A Fantastic Fear Of Everything is the directorial debut of former Kula Shaker frontman Crispian Mills and is based on Bruce Robinson's novella Paranoia In The Laundrette, one of the most funniest books I have ever read. It's also safe to say I am a HUGE fan of Robinson. If you didn't already know it. Which makes the failure of this film so heartbreaking. Don't get me wrong, I think this film is a very clever, amusing and wonderfully visual feature that is rather unique (albeit with bits of Bunny and The Bull and After Hours in there) but it takes the slim and perfect substance of the novella and stretches it out in a rather poor fashion that makes it quite dull. The germ of the novella is still there, indeed the dialogue itself is still there, and these are the film's funniest scenes. But in tacking on an actual 'threat' to the writer's paranoia in the film's last act, along with exploring his psychosis (the novella is simply just about one man's complete inability to function socially with everyday mundane tasks - there were no deeper meanings!) the film loses the original context and crux of the humour and becomes a little boring and generic. I'm a fan of Pegg and I think he equips himself very well here - especially in one of the film's original creations, his love for gangster rap, a typical Pegg-ism because it's always funny to see a pasty white Englishman insuluted fully in his dufflecoat pretend he's straight outta Compton - but Robinson's voice is a very distinctive one and not every actor can master the perfect cadences his dialogue demands. Richard E Grant in Withnail is the ultimate example of getting it right, Pegg's voice, his grasp of the tonality and atmosphere isn't always as assured. There's something lacking, making it just another Pegg character in just another misfiring albeit interesting British comedy film. Oh but it was good to see Robinson's old flatmate and friend Michael Feast as a sinister waiter. My advice though, read the book!
I spent the majority of this movie being deeply envious of the gun wedged down the back of Michelle Ryan's jeans. This was something that initially I'd discarded as a terrible B movie cash in. The kind of pseudo Shaun Of The Dead cash in that has swamped British cinema in the same way that sub Guy Ritchie guff flooded the market after Lock Stock. Worse, if you believe the tagline, this film seemed to want to combine the two! But then I read reviews that said this was a little more than what it sounded like on paper. I watched the trailer and was convinced by at least one singular laugh out loud moment care of Richard Briers. So it appeared on my Xmas list. To be honest this really should have been 'Zimmers Vs Zombies' because the majority of the fun in this low budget feature actually stems from the veteran actors such as Richard Briers - with the aforementioned hilarious scene (and a couple more too), Alan Ford, Honor Blackman, Tony Selby, Dudley Sutton and Georgina Hale as opposed to the younger wannabe Lock Stock part of the plot. It's certainly far funnier when it focuses on the OAPs.
That is not to say that Michelle Ryan, Harry Treadaway and Rasmus Hardiker etc don't contribute to the film or convince, they do on the whole, but their story is less laugh out loud funny or gripping as the old fogies at the care home, making me wonder if discarding them altogether wouldn't have made for a more entertaining movie. Of the youngsters Rasmus Hardiker, a comic actor I've long admired especially for Steve Coogan's Saxondale, plays his role with a lot of depth and heart whilst former EastEnders and Bionic Woman star Michelle Ryan looks gorgeous but is a little wasted with her one note sweary cockney kick ass female character. Such a shame they didn't give her role more depth beyond a wank fantasy.
Cockney Vs Zombies is a rather amusing 85 minutes to spend with a few beers. Nothing more, nothing less. It does however boost the mythological cockney way of life thereby giving those maudlin teary eyed Blitz spirit loving rhyming slang nutters a boost of confidence beyond EastEnders and that should never EVER be allowed ;)
Firstly, I should admit that I'm not too enamoured with Thomas Hardy. This is down to two things; one, the seemingly endless description of a hill in one of his novels bored my younger self to tears and two, I had an ex who was mad about him, so anything Hardy related inevitably brings back memories. However, it's films like this (Polanski's Tess being another) that give me some slight pause to reconsider my stance.
Though performing pretty well at the UK box office, Far From The MaddingCrowd was somewhat slated on release with criticisms along the lines of how unconvincing the Carnaby Street leads were in rural Hardy country. Indeed, the US poster bill above goes all out to ensure the potential audience are aware that the film stars Swinging London's finest by citing Georgy Girl (Alan Bates) and Doctor Zhivago (Julie Christie) in the tagline. Any validity in such petty arguments have however fallen away over the years and we can now appreciate a crop of actors performing classic material at their peak.
I have still have one problem with Hardy it's that Bathsheba, played by Christie, is a somewhat irritating 'heroine' concerned only with her own desires and utterly oblivious, immune or even heartless to what she does (such as play with the emotions of the aloof Boldwood played with a repressed majesty by Peter Finch) and the selfless actions of Oak (played by the great Alan Bates) when trying to aid her. There's a line of dialogue from Troy (Terence Stamp) that states she is a woman of such beauty that she doesn't know what effect she has on others, and that goes in some way as to explaining this particularly disagreeable trait. Thankfully, in casting Julie Christie, John Schlesinger manages in some way to get the audience on her side regardless. It's a shame he was alleged to have little time or patience with his star Terence Stamp who, if we are to believe Stamp's account, he left to flounder and told him not to perform in the Somerset accent he had trained. It's a shame as it may have helped stave off those Carnaby Street criticisms that were to follow if he'd let Stamp have his way. However, Stamp performs brilliantly as the roguish Troy, never more so than in the subtext heavy scene in which he demonstrates his...ah..swordmanship (no, really) to Christie; a scene beautifully shot by Nic Roeg.
Several scenes have long lingered in my memory (including the one above) but especially the tragedy of Bates' wayward dog allowing the sheep to come loose from the pen, herding them off the cliff to their deaths, followed by the inevitable punishment for the dog. Horrible, hard and poignant. Far From The Madding Crowd is the kind of film you want to watch at Christmas; an adaptation of a classic novel, slightly overlong for the grey and cold afternoon, beautiful locations, beautiful cast and beautifully shot. It also has a brilliant score from Sir Richard Rodney Bennett who, as previously reported, we sadly lost this Christmas. RIP. Incidentally for those who didn't know, the 2010 comedy drama TamaraDrewe starring the gorgeous Gemma Arterton is based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds that was itself seen as a satire on Far From The Madding Crowd
We've heard for many a year now that old Hitch was a bit of a creepy twat. Now we see it (somewhat frustratingly 2 months behind the US) care of BBC2 on Boxing Day night. The Girl; A somewhat grimy jewel in the crown of their Christmas schedule. The Girl is an accomplished film that depicts the poignancy and disturbing aspects of unrequited love between the director and his flavour of the month star, Tippi Hedren, who was to be his leading lady in two films; The Birds and Marnie Perfectly played by all involved but none more so than Toby Jones who simply IS Hitchcock, and in a way that Anthony Hopkins in the Hollywood biopic never can be. Jones is a superb major league character actor rather than Hopkins 'star', and as such he inhabits his roles to the nth degree. He's brilliantly creepy and unsettling, almost as good if not better at such twisted roles as his father, Freddie. However that's not to say he doesn't elicit some sympathy from us in several scenes as the film takes the opportunity to depict Hitchcock as a rather pathetic figure. It could have been explored a little more; Hitch was like all individuals, and especially those talented in their field, complex, but the film doesn't dwell too long on the aspects of his character that made people love him. After all many people he worked with did profess to loving him, and whilst people say that in the script here, there's precious little evidence as to why - the film preferring to focus, a little one sidedly, on his demons and sadistic side. I also think this is the best I've seen Sienna Miller. She's perfect as Tippi and the film is far better than her previously applauded role as Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl; great performance in a rather hackneyed feature.
I'd recommend The Girl not just as a film about the movies but as a film about dark, twisted and feverish obsession. However I would advise that those who revere Hitch and prefer to imagine him as whiter than white may find it hard to stomach.
Just a picspam in honour of Charlotte Rampling in her heyday to remind one and all that she'll be appearing in Restless on BBC1 at 9pm tonight and tomorrow, a rather excellent looking adaptation of the William Boyd WWII/1970s set spy thriller. It co-stars Hayley Atwell as the younger version of Rampling, Downton's Michelle Dockery as Rampling's daughter and Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon.