e) learn to lip read.

Wouldn’t it be great if silent films were more readily available to us of a weekend or a midweek eve?  There are countless film festivals around the world that celebrate the form of course. I don’t know about you but I for one find it a bit tricky to nip across to San Francisco or Toronto to settle down to a silent film. There are festivals closer to home of course but still, who can be bothered to travel?  Lets get them back into local theatres, with full live orchestras at the front and ladies wearing funny hats and gentlemen smoking cigars in the foyer (or outside in a special designated cigar area for health and safety reasons).  That would be so amazing! I want this to happen.  Then people with silly voices but beautiful faces could happily entertain us all without inducing eye watering cringe on our ears.  Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus; I’m looking at you.

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Film Sundays

If there’s one thing I love about being ill, (apart from the red, skin-flaking nose and the double vision – always fun) its the excuse to curl up on the sofa and watch any amount of films, guilt free!  Being particularly germy and gross this weekend (you’re welcome) and having little energy for anything else, film watching was on!

I’ve wanted to watch Hitchcock (2012) for AGES (well, since 2012) so today was the day that I finally did it.  I did my homework first, as you sometimes must with a film like Hitchcock. Yes, I diligently prepared by first watching Psycho. And I’m very glad I did.  While Hitchcock is obviously filmed as a stand alone movie, the experience is definitely more satisfying with the background knowledge of Psycho.  

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There are several scenes that are heightened with this previous knowledge.  It allows a more familiar approach; remembering the scenes as you playfully elbow ‘Hitch’, rolling your eyes with a knowing smile on your face as if you were there in the studio in 1960.  The house in the opening scenes of Hitchcock; Marion Crane ‘driving’ away from Phoenix; Detective Arbogast’s demise on the stairs; Lila Crane’s realisation in the basement that Norman’s mother is actually a skeleton in wig (soz, spoiler); and of course, the famous shower scene.

I think my favourite scene in Hitchcock has to be towards the end of the film.  The rest of the cast are in the theatre experiencing Psycho for the first time. Meanwhile, Anthony Hopkins is in the foyer, alone but for a bemused boy sweeping the floor.  As the distinctive soundtrack depicts the action of the knife onscreen, Hopkins, like a well established conductor, orchestrates the screaming that flows delightfully from the auditorium.

I love watching films about how films are made; the influences and the lives of the creators of the film. Like Saving Mr Banks, watching Hitchcock made me want to catch the next flight out to 1960’s Hollywood and set up shop as a stupendously successful writer/ director/ producer.  Obviously, this is realistic. In my spare time I am also an inventor of time machines and such.  And writers are really scarce in Hollywood at the moment so they would probably really like me and let me write loads of stuff and film it and pay me lots of money.

If anyone would like to fund my life in Hollywood (this wouldn’t involve much, just flying me there, first class obvs, buying me a house with a pool, giving me lots of pens/ papers and fancy laptops on which to write and the unwavering cooperation of all the producers and actors etc.)  I am contactable on the twitters and probably on here somewhere ….

Looking forward to your call!

AB x