Archive for February, 2009

Cinema Shows Week 8: Mum and Dad, 23rd February 2009, Phoenix, Leicester

February 26, 2009

No new British releases available in the local area to see this week, but an opportunity to watch Mum and Dad, a Leicester premiere, and one of the last British films to be released in 2008 (26 December).


If you want to see British films in Leicester, then it’s likely that you will be visiting the Phoenix regularly for films that fail to get picked up by the multiplexes, and we (Steve and myself) thank the Phoenix for being their guests for this screening. In the bar afterwards, in unwind mode with a drop of Black Bull bitter from Ossett Brewery (so nice to be supping something from my Yorkshire home), we chatted about our very mutual issues about the film. I pushed for some redeeming qualities in the face of Steve’s downbeat response to the ‘torture porn’, but it was hard going. As a professor of British cinema, and with the reflection that Mum and Dad could be the future of British cinema, he was now willing to see his subject go the same way as Latin. What other dark thoughts, I wonder, did the dozen or so other people at the screening take with them in to the night?


 Mum and Dad, despite its assured opening sequences, acting and production values, ends up being something to be endured for not great reward. I was an uncomfortable and tense witness at times, squeezing the stick of my white chocolate Magnum. The family horror, with its predictable capture/escape narrative, didn’t update the genre or provide a context in which its sordidness serviced discontent – not even with any force about being exploited by or exploiting the victim foreign worker.

The significance of the film is that it is the first to be released under the Film London Microwave scheme to produce ten films in three years with micro-budgets of £100,000. This is obviously a great opportunity for young film-makers to get support for their personal projects and to make ten films for less than the average price of one British film. The idea is that these projects should be commercial and I suppose with such tiny budgets they have a good chance. The revenue strategy of Mum and Dad is a simultaneous cross-platform release in cinema, on DVD, for download, VOD and premium TV. Let’s hope it not only makes commercial sense and creates work for the industry, but also goes on to produce some films of genuine interest  and creativity. The next Microwave film (scheduled for April release) to look out for is Shifty, ‘a sharply scripted, witty, urban thriller’ .

Meanwhile, I will be back on the trail of the 2009 releases at the Phoenix tomorrow afternoon to see Better Things, ‘a work of great beauty’. The beauty and the beastly of British cinema.


Airport, you’ve got a smiling face,
You took the one I love so far away
Fly her away – fly her away – airport.
Airport, you’ve got a smiling face
You took my lady to another place
Fly her away – fly her away.
(‘Airport’, The Motors)


UK New Film Releases Week 8: 20 February- 26 February 2009

February 25, 2009
  • New British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 7  [10% of total film releases]
  • New British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema in 2009- 4
  • Total Film Releases in the UK in 2009 – 67
  • The new releases in the UK from 20 February 2009 are

    • 20th Century Boys (JAP)
    • Anvil! The Story of Anvil (USA)
    • Cadillac Records (USA)
    • Che: Part Two (SP/FRA/USA)
    • Confessions of a Shopaholic (USA)
    • Gran Torino (USA)
    • Push (USA)
    • The 81st Academy Awards Independent Short Films – Animation (Various)
    • The 81st Academy Awards Independent Short Films – Live Action (Various)

    With no British film releases in the last two weeks the percentage of British fiction feature films to total releases has slipped considerably to about 10%. In the week of the Oscars and in the face of the success of Slumdog Millionaire there is a distinct American domination of distribution once again, including the rather odd stitching together of the Oscar nominated shorts in the live action and animation categories as programmes. Big hitters Clint Eastwood and Steven Soderbergh have new films and there are more obvious genre films for young women and teens – shopping and psychic super powers.

    All in all then, a rather miserable showing for British films in February, but March is looking more promising – with high hopes for Bronson (March 13) and low expectations of Lesbian Vampire Killers (20 March) – are Corden and Horne half as funny as they think they are?



    Cinema Shows Week 7: The Secret of Moonacre, 14th February 2009, Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

    February 24, 2009
  • British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 7
  • British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 4
  • Ticket Outlay £13.97.5  (on British feature films released in 2009)
  • brewery_arts-cinema_kendal_1402091

    Managing to keep over a 50% success rate (lack of success rate?) in watching British films in the cinema with a trip to  see The Secret of Moonacre at Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, and visiting a different cinema each time (unlikely to keep this going forever though). I’ve now watched four British films of 2009 in four different cinemas:

    • Slumdog Millionaire – Freemen’s Park Odeon, Leceister
    • Clubbed – City Cinema, Leicester
    • Revolutionary Road – Reel, Loughborough
    • The Secret of Moonacre – Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

    I wouldn’t normally be found in the cinema when staying ‘up North’ with so much countryside to be out in, but the film was on, so we (Chris and I) went in. The Brewery is a hub of creative activity as discovered when we took a wrong turning into the theatre packed with families and young children. Once rescued by the usher we took our place with a dozen or so others in one of the three screens (‘biggest releases plus world cinema and art-house films’) on site.


    For a moment there, I thought I had stumbled upon popular British cinema. The most expensive (and pictorial) ticket so far, but still averaging less than £3.50 per screening. The audience was young girls, kids and parents, so as a couple without children we added to the universality of the audience. As a ‘U’, the film aims to appeal to all, but may in fact end up satisfying no one. I couldn’t see what would appeal to adults or children. A couple of girls two rows in front were galed of laughter by Julet Stevenson’s (‘straightlaced governess’ Miss Heliotrope) violent eruptions of trapped wind, but it wasn’t very enchanting, magical or adventurous. Most effort seemed to have been given to the striking costumes. The evil De Noir clan who lived in the forest were an interesting bunch with youngsters looking like hippy-‘droogs’ and a camp Tim Curry in a gimp mask.


    There has been a big effort to get the film into nearly 400 sites, but unsurprisingly without great success. The site average gross takings for the film’s second weekend (13-15 February) is a meagre £325.

    Broken Wheelers: A Review of Revolutionary Road

    February 16, 2009

    A placeholder – review to appear later.

    UK New Film Releases Week 7: 13 February- 19 February 2009

    February 16, 2009
  • New British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 7  [12% of total film releases]
  • New British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema in 2009- 4
  • Total Film Releases in the UK in 2009 – 58
  • The new releases in the UK on 13 February 2009 are

    • Billu Barber (IND)
    • Bolt (USA)
    • Friday the 13th (USA)
    • Fuck (USA)
    • Hotel for Dogs (USA/GER)
    • King of the Hill (SP)
    • My Name is Bruce (USA)
    • Notorious (USA)
    • The Pink Panther 2 (USA)
    • Three Monkeys (TURKEY)
    • Under the Sea 3D (USA/CAN) IMAX, 41 mins

    An odd collection of releases – rapper, slasher, sniper, barker, barber – remakes and quirky films, Hollywood and international. BUT NO NEW BRITISH FILMS THIS WEEK or next week either, so something of a hiatus. Time to take stock I think. British feature films slipping towards about one in eight of all films released.

    Cinema Shows Week 6: Bolt, 7th February 2009, Cinema De Lux, Leicester

    February 16, 2009
    • Number of 3D films watched in the cinema in 2009 – 2
    • Ticket Outlay on 3D films – £15.20 

    It didn’t work out for seeing  the British co-production The Secret of Moonacre this week. Let’s call it a near miss. Instead, my first ‘first night rush’ (seeing a film on the day of its release) of the year was plan B –   Bolt. It all came down to timing (post-dinner), and, as the night of the screening approached,  a growing sense of awkwardness shared with Robert, my fellow fortysomething companion for the show. I suspect that we imagined in a cinema full of adolescent girls, two middle-aged blokes are going to look questionable. So we missed it by 20 minutes and a self-conscious inhibition. A shame, because a literate man such as Robert is the perfect guest to accompany a fantasy fiction dissenter.

    The Cinema De Lux Highcross is going to profit from that city centre convenience and impulsion that might be lost to the more out of town multiplex. It certainly seems to be attracting gaggles of young people to this corner of the shopping centre in Leicester. Each ticket comes with a free ride on an escalator to a food court concourse and restaurant/bar. It feels like an adventurous journey to a carvery.

    There may have been 20 or 30 people at the screening – mostly adults with kids, but we rattled arround in the spacious auditorium. Do cinemas ever fill up these days? The strategy of making 3D films seems to be to create a premium experience, but one wonders whether people are prepared to pay extra. Are we paying more because the screening is more expensive or because it is special?


    Unlike My Bloody Valentine 3-D  there is not a great deal of pointing pointy things (gun, pick axe) at the screen to make them jut out in Bolt. Instead the 3D just seems to create both a different sense of depth and a solid closeness that brings the action much closer to your eyes. Take the glasses off and you really notice how suddenly the screen seems much further away. In My Bloody Valentine I thought that the highlight was the shot (!) of the bullet emerging out of the screen, doing a u-turn in the middle of the auditorium, before returning to tear through the actor’s onscreen flesh. In Bolt it was not so much the 3D-ness as the usual (it has been called ‘uncanny’) folding of live action simulation and stylized cartoon. As John Lasseter explains, from the very beginning they have always been pushing the limitations of the computers to achieve cinematographic realism. The animators have to create what in live action you get for free. I was particularly struck by a scene near the end of the film with a paramedic rescue and an ambulance that had all the fluent, live action intensity of an episode of ER, except that you look around and see all these cartoony characters. These films are four years in the making and they always involve asethetic problem solving. In this case they wanted to make ‘pretty painterly’ backgrounds, even if they only really get noticed when you stop a frame. Don’t you think they’ve got too much time on their hands?

    UK New Film Releases Week 6: 6 February- 12 February 2009

    February 9, 2009
    • New British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 7  [15% of total film releases]
    • New British Documentary Films Released in 2009 – 1
    • New British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema in 2009- 3
    • Total Film Releases in the UK in 2009 – 47

    The UK film releases for the week commencing 6th Feb 2009 are:

    • Bolt 3D (USA)
    • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (USA)
    • Doubt (USA)
    • The Good, the Bad and the Wierd (SOUTH KOREA)
    • He’s Just Not That Into You (USA)
    • Punisher: War Zone (USA)
    • The Secret of Moonacre (Gabor Csupo, 2007, HUN/UK/FR) #7 British release 2009
    • Time Crimes (SP) ICA Cinema Only
    • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (SP/USA)
    • Who Killed Nancy? (UK documentary)

    After last week’s very international and eclectic mix of new releases in UK cinemas, this week seems much more typical. Hollywood dominance returns with a major Disney computer animation and an intriguing David Fincher film (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). A couple of British films too!  The first British documentary to be release this year is Who Killed Nancy?, but it is only on limited release:


    If the subject matter of middle-class post-war confusion of gender roles in last week’s Revolutionary Road made me slightly anxious, that is as nothing compared to the trepidation of having to watch The Secret of Moonacre. I have to confess that fantasy fiction of the Harry Potter ilk generally leaves me cold. The Secret of Moonacre is an adaptation of Elizabeth Goudge’s children’s novel The Little White Horse (1946), apparently one of J K Rowling’s influences and favourite books as a child.


    I am hoping in the screening that I look like a fish out of water, or a unicorn out of magical pastures, but not too conspicuous as to attract worried glances about what I’m doing in a ‘lavish kids’ fantasy on my own without any kids in tow. I am so not the target audience, and don’t want to be the audience’s target.


    Girl reading The Little White Horse

    Cinema Shows Week 5: Revolutionary Road, 4th February 2009, Reel Cinema, Loughborough

    February 8, 2009
  • British Feature Films (Fiction) Released in 2009 – 6
  • British Fictional Feature Films (Released in 2009) Watched in the Cinema  in 2009- 3
  • Ticket Outlay £8.47.5  (on British feature films released in 2009)
  • ‘Going Out’ [to the cinema] – 5 films
  • ‘Staying In’  [with rental DVDs] – 5 films
  • After not being able to see any new British film releases last week  it was good to at least get back out there again this week to see Revolutionary Road at the Reel cinema in Loughborough or was it Revoultionary Road?:


    I won’t let this little typo cloud my judgment about the cinema’s ‘operating philosophy’ as reported in an earlier post. It was clean, affordable and had the latest movies, the customer service was fine, the entertainment was real, there was nothing wrong with the projection or sound. However, there was some discomfort because Screen 1 was cold – yes, we picked the screening with the heating problems in the middle of the snowiest weather for 18 years. But with plenty of warning we went ahead and asked to be put in the warmest seat they had.


    It was not freezing – I didn’t need to keep a coat on – it was OK. We couldn’t huddle for warmth. There must only have been 50 people there in quite a large auditorium. It seems to me there are always 30-50 people anywhere at any time of day who are prepared to go to the cinema to see a particular film.

    The film was OK too. Quite theatrical I suppose, and plenty of vintage ties to admire. Afterwards a quick meal of pasta at the Red Lion, Rothley. Unlike staying in with the DVD (new media), when you can start and pause and eat when you want, going out to the cinema (old media) involves conforming to time constraints and schedules. This is not too restrictive – it seems to work out most times, and although it costs more to eat out, the ticket outlay so far is remarkably good value – three new British films seen for less than £9. Keeping it real on ‘Reel Wednesday’.


    Going Out Week 5: Revolutionary Road at the Reel, Loughborough

    February 4, 2009

    No chance of seeing The Broken this week and so plan to watch Revolutionary Road on Wednesday. It has made a big splash at the weekend box office in third place behind Slumdog Millionaire and Valkyrie. In the spirit of adventure (or more truthfully convenience) there is a chance to visit a new cinema. This will be the third new cinema this year. Going to the Reel in Loughborough (6.20 screening) which promises an ‘operating philosophy’  to provide customers  with:

    • Comfort
    • Cleanliness
    • Affordable prices
    • Friendly, knowledgeable staff giving quality customer service
    • Great pictures and sound
    • The latest movies

    and most of all…. real entertainment. There, that’s got all you providers of fake entertainment worried.

    The Reel is the former Curzon Cinema and an art deco survivor:


    The ‘affordable prices’ kick in on Wednesdays:


    Will have to think of some tricky questions to test the ‘knowledgeable staff’. Not sure about Revolutionary Road – its middle-class psychodrama isn’t it? Angst in my pants!


    DiCaprio and Winslet ‘trapped in a world of encoded convention’

    One question I have is why David Thompson at BBC FIlms wanted to make this particular film?