Links for 2007-01-19 []

  • Liverpool Confidential: And so to bed
    Angie Sammons attends the wake for "The Northwest Enquirer". 'Never had the term, putting the paper to bed, seemed so apt.'
  • Digi-Cream Times: Thanks a shit
    Ian Jones' blog is like a daily dollop of TV Cream. Here he notices that the tea time showings of Inspector Morse don't appear to have been looked at very carefully before broadcast.
  • Cinematical: Gwyneth Paltrow Signs To Play Pepper Potts!
    In the Iron Man film. Since I'm mostly interested in this because it's directed by Jon Favreau this sounds like excellent news and a step in the right direction. Although I would have preferred Bethany Cabe to be in it ...
  • The Four of Slitheen

    Games This fortnight's Doctor Who Adventures features a free pack of playing cards on the cover (which the sales guy in Forbidden Planet was really very enthusiastic about whilst I was buying it). Brilliantly, the various suits have been replaced by Doctor Who monsters -- so Ood instead of spades and Daleks instead of hearts. The Doctor is the King and Rose is the Queen. Given that there has been a character called Jack in the series, guess who appears as the Jack in this pack of playing cards ...

    What a missed opportunity! If this was the magazine for older readers, I'd be sending in a letter of complaint.

    Talk about it

    Life So it's nearly all over. Jade is being evicted and the E4 live feed is showing footage an hour old which indicates that something must be going on in the house. The level of contrition is startling from Danielle and everyone else involved which either means they've realised it all went a bit too far or someone's had a few words with them in the diary room.

    You'll notice the tag on the post is Life not TV though. Because after my post the other day about bullying and what happened to me at school I received a nice email from a Canadian journalist who is preparing an article about this horrific incident in North Babylon, New York which I hadn't known about in which a young girl was beaten by classmates -- and the video had appeared on You-Tube.

    She asked if I would write something about my experiences for the site she works for or alternatively agree to a telephone interview. I thought long and hard about it, the opportunity, but eventually declined. Even as I was thinking about it (and indeed as I write this now) I'm having flashbacks, brief glimpses of memories buried and I just felt that if I was to start dredging through past in this way, recall moments which I'd fought so hard to bury I might not stop.

    I'm a different person now, I think. It was fifteen to twenty years ago and I made my piece with it all as soon as I went to university. But it doesn't mean that sometimes, when I find it hard to meet people or find myself trying to understand people or not understanding why we don't quite click that I don't wonder if there's still something deep down that isn't related to being an only child or my personality but is actually because of what happened to me at school.

    Am I a coward for not wanting to confront the issue? Probably. I just think that like not wanting to eat the Rusks I used to love as a baby or watching The Grumbleweeds when I was five, there are certain things that happen when you're a youngster and as you grow up you need to leave them back were they are and not revisit the sensation no matter the opportunity. And the bullying is one of those.

    Links for 2007-01-18 []

  • filmlog: The Core (2003)
    Anaphylactic apocalyptic sci-fi thriller that recalls Irwin Allen's B-movies from the 60s. A group of scientists blast their ship through the Earth to restart its core sharing jokes and grim death along the way. How can a film so bad be so much fun?
  • Metafilter: Bollywood Vs Bigots on UKs Big Brother
    Mefi weighs in. "I am not pretending to be thick is the only interesting or sensible thing Jade Goody has ever said." Seriously, even as I wrote the other day I didn't think it would get this BIG. And I didn't even mention the R-word.
  • Cultural

    TV As well as echoing the sentiments of this post from TV Scoop, I also wanted to point you to an 'essay' from the original version of the blog when I had this to say about the first series of Big Brother:
    "The Big Brother house was a necessarily sterile place where cultural pursuits were kept to a minimum. But whether on purpose or through subtle manipulation the Big Brother Eleven became a microcosm of the current state of Popular and High culture in the UK. Don?t believe me? Lets take this one step at a time..."
    I'm now slightly appalled that this is pretty much the stance that Channel Four have taken over what is happening in the house -- the 'mirror on society' excuse:
    "In the seven years it has been on air Big Brother has seldom been far from the headlines. [...] The reason it commands so much attention, intentionally or unintentionally, is that it goes to the heart of who we are as individuals and as a society. [...] The latest series of Celebrity Big Brother has strayed into particularly controversial territory ? the issue of racism and whether or not it remains ingrained in British attitudes despite all the progress we have apparently made towards becoming a truly multi-cultural society."
    Which actually sounds like an admission of a behaviour that they've previously denied has occured. I was very careful when I wrote about this the other day not to use the R-word. Then this happened. Oh dear lord.


    Life Remember a few days ago I mentioned the fact that home shook during high winds? Today I actually had to grab hold of a window sill at one point to steady myself because the floor jolted and I was nearly knocked off my feet. This is getting scary.

    Links for 2007-01-17 []

  • Zeta Minor - Incoming
    Amazing page listing release dates for upcoming dvd releases up until December. Useful for seeing if something new is going to be rereleased with extra bits later.
  • filmlog: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
    After a luminous and patently erotic opening, loses focus and generally annoys by not resolving anything; although this is perhaps to put the audience in the same position as the characters it hardly repays the commitment of the viewer.
  • filmlog: Tristan & Isolde (2006)
    Sometimes beautiful, sometimes ludicrous, sometimes poetic, sometimes cod-Shakespearean, sometimes love story, sometimes medieval political thriller. Unbalanced because Sophia Myles is so expressive and James Franco is so bland.
    Nice cat. Does anyone know what this?
  • Kamaelia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    "Kamaelia is a free software/open source Python-based systems-development tool and concurrency framework produced by BBC Research."
  • "How am I blest in thus discovering thee!"

    Film Watching the sometimes beautiful, sometimes bizarre film Tristan and Isolde today (isn't Sophia Myles great?), I was finally able to see the legendary quoting of John Donne's poem The Good-Morrow in situ. Just like every reviewer of the animated film Barnyard picked up on the fact that the male cows with udders, it was the one element of this to be highlighted. A rather detailed piece from Creative Screenwriting gets to the nub of most of their problems:
    "This will sound like nitpicking, but Isolde reads John Donne poetry to Tristan while he's convalescing -- and John Donne wasn't even born until 1572. Not only that, she reads it from a little printed book that she carries -- not likely until much later in history. Also, characters treat paper and parchment like everyday items. I'm pretty sure that's not right. I could swear that I heard one character greet another with "Hello," a 20th century word if ever there was one."
    Within the film itself, it's rather a lovely romantic moment, closing out the film in a upbeat way (considering). The problem with these criticisms is that clearly the filmmakers are not even attempting historical accuracy - it's a romantic fantasy from the same tradition as Arthurian legend -- and it's somewhat bizarre that film, particularly in modern times, is hauled over the coals and singled out negatively for its anachronisms when other art forms from painting through to playwriting have been doing this kind of thing for centuries.

    Over Christmas, BBC Two broadcast an excellent short series of documentaries about masterpieces connected with the Nativity, including Jan van Eyck's The Annunciation. In this work, Van Eyck portrays one of the holiest events in the Christian church within a vaguely contemporary setting, with stylized costumes. Repeatedly in Shakespeare's rendering of Julius Caesar characters refer to clocks and chiming; Cassius says at one moment: "The clock hath stricken three" - mechanical chiming clocks weren't around in Roman Britain.

    Perhaps I'm more forgiving than most about these things, but for me the importance in any film is that it sets up and adheres to its own internal reality. The confusion here possibly lies in the fact that the opening cards place the film in the fifth century, but that isn't any different to the way that literature has included dates to create a sheen of historical reality before fictionalising everything - see everyone from Milton to Dumas. Tristan and Isolde is based on myth rather than historical truth, so when Creative Screenwriting points out that the characters don't talk as they would have in the fifth century, they're missing the point.

    It's part of a kind of postmodernism that pervades the whole work, trying to show that this is a romance for all time. The narrative mixes elements from throughout the entire history of the original myth and tosses in (as the ad campaign indicates) bits of Romeo and Juliet. Instead of Middle English which would have needed to be subtitled Apocalypto-style, it's using a heightened but still comprehensible language that blends vocabulary from throughout the centuries (why not 'Hello'? I'd rather have that than 'Good day' or 'Greetings' a hundred times). Admittedly this doesn't always work ('I'm soon with the worms...' etc) but it is used coherently throughout the film. This blending stretches to the design and costumes which have everything from Normanism to the kind of thing you might find in the illustrations of a fairytale storybook or a pre-Raphaelite paintings.

    With all of this in mind, John Donne's poetry doesn't feel wrong at all; his words were the most romantic and this side of the Shakespeare, and have no doubt been carefully chosen because it's just unfamiliar enough not to pop out in the same way that the bard's might and give the feelings shared by the lovers an intensity and integrity. What's to say that in this version of reality people aren't using some version of a book? And how great is it too that the filmmakers sought to use a great bit of literature rather than cooking something up themselves which means that people who might not necessarily have picked up a copy of Donne's work otherwise will be doing so. I'd love to know what a new reader thinks of The Flea or To His Mistress Going To Bed (or the poem that was left out of the edition I read at school).

    "Come on, Ace; we've got work to do!"

    TV Details for the April release of Survival have been released by the BBC and it's a treat. This was never my favourite of stories -- although I do like the suburbanism of the opening episode I find that it loses focus somewhat as it goes along. Not it's fault, but what a shame that the show with that legacy ended with something this inconsistent. I had forgotten though how lovely that final speech is, the one that was rushed in when the show had been canceled. So brilliantly poetic and absolutely in-keeping with what show had been and would become:

    "There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea is asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace; we've got work to do!"

    The dvd extras are really quite intriguing. Along with customary making of documentaries, a second disc looks at the what might have happened with a twenty seventh season and there's a retrospective look at the character of Ace. I wonder if there'll be any mention of their ongoing Big Finish adventures or the Virgin New Adventures. And Search Out Science! Something I'd never thought I'd see and this seems like the perfect place for it.

    The Restoration Team also now have an article up
    about their work and actually it wasn't as straightforward as you'd imagine because of the visual effects used during the scenes in the alien landscapes. It's just a shame that the fan commentary only extends to the final episode. Has anyone we know contributed to this?

    Links for 2007-01-16 []

  • filmlog: Le Boucher (1970)
    Tense Hitchockian thriller about a school teacher drawn into romance with a potential murder. I'm surprised this hasn't been remade in some shit American version directed by Adrian Lyne and featuring a serious Meg Ryan.
  • filmlog: Relative Strangers (2006)
    Actually the film does feature one good joke which happens after the titles and there's a great cameo from Ed Begley Jnr. I do wonder at what point they realised they couldn't hook Ben Stiller...
  • filmlog: Jurassic Park (1993)
    Still works after all these years because the film is really about the humans rather than the dinosaurs, which are still extraordinarily effective. I haven't seen it in years and was hooked throughout. The performances are lovely.
  • Wikipedia: List of films with similar themes and release dates
    There are far more than I thought although do 'Never Say Never Again' and 'Octopussy' really count?
  • Bully

    TV A few weeks ago I was looking through old weblog posts from a few years ago and was struck by how much I'd been offering my opinions on Big Brother, particularly the fourth year, with John Tickle and Nush and everyone turning up on RI:SE every morning. I haven't really paid close attention to it in years, skipping the nightly 'highlights' shows but inevitably picking up some of the narrative in television columns and on blogs and from people I've talked to.

    Surprisingly considering the apparent downturn in the ratings, this year's Celebrity edition has seemed to have more press than ever. I missed the Galloway cat leotard completely until it became relevant later in the year but I somehow managed to catch the opening show of this series and I've been dipping in and out whenever something 'exciting' happens, like Leo Sayer swearing at security guards.

    Last night, while I was waiting for The Trial of Tony Blair I saw the closing moments of the episode, and the incident between Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty (watched by us and Cleo Rocos). I can't really comment on anything else that might have happened because I haven't seen it and I can only really talk on the basis of the material shown, edited as it was.

    But this was the worst example of public bullying I've seen in years. And it derailed me.

    I was bullied at school, from the infant school right up through into my sixth form at secondary school. We aren't talking about the odd name, or playing about between friends. This was a systematised, endemic bullying in which I was treated like a sub-human to the extent that I would sometimes be afraid to go to school. Sometimes it would be sillier subjects like I'd told the wrong person that my pet rabbit had frozen to death in the cold and I'd get incessant chants of run rabbit run down the hallway or in my face. Generally it was about my weight or something I might have said in a club or society.

    I remember some mornings before register I'd be on the floor of the classroom, groups of lads around me chanting or smacking me with a ruler. Usually it was much subtler than that, the odd word there, the grabbing from behind by the back pack and swung around there. Having your lunch routed through. You know that scene in The Breakfast Club when Bender goes through Brians lunch? Realism, although in my case it would be sandwiches themselves that would end up being trampled on. On the one occasion I did retaliate, and I slapped them on the back, they threw my head into a wall and I ended up in hospital.

    But what bullies hardly ever realised is that they're not the only ones. They tend to think it's just them bullying you, when actually there will be a range of them, in different classes or years and sometimes across the day it would be a drip, drip, drip affair as I moved about my day about the school, trying to avoid certain places because I knew certain people were there. Dave Gorman notes how bullies can become sucked into a pattern of behaviour:
    "I don't enjoy watching it and I think they are behaving like bullies. I think there are unpleasant undertones to it and when they sit together and discuss Shilpa they egg each other on, perhaps feeling closer to each other the more they can display their dislike for Shilpa. It's as if by using more and more cartoonish insults, Shilpa is made less and less real to them and they then feel less and less guilty about saying worse and worse things."
    The point I'm trying to make is that when you've experienced bullying, you know what it looks like and it shatters you when you see it again. Over the course of about forty-five minutes, Jade demolished Shilpa. In the sections we saw, Jade was using the righteous indignation approach - the 'I'm right because I don't understand you' approach, the 'You're different to me - what's wrong with you?' and the classic 'How can she (meaning S Club's Jo) be wrong now if she was nice to you once before.'

    Essentially Jade, like the bullies who wouldn't leave me alone knew what Shilpa's weaknesses were and strip mined them for all their worth. If you tell someone who obviously spends there life trying to be straight up and genuine that you can't tell when they're being fake in the kind of arrogant way that she was, that's bullying. If someone is covered in tears and having to justify the length of time they've cooked a chicken and the person whose put them in that position isn't consoling them or seeing the wrong they're doing, that's bullying.

    Even with the editing of the sequence (and for all we know Shilpa could have stood up for herself in the gap), I shivered to see Jade coldly sitting on the end of that table, looking down at Shilpa absolutely destroyed, not a glimmer of sympathy in her eyes. From what I've seen, Shilpa hasn't done anything to deserve that treatment other than tried to be friendly, open and interested. One of the points of Jade's bizarre argument seemed to be that Shilpa had made a nomination choice that Jade had refused to - which is odd considering this is supposed to be a game show, something that Goody has obviously forgotten. Again.

    There'll be some who'll wonder why Shilpa doesn't simply react in a much louder way and essentially shout back louder. I have seen her get frustrated and even angry here and there, but she's of the conciliatory personality, like me, she doesn't like arguments because they can be so frustrating. She's possibly just not used to people being so nasty and disrespectful to her. Why hasn't she walked? Because that would let the bullies win.

    Somewhere along the line, the producers of the show lost sight of what was supposed to be entertaining and what were supposed to be their own rules about the housemates treating each other with respect. As Shilpa's UK manager, Jaz Barton has said: "She didn't come into the house to have that sort of harassment." People have been kicked off the show in some parts of the world for using physical violence, so why isn't mental cruelty also on the list? On the basis of this would Nick have gone in series one? Is it because these are celebrities, under contract, and they're too frightened to do anything lest the lawyers get involved?

    It will be interesting to see the reaction when each of these people leaves the house and attempts to carry on with their so-called careers. Goody has already lost one or two of her endorsements and I think I'll respect those magazines and papers that simply ignore her interview overtures or stop printing the details of her every movement. They won't of course, but perhaps the coverage will be less sympathetic. It's a shame that Shilpa doesn't really know who Jade actually is - through sheer exposure the woman is a walking magnet for retaliatory stories (the London Marathon incident not withstanding).

    So anyway, on the basis of all this Shilpa to win. And I'll be very surprised if she doesn't.

    The Locket Configuration

    Film Remember a few months ago I wrote about Four Play, the direct to dvd film which was using the popularity of Richard Curtis's Love Actually to sell its wares. I've found another one. Relative Strangers is a catastrophically unfunny, predictable and in plenty of ways offensive comedy about a straight-up liberal American who finds out that he was adopted and his biological parents are trailer trash. It's directed very flatly by Greg Glienna, who created the original low budget version of Meet The Parents and only the cast make it halfway watchable -- but I do wonder how any of them could be at all pleased with the finished product (which has been a dvd premiere everywhere including the USA).

    Here is the cover of the box for Relative Strangers:

    No ribbons or roses this time, but the logo does contain the fairly distinctive heavy bold red writing next to thin black. I think it's a subtle form of sales technique in which the potential viewer sees something attractive familiar and is drawn into taking it off the shelf. Here is the Love Actually cover again as a comparison.

    It's somewhat spookier though when you watch the dvd and see the menus. Here's the special features menu from Relative Strangers:

    And Love Actually:

    Similar kind of locket configuration. What can this mean? I'm sure it's a homage probably. Let me know if you spot any more.

    Links for 2007-01-15 [] - Rmail

  • Walt Disney's Story Of Robin Hood.
    A blog that investigates Disney's live action version of the film with Richard Todd.
  • filmlog: Suspicion (1941)
    Hitchock was never happy with the ending (imposed by RKO) and it's easy to see why; the audience obviously feels as much relief as Fontaine, but it could have been much darker. The novel's ending isn't filmic or dramatic enough though.
  • The Stage: Vibrant proposal
    Now that the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden has sadly closed, a reader of The Stage makes a proposal.
  • Cinematical: BBC To Make Documentary On 'The C-Word'
    Actually, Germain Greer swam into these waters last year during 'Balderdash and Piffle' in one of the best of television last year. She used it all over the shop and I don't think anyone complained. Someone will now I suspect.
  • International Dim Sum Directory
    "In a recent travel tip newsletter emailed to members of our Journeywoman Network we asked women readers around the world for their favorite dim sum restaurants"
  • Behind the Sofa: "Hey, Doctor, leave those kids alone."
    In which I review Sunday night's Doctor Who episode "Horror of Glam Rock" and forget to the mention the rocking version of the theme tune under the credits.
  • Horror of Glam Rock.

    Radio Time for the weekly spoiler alert. I've given away the ending somewhere in here again. Sorry. But hey, man, you can listen to play first if you like. Like wow.

    I was shopping in HMV just before Christmas, flicking through the Bob Dylan albums in the sale trying to remember the ones I hadn't heard yet and an old work colleague sauntered up beside me. He's an old fashioned muso, the kind that DJs in bars and plays bebop and northern soul and when I told him I couldn't remember whether I already had a copy of Live At Budokan he smiled ruefully and said: "So you've bought it rather than lived it then."

    That's probably how I felt during the brilliantly titled Horror of Glam Rock the latest Eighth Doctor adventure on BBC7. This was the kind of story that could only have been written by someone clued up on music, but just sometimes I'm sure it's that crowd, looking out for all the lyrical references, who will more than likely have rung the most enjoyment from it, and especially from "Children of Tomorrow" the original song which appeared in the teaser. Since the first album I bought was Five Star's Silk and Steel and I've never recovered and I was a fetus at the time when this episode was set, I was left with what was in essence a fairly standard base under siege-type story with the usual, for this series, wicked sense of humour.

    The Tardis, in attempting to land Lucie back in her own time and place finds itself as close as it can get, in the year of my birth, 1974 near a motorway café. Doctor Who Adventures recently ran a story in a similar locale with hungry aliens, but this began in much grimmer style with the Doctor plus one discovering the corpse of a horribly savaged glam rocker but as the story ensued it became apparent that some alien mammals were also becoming big fans of the dining out just off the M62.

    Slowly a group barricaded themselves within the cafe, away from the monsters. Claire Buckfield and yes, that Stephen Gately as a group called 'The Tomorrow Twins' who along with their manager played by Bernard Cribbins are on their way to a miming session on Top of the Pops. Una Stubbs is in there too playing diner's waitress and Lindsay Hardwick as apparently random customer, Pat, whose significance is slowly revealed. No point grumbling about celebrity cameos in this radio series as pretty much ever part has been filled with famous names by director and casting director Barnaby Edwards.

    Wombles Obviously the touchstone was The Horror of Fang Rock with the strangers slowly dying across the duration in a tiny location; for me though, there was more than a hint of the film Tremors as some deaths were treated less than seriously and the trapped weren't entirely horrified by their bestial enemy. I'm surprised they didn't try to name them, although given the presence of Cribbins and the reference from Una to all the bands that pass through the restaurant, all the greats, "Hendrix, Lulu, The Wombles" I'd say they were modeled after Uncle Bulgeria's lot.

    Tons of atmosphere, what with the sound of the snow underfoot and the special rock opera incidental music by Tim Sutton. This all seemed rather more sympathetic than the last time Big Finish tried to evoke a sub-culture, in the awful Seventh Doctor story The Rapture, and unlike that story it had some fun with it, hardly taking it seriously at all. That the alien communication device was a stylophone would please Rick Wakeman and it's a shame that the budget couldn't stretch to some actual musicians from the period. This seemed like the perfect story to have someone playing themselves - wasn't Roy Wood or Noddy Holder available for once?

    If I'm slightly disappointed it's because I've just finished reading writer Paul Magrs* novel The Scarlett Empress one of the most inventive things I've ever clapped eyes on, whereas this felt, particularly towards the conclusion much more like a soup of familiar elements (rather like the kind of soup that might be cooked up using the Proppian signifiers the Doctor suggests in that novel). So along with the base being under siege, and blood thirst mammals all tooth and paws, there was the relative of a companion, Gelthian elementals "The Only Ones" ala The Unquiet Dead who aren't what they initially appear to be who were trapped within some modern media in a similar way to The Idiot's Lantern (told you there'd be spoilers). I can understand though, why after the epic happenings of the previous story, producer Nick Briggs decided to reduce everything down to something much more intimate.

    Like many aging rockers, it also sagged a bit in the middle as the characters sat around waiting for the next event or for the Doctor to figure something out. This kind of thing is customary in these types of stories as are the deaths that appear to be inserted almost to create some incident when there isn't anything due. This is the first story that features the completion of a whole story in fifty minutes without any kind of cliffhanger but unlike the last two episodes it doesn't feel like two episodes slapped together in the middle which might accounting for the lack of pace.

    Which isn't to say that this sag didn't allow for some wonderful character moments as the Doctor and Lucie reconciled a little bit: "I'm glad I met you." She said. "I'm glad too." He agreed. Eighth also seems to be developing some of Ninth's ticks, commenting on the foibles of human beings and his alieness more than I've heard before. Lucie's wicked quips were there too though: "Tranny pile up on the M62?" Marvelous. Across the board everyone was given an inspiring moment and there wasn't anything wrong with Magrs' characterisation (it's pronounced Mars then? I've been calling him Paul Maggers for years). Watch for the moment towards the end when the Doctor realises his plan isn't exactly going exactly as, well, as planned.

    Performances were good across the board, exceptional in the case of Stubbs and Cribbins who actually gets to be heroic. McGann continues to be a revelation and I loved hearing in the documentary afterwards that they simply didn't tell him who had been cast so who would be coming in each day and his excitement at being given such talent to play against is evident in his performance. Sheriden, although inevitably in more of a companion-like role is still bucking my expectations and was particularly lovely when she meets her Auntie Pat. Oh and I can't wait for Katarina Olssen's Headhunter to get some meatier scenes.

    The close of this play revealed that she's gaining on Lucie, but little else was revealed. I do think that like the opening seasons of the McGann stories there is a building plot arc featuring elements that have been inserted that will only really resonate later - Lucie meeting her Auntie cannot have been a coincidence can it? Will she return?

    Next week: The Mythmakers revisited.

    "Bloody Normans."

    Film In 1991 one of the first great film concept pile ups occurred. Sometimes its volcanoes, or rocks hitting Earth or Truman Capote and that year it was Robin Hood. There were two releases in the UK -- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, obviously, directed by Kevin Reynolds with Kevin Costner as the titular hero, which everyone saw and did fantastic business and propped up Bryan Adams' career for the rest of the decade. Then there was Robin Hood from the Working Title film company (the men that later brought you Hugh Grant's career) which everyone ignored, I bought the soundtrack for and was on ITV1 on Saturday afternoon -- and it's absolutely bonkers and the most fun I've had in front of an adventure film in ages.

    Eschewing the common icons of the stories and like the recent King Arthur film, this employed a kind of faux-historic realism with Robin engaged as the pseudonym for Sir Robert Hode, a Saxon lord under the occupation from the Normans. In this version, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisburne are replaced by those French nobels who are just as scared of Prince John as everyone else. Marian, then, quite properly according to legend, is also French. It's the kind of stew that would give Simon Sharma nightmares (Richard is mentioned although oddly no one bothers to say were he actually is) makes an unpredictable change. Everyone else is around, Will Scarlett, Little John and Tuck but like the recent BBC television series, there isn't a sense of there being anything special about any of them.

    Wearing it's lower budget more or less as a badge of honour, this is Robin Hood as it probably should be done, in the style of Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky, with the mud and all the trappings of the shit end of the dark ages. Everyone is covered in dirt, no one is wearing tights and the merry men are common thieves who only end up giving back to poor their own taxes, looted from the Normans, when they look like they'll revolt if they don't. The Time Out Film Guide criticises the film's lack of swash or buckle but it's not about that -- it's actually quite pleasing to see grown men throw themselves at each other and not being able to land one punch and not be able to pick up a sword and swing because its to heavy for them -- it's a refreshing dash of realism.

    There's also a realistic approach to geography. Someone's obviously gotten out a map and read a few history books because the extent of forestation in the country is just right, as is the expression of who the nobility is. Locksley is mentioned in passing, but the main focus of the story is Huntington. When Robin is a kicked out of his kingdom he heads north and so quite appropriately the merry men are from the good counties of Yorkshire, Cheshire and Lancashire and sound like it. For once in a Robin Hood story, the accents are even half right and oh so rural. I'm not sure how accurate the French accents are, although since most of that portion of the cast hail from their own part of the world (with a notable exception, see below), they're probably right too -- granted they all speak English to one another when there isn't anyone else around but that's an affection I'll forgive.

    Like Gilliam too, the casting director here has been looked for interesting faces and its filled with caricatures, both men and women, who look like they've walked out of a Hogarth painting. The court jester is a classic grotesque. Add to this an attractive connection to nature - the photography is quite wonderful in places, especially in the opening moments when the creatures of the forest and their reactions to mankind invading their habitat are intercut with Norman soldiers chasing after merry man Much.

    It's probably just worth watching for the fascinating dollop of Bitish humour, or 'Saxon Humour' as its even referred to within when the merry men are joshing around. It's a cliche, but in places it's positively Pythonesque, even directly quoting from their work, probably on purpose -- "Bloody Normans" Robin and Will agree after they've been turned out of the former's estate. Unlike Alan Rickman in the other film, who is essentially given chunks of screen time, and a pause in the story, in order to let his performance fly off in all directions, here it's much more democratic, with cameoing Edward Fox's Prince John ripping up the screen with a single weary glance and Uma Thurman's Marian probably getting some of the best lines as she puts down her potential husband - watch for the moment when she subtly indicates to him that she isn't quite the prize her was expecting.

    Yes, Uma Thurman is Maid Marian. Still relatively new to the industry, here she is dashing about in medieval gowns with a quasi-French accent, three years before Pulp Fiction, demonstrating all the sassiness that was apparently such a revelation in Tarantino's film. I don't think her co-star Patrick Bergan who plays Robert/Robin/whatever has ever been a celebrity -- his most famous role was probably as Julia Robert's stalker in the annoying Sleeping With The Enemy and yet here he is looking like his career has been made, acting his socks off, channeling Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride and the wild and crazy A Fish Called Wanda version of Kevin Kline.

    That's one of the epicentres of fun in this film -- the casting -- this is the ultimate 'That's him off of' piece. Look over there, in the beard - that's a twenty-six year old David Morrisey nobly essaying the role of Little John, all beard and hair and scouse accent. It's still over a decade before he breaks through in tv's State of Play, yet like some old Hollywood character actor he's stealing scenes all over the shop. Robin's sidekick Will is Owen Teale hot from the shortlived Liverpool cop show Waterfront Beat yet to imagine he'd turn up as a cannibal in Torchwood. See also Danny Webb, recently on Doctor Who in The Satan Pit as Mr. Jefferson, and Alex Norton currently Matt Burke in Taggart. And they're all treating this as the best job they've ever had.

    The version shown on television this afternoon wasn't brilliant. Panned and scanned and broadcast squashed for the first five minutes because someone at ITV hadn't pressed the right button, it looked like it had been chopped about a bit. As I said, where King Richard had gone wasn't elaborated upon and the sudden relationship change between Robin and his noble Norman friend is somewhat abrupt at the beginning. There are moments too when scenes look like they should be bridged by omitted montage sequences and the origin of Robin's apparent greatness in the eyes of the poor isn't entirely clear -- I'm not sure if he's even really a 'legend' in this version. The Internet Movie Database says that the film went straight to tv in the US because of Prince of Thieves in a hundred and fifty minute version (presumably that includes ad breaks) and that the version I saw must have been one that had thirty-four minutes hacked out of it. I'm not surprised - the pacing is relentless.

    But whatever version you can get hold of -- it's only on Region One dvd in very widescreen -- please do and support the underdog. It might not have had the budget, or the cast or a hit theme song, but it has a passion that's rare and an uplifting sense of madness that is infectious. Even when it doesn't quite pull it off (which is quite often) it's twice as entertaining as most recent adventure films and without the pretensions to boot. I think I'll go and dig out that soundtrack album.


    Hello campers.

    Links for 2007-01-13 []

  • TV Scoop: Freeview leads the race to digital
    "An eye-opening report from JupiterResearch reveals that only 5.3 million UK homes (out of a total of around 30 million) don't have some form of digital television" That's amazing and certainly more than was originally thought.
  • Restoration of "My Fair Lady"
    "The restoration itself took eight months of intensive research, digital manipulation, sound re-recording and splicing negatives."
  • Film Sound Design
    Explosive resource of essays and interviews.
  • Guardian Unlimited Arts: Q: What can be done to improve the suburbs of Paris? A: People are starting to understand that the real challenge is to turn peripheries into cities
    Interview with the brilliantly named architect Renzo Piano. "A piazza is not a plaza [...] "The plaza is the theme park of the piazza; the plaza is the commercial version. A piazza is an empty space with no function. This is what Europeans understand."
  • Wikipedia: Piazza
    "In Britain piazza now generally refers to a paved open pedestrian space, without grass or planting, often in front of a significant building or shops." See the area in front of The Adelphi in Liverpool. That'll be why there aren't and tables, then.
  • Wikipedia: Plaza
    "Plaza is a Spanish word related to "field" which describes an open urban public space, such as a city square." About the closest Liverpool has to this would be Williamson Square, I suppose.
  • eConsultant: I want a Firefox Extension to ... 200+ common problems solved
    Your Firefox problems solved.
  • The Independent: Matthew Sweet reviews 'Inside The Tardis' by James Chapman
    And acknowledges that there is now far more Doctor Who material around for anyone to be able to read, listen to and watch.
  • Ingmar Bergman Face to face
    Engrossing site which will be my first port of call after every screening from now onwards.
  • Ain't It Cool News: "Halloween" remake script review
    "Laurie Strode isn't introduced until page 69 and the final moments of Myers stalking Haddonfield don't really happen until the last 20/25 pages. And yes, it does feel rushed." I mean why are they even remaking it in the first place?