Archive for January, 2009

UK New Film Releases Week 5: 30 January- 5 February 2009

January 31, 2009
  • New British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 5 [14% of total film releases]
  • New British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 2
  • Total Film Releases in the UK in 2009 – 37
  • The film releases in the UK on Friday 30 January 2009 are:

    • Barry Lyndon (UK, re-issue)
    • The Broken (Sean Ellis, 2007, FRA/UK) #5 British release 2009
    • JCVD (BEL/LUX/FR)
    • Luck by Chance (IND)
    • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (USA)
    • Revolutionary Road (Sam Mendes, 2007, USA/UK) NOT CERTIFIED BRITISH RELRASE
    • Tokyo Sonata (JAP/NETH/HK)

    [Source: Film Distributors’ Association, Variety, IMDB, BritFilms]

    We could easily call this week’s releases a ‘rag bag’ perhaps dominated by the award winning and nominated US-UK co-production Revolutionary Road. According to BritFilms this is an official British film, and one that began with BBC Films but has very much become a DreamWorks/Paramount Vantage property. Mr and Mrs Winslet-Mendes headline the British contribution to this distinctly American literary adaptation (DID NOT RECEIVE A BRITISH PRODUCTION CERTIFICATION).

    revolutionary_road

    In the rest of the bag – a postmodern Jean-Claude Van Damme, a re-issue, a bit of Bollywood, an American teen movie, a Japanese family drama, and most interestingly a French-British chiller (The Broken) with a very low profile and split critical reception – everything from ‘masterpiece’ to ‘as it progressed, it became more and more absurd, to the point of me staring at the screen, dumbstruck, when it finally ended’. The Broken has a higher than average British budget (£4m) largely support by Gaumont in France. There doesn’t seem to be a British website, but I could find the Japanese and French sites:

    broken_japan

    broken_france

    It doesn’t seem to be showing anywhere in the East Midlands – so likely to turn up in the art cinema sometime, maybe, somewhere. So many screens, but limited access to little British films. The list of films to see is stacking up.

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    [Not] Going Out Week 4: The Faintheart Fiasco

    January 29, 2009

    This is the story of the ‘Faintheart Fiasco’ – at least as it felt to me. I consider myself quite savvy with all this online stuff, and yet the simplicity of the novel and innovative – nay historic promotion of Faintheart left me flummoxed and low:

    see-faintheart-for-free

    I was beginning to realise that it would not be possible to see this week’s new British films in the cinema. I was on the buffers, all momentum lost. It was predictable that the arty Better Things (bleak, depressing, but stunningly directed) would not be in the multiplexes (it will be shown in the art cinema next month), but it was a little perplexing to find that Faintheart didn’t appear to be showing in the region anywhere. Faintheart is showing for todya only (Thursday) at 4.15 at the Reel Loughborough – but I can’t make that screening. However, the film’s website was offering  a chance to ‘SEE FOR FREE AT A CINEMA NEAR ME’ – or so I hoped. All  I had to do was SIMPLY  enter my postcode in an application called the ‘Heart Map’ at the film’s website on MySpace – and so I did. The idea was a popularity contest – there would be 150 free screenings on 27th January to reward the MySpace community who had been involved in this ‘user generated feature film’ according to expressions of interest in the most popular places. Leicester was in 30th place – result!

    heartmap1

    I didn’t take part in any of the MySpace community activities around the production of the film, so maybe I was a little out of the loop. I expected to be informed by email about where the screening might take place – maybe I didn’t check the ‘Notify me of screenings’ box properly. Maybe I just wasn’t getting what I was supposed to do to get in on the ‘innovative ‘ action. There was also the promise of being able to see the film for free online on the same day – but no details. This was becoming a theme.

    It was only after the free screenings had begun and ended that I started to piece everything together. The launch of the film was featured on Channel Four News that evening and the film’s producer explained how the strategy was to cut out the traditionally expensive cinematic distributions costs, create some initial interest and to go as soon as possible to the more profitable bits – DVD (available 2nd February), television and downloads. Is this the future of the popular £1m budget British film?

    “It’s very, very tough out there. Everything is in a state of flux. The coal face economics are a harsh reality – the cinemas take 75% of your box office and you can’t rely on DVD anymore” says Alan Niblo from Vertigo Films, one of Faintheart‘s producers.

    Later I did some digging around online – found a news story posted on The Guardian website at 13.26 GMT saying that the film would be ‘launched at 6.30 this evening with free simultaneous screenings at 46 cinemas around the country, and will be available to watch on the MySpace website (http://www.myspace.com/) for one day only – not 150 screens then? The article advised going to the UK Film Council website to find information about screenings and to download a voucher for a free ticket. So I did.

    As we all know, the UK Film Council is ‘the Government backed lead agency for film in the UK ensuring that the economic, cultural and educational aspects of film are effectively represented at home and abroad’. The website is very informative, actually, but the bit about Faintheart was only in a press release published on 23rd January- ‘UK Film Council Lottery cash delivers free public screenings of Faintheart, the world’s first user generated film’. Faintheart had already received £325,000 of Lottery funding from the UK Film Council’s Premiere Fund and had now been given a further £34,937 to pay for the film screenings in cinemas and digital distribution from the UK Film Council’s Prints and Advertising Fund which is designed ‘to give UK film fans more choice and gain exposure for films which might otherwise only have a limited distribution’.

    At the bottom of the press release was a PDF downloadable ticket voucher for the free screenings

    faintheart-email-ticket-voucher

    and details of the 46 screenings including 9 across the Midlands and in Leicester at the Showcase Cinema de Lux:

    faintheart-cinema-screning-details

    I had missed a screening opportunity of a unique event. At the time of the screening I was sat in my office less than a mile away – I should have been there.

    I am left with a number of questions to which I would like to find answers:

    1. Why was the method of distributing the ticket vouchers and advertising the screenings so convoluted and difficult?
    2. How many people attended the screenings?
    3. What was the technology that was used to show the films in cinemas at such late notice?
    4. On what was the £34,937 of lottery funding for the free screenings actually spent?

    I’m sure there are more things to think about, but that will do for now, and I hope to be back with some answers fairly soon.

    Cinema Shows Week 3

    January 27, 2009
  • British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 4
  • British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 2
  • Ticket Outlay £4.97.5  (on British feature films released in 2009)
  • ‘Going Out’ [to the cinema] – 4 films
  • ‘Staying In’  [with rental DVDs] – 4 films
  • my_clubbed_experience

    Clubbed, the second British film  release of 2009, was not shown in any of the multiplexes in the Leicester area last week. In fact, it was only available in 30 cinemas in the UK on its opening weekend averaging £423 per site (compared to Slumdog Millionaire‘s chart topping £7,972) . It has now closed in Leicester, lasting only a week at the City Cinema. The take for the 7pm screening I attended with my friend Steve last Wednesday at cannot have been more than £30. I will be very surprised if I experience any more memorable British cinema nights this year than this one.

     

     

    city-cinema_flyer_heading

    city-cinema_prices

    A rather rushed paneer dhosa at Mirch Masala, Market Street, did not save us from crashing the credits. At the City Cinema the film started at the advertised time. It is a cinema with a long history, proudly recalled on its flyer. One wonders how this budget ‘city centre’ three-screener manages to survive, but it provided a perfectly creepy 80s aura for the film, with staff-less food and drink kiosk, tabloid-reading box officer and hurriedly abandoned floor sweepings left on the stairs of the aisle. I could not tell if the person I met in the corridor was staff or bewildered patron. The ‘two for £5’ ticket could have doubled up as an entry for a tombola or raffle. clubbed_ticket2As an audience we made mockery of the the conditions on the reverse of the ticket. A small group of teenagers talked loudly throughout, ignoring the screen, but thankfully leaving before the end. They were a constant distraction while the show was on and showed no discipline,  and I am sad to report tht my pockets were packed with photographic equipment:

    clubbed_ticket_reverse 

    I could not tell if the film was badly projected or just oddly framed on occasions. I recalled that it was made on 16mm and might have gone squiffy in 35mm format. Unlike Steve, I could not read the bloody message scrawled above the victim crucified to the wainscot by the film’s gangster villain, but, unlike Steve, I could make out a strange cameo appearance by Neil Morrissey hiding behind a bushy goatee.

    Earlier that afternoon at Leicester’s newest cinema (Showcase Cinema de Lux) there were more bloody scrawlings in My Bloody Valentine 3-D. This was for mainly technical interest in the latest revival of stereoscopic 3D. The screening seemed to be full of students – but none of mine. The smell of fast food was intrusive. The duty manager and the visiting head office lackeys roamed the concourse all concern for detail. We were charged  a small premium on the ticket price to cover extra costs. A disgruntled man in front of me queried the lack of free glasses, and the manager swatted his offer to buy them by claiming they cost £25. They were quite smart (see photograph below). I bet we could have made some just as effective out of sweet wrappers and packaging down at the City Cinema (if they could find someone for the kiosk). I’m hoping another British film will be on there soon.

    my_bloody_valentine_ticket

    my_bloody_valentine_experience1

    UK New Film Releases Week 4: 23 January- 29 January 2009

    January 23, 2009
  • British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 4 [13% of total film releases]
  • British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 2
  • Total Film Releases in the UK in 2009 – 30
  • It has been quite a week. Watching two films in one day at the cinema is something I haven’t done on a regular basis since the 1980s. Going to the City Cinema in Leicester was like stepping back into the Eighties at that time when single screen cinemas prior to multiplexes were carved up into multiscreen boxes. Clubbed itself was set in the 80s and it looked technically retro too. But more of that later. This week’s new releases are:

    • Better Things (Duane Hopkins, 2007, UK) #3 British release 2009
    • Faintheart (Vito Rocco, 2008, UK) #4 British release 2009
    • Frost/Nixon (USA/UK/FR)
    • Milk (USA)
    • Rachel Getting Married (USA)
    • Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans (USA)
    • Valkyrie (USA/GER)
    • Paris 36 (FR/GER/CZ) [Monday 26th January]

    [Source: Film Distributors’ Association, Variety, IMDB, BritFilms]

    After last week’s international releases, the latest films are more typically American. A number of heavyweight auteurs have new films – Ron Howard, Gus Van Sant, Jonathan Demme and Bryan Singer. Plenty of choice, then, for those wanting something substantial tonight in Leicester. In contrast, the directors of this week’s British films are just receiving their first feature film credits. Vito Rocco won a competition on MySpace to direct Faintheart, which was promoted as the ‘first user-generated feature film’ – so an opportunity to look at new forms of promotion and the placing of film within the social network user-audience. Duane Hopkins is a fine art graduate from the Cotswolds, the setting of his regional film Better Things, ‘a  restrained and beautifully articulated character study of the realities of life and love in rural England’ – do they mean my reality? I live in an East Leicestershire village next to a babbling brook and a sheep field.

    faintheart2

    betterthings

    Going Out Week 3: Clubbed and My Bloody Valentine 3-D

    January 20, 2009

    Wednesday is going to be the hot day for me in the cinema this week. I plan to watch two films tomorrow. This may be the start of a new side project – to watch all the 3-D film releases in 2009, because I think that it is going to be quite a significant year for digital 3-D technology. This sudden bunching of going out reflects narrowed opportunities in terms of personal travel arrangements and free time. Practically, Wednesday is the only night I can see Clubbed and the afternoon is the only time for My Bloody Valentine 3-D, to which I have invited the first year students to come along and experience the new technology for themselves.

    This will involve a couple of firsts for me. Clubbed (7pm screening) is on at the City Cinema , Abbey Street, Leicester – never been there before (my cinema-going has been habitually elsewhere), and My Bloody Valentine 3-D (2.25 screening) is on at the newly opened Cinema de Lux, Highcross, Leicester. You may see me there, or if not, in my lower moments you may find me daydreaming of being recognised in the street as ‘The Every British Film Man’ and a ‘come and get me offer’ from the new Richard & Judy show.

    cinema-de-lux-website

    city-cinema-website1

    UK New Film Releases Week 3: 16 January- 22 January 2009

    January 16, 2009
  • British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 2 [9% of total film releases]
  • British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 1
  • Total Film Releases in the UK in 2009 – 22
  • A diverse set of new releases this week – films from France, Romania and South Korea, a Hindi film produced by Warner Bros, a Disney dog film (or a dog of a Disney film), a re-issue, a new Will Smith and the latest Darren Aronofsky, the first UK 3-D release of 2009 (the first of many this year), and the second British film of 2009 – ‘the violent geezer porn’ of Clubbed:

    • A Christmas Tale (FR)
    • Beverly Hills Chihuahua (USA)
    • Boogie (ROM)
    • Chandni Chowk to China (INDIA/USA)
    • Clubbed (Neil Thompson, 2007, UK) #2 British release 2009
    • Hansel and Gretel (SOUTH KOREA)
    • My Bloody Valentine 3-D (USA)
    • Notorious (re-issue, USA)
    • Seven Pounds (USA)
    • The Wrestler (USA)

    Whereas last week’s British film release, Slumdog Millionaire, is exotic exception, a flurry of style and substance and international recognition, Clubbed is more traditional and easily overlooked average budget fare (£1.8m). This is very much on my territory of understanding – British crime film and male melodrama – tagline – ‘Once your in there’s no way out’. I wonder what is fretting the contemporary British male and driving him to crime?

    clubbed_website

    Cinema Shows Week 2

    January 15, 2009
  • British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 1
  • British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 1
  • Ticket Outlay £2.47.5
  • ‘Going Out’ – 2
  • ‘Staying In’ – 2
  • ‘Orange Wednesday’ was busy this week at the Odeon Freemens Park where I went to see Slumdog Millionaire at the 5.45 screening, though it was very crowded for the later ones. I would say that the screening I attended with my partner and two friends was over half-full. At the moment I feel that ‘going out’ to the cinema is more fun than ‘staying in’ with a DVD, although on DVD this week I very much enjoyed Gerard Depardieu’s crooning in The Singer (Quand J’Etais Chanteur). However, the rich soundtrack and large screen visuality of Slumdog is hard to replicate at home. I will gather my thoughts about the film in a review post. My personal connection to Slumdog Millionaire is that I once shared a platform with Indian film actor hero Amitabh Bachchan when he received an honorary Doctorate of Arts degree at De Monfort University in Leicester in 2006. In the funniest moment of the film, the very young ‘slumdog’ is so determined to meet the film star that he forces himself to swim through a swamp of shit in order to make the personal appearance. The graduation ceremony had less frenzied encounters with the Indian film icon, but the presence of so many Asian families in the audience and graduands daring to beat protocol to shake their hero’s hand on the stage, created an exceptionally charged atmosphere.

    After the film, over tapas at Barceloneta, part of the social experience of going out, everyone was positive about the film. A pleasant start to the adventure, but I expect low points to come. We did have to watch the trailer for The Young Victoria (scheduled release for 6th March) – envisage a low depression over any early spring.

    slumdog-millionsire_me_at1

    slumdog_millionaire_ticket1

    UK New Film Releases Week 2: 9 January- 15 January 2009

    January 9, 2009
    • British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 1
    • British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 0
    • Total Films Watched in the Cinema During 2009 –  British (1), Other (0)
    • Lovefilm DVDs Watched in 2009 – British (1), Other (0)
    • Total Film Releases in the UK 2009 – 12

    As you can see from the list above, there is finally a new British feature film on release, but I haven’t rushed out tonight to see it. The ‘first night rush’ will have to be saved for another occasion. I have been out in the cinema this week to see Dean Spanley and have watched Son of Rambow at home with Lovefilm DVD rental, but more about that in another post. There are seven new releases today, and quite a few of these can be seen in Leicester and surrounding areas tonight:

    • Bride Wars (USA)
    • Defiance (USA)
    • Hannah Takes the Stairs (USA)
    • Role Models (USA/GER)
    • Sex Drive (USA)
    • Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan, 2008, UK/USA) #1 release 2009
    • Stuck (CAN/USA/UK/GER)

    [Source: Film Distributors’ Association, Variety, IMDB, BritFilms]

    Slumdog Millionaire becomes film #1 in the database of British story feature films released in 2009. It seems set to be one of the major British films of the year and being tipped for awards and international recognition. Is this Danny Boyle  (Trainspotting) and Simon Beaufoy’s (The Full Monty) Ghandi? One nagging aspect is the lack of international recognition for the Indian woman, Loveleen Tandan, who was given a co-directorial credit and who ‘wrote about 30 percent of the film in Hindi’. A film by Danny Boyle?

    slumdog

    Going Out Week 1

    January 6, 2009

    With no new British films on general release this week (2-8 January) there is a chance to focus on British films that are still new but were released at the end of last year, and to find a British film to watch in the cinema this week. December 2008 was quite a busy month for releases around Christmas. Of the 38 films of all kinds released that month, about 10 have some claims as British films, quite a significant proportion:

    1. Caught in the Act (Matt Lipsey, 2008)
    2. The Children (Tom Shankland, 2008)
    3. Summer (Kenny Glenaan, 2008) UK-GER
    4. Dean Spanley (Toa Fraser, 2008) UK-NZ
    5. Inkheart (Iain Softley, 2007) UK-USA
    6. A Bunch of Amateurs (Andy Cadiff, 2008)
    7. Stone of Destiny (Charles Martin Smith, 2007)
    8. The Tale of Desperaux (Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen, 2008) USA-UK
    9. Far North (Asif Kapadia, 2007)
    10. Mum and Dad (Steven Sheil, 2008)

    [Source: Film Distributors’ Association, Britfilms.com]

    It is quite likely that some of these films will be new to many areas in 2009. Looking forward to the end of this project, there might well be British films that are released in December 2009 that will be difficult to see before the year’s end, and so careful planning might be needed. Far North, for instance, is only showing in 6 places in the UK at the moment.

    So, what to watch this week? Mum and Dad would be my first choice, but it isn’t showing locally. Not only is it upholding a fine British tradition of shocking family values (tagline: ‘parents can be bloody murder’) in the horror film, but it is of interest from a number of aspects. It is available as a simultaneous cross-platform release – cinema, DVD, VOD, and TV – ‘Stay in. Go out. Your choice’. The empowerment of digital media values! I should wait to go out, but I might end up having to stay in – unless I download it and show it to some friends in public (that’s not illegal, right?).

    mumanddad1

    Mum and Dad also has a production context of note. As the BBC Film Network reports the average cost of British feature film in 2006 was £1.5m whereas Mum and Dad was the first film made under London Film’s Microwave scheme to make films for £75,000 (topped up to £100k from other sources). This is microbudget feature filmmaking in mainstream cinema terms. Of local interest is that the £25,ooo top up funding for the film was provided by EM Media, the regional agency that supports film and media in the East Midlands (‘Placing media at the heart of the creative economy’). The film was shot on location in Nottingham, but set near Heathrow Airport.

    The choice for this week’s outing will be Dean Spanley which is showing at the Phoenix, Leicester’s arts cinema. This is likely to have been on limited release so far, and therefore new to Leicester in 2009. According to the London Film Festival, it promises ‘peculiarly English quirks and ticks’. Dean Spanley is an adaptation of a short novel by Lord Dunsany (Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 1876-1957), an Anglo-Irish peer. The film is a certified UK-New Zealand co-production with a New Zealand director but a story of Edwardian English eccentricity and Hindu Transmigration of Souls – what could be more British than that? I will be at the 6.05 screening on Thursday.

    UK New Film Releases Week 1: 2 January- 8 January 2009

    January 2, 2009

    Number of British Films Watched in the Cinema During 2009 – 0

    It will not be possible to watch the first night release of a British film in Leicester tonight. There are only four films launching in the UK today, none of them British:

    • Bring Me the Head of  Alfredo Garcia (USA, revival) – for the ‘Southbank johnnies’
    • Che: Part One (USA) – which Soderbergh are you gonna get – yeh!  – Out of Sight or the bad Good German?
    • The Reader (USA/GERMANY) – worthy, literate, ill-judged middle-class psychodrama
    • Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 (USA) – if only I was 13 again, and a girl

    [Source: Film Distributors’ Association]

    For those of you seeking an evening Leicester premiere, only The Reader is currently showing, but given the global melting pot of contemporary cinema, this film has a strong British presence (directed by Stephen Daldry, starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, photographed by Roger Deakins and Chris Menges, adapted screenplay by David Hare). One could go on, but would one want to go out? Not even one for the Lovefilm list I think. The Reader could easily have been one of those US-UK co-productions, and as such, under the rules of the quest it would have to be seen – a lucky escape.

    No, I will have to seek British film culture away from today’s releases – time to make plans for the rest of the week. Anyway, it’s prog rock night on BBC4.

    reader