Sunday, 30 March 2008

Retro Revival – the re-birth of cult favourites

Our memories of film and television we enjoyed in years gone by are either crystal clear or decidedly muddled; sometimes both at once. As we get older, the latter eventuality becomes more common. However, the increase of websites which help celebrate all things retro have helped us to remember. Video and now DVD were what first aided our recollections of those old movies and TV programmes. The former type of home entertainment is all but obsolete, but its replacement has provided the ideal home for cinematic and televisual treats from the past. The format closely represents the set-up of a well-designed website. Just one touch of the ‘enter’ button on the DVD player’s remote control and you can access any particular scene, view the bonus material on offer, if there are any, and choose whether you want to hear the commentary track or not.
The other way that classic TV and cinema is being celebrated is by the re-vamping of old favourites. In the twenty-first century, three prime examples of this have emerged: ‘Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Flash Gordon’, and ‘The Bionic Woman’. The re-invention of these old shows challenge critics’ pre-conceptions of the validity of re-launching them, by telling these tales in a brand new way. At the head of the shows is ‘Doctor Who’, which came back to our TV screens in 2005. The familiar elements are still there, but Russell T. Davies, the man responsible for its return, has added new plot threads to it; the most important being that the planet of Gallifrey is no more. The changes have indeed made a huge difference to the show, as it is always high enough in the ratings for its future to be secure. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t appear to be true for ‘The Bionic Woman’. In spite of the best efforts of Michelle Ryan and her co-stars, as well as the creative team behind it, it doesn’t look like a second series will happen.
This, I have to say, is something of a shame. I’ve seen the opening episode, and the style and tone of it shows a good deal of promise, enough to warrant some dismay from myself that a second series hasn’t been approved. Then again, that’s the nature of US television.
Back here in the UK, ‘Doctor Who’ has not been the only example of the revival of home-grown science fiction. ‘The Quatermass Experiment’ was re-done, but as a live broadcast, just like the original, as was ‘A For Andromeda’, although that was pre-recorded effort. Neither of them, however, were as successful as the new set of adventures for the Time Lord.
The only loser in this resurgence of audience interest in sci-fi and fantasy is the adaptation of science fiction novels. The last endeavour to bring a tale in this literary genre to the small screen was ‘The Tripods’, based on the trilogy by John Christopher. Regrettably, only two-thirds of the entire series of novels was made. A decade before, Peter Dickinson’s three books, collectively called ‘The Changes’, were brought to TV, but the trilogy was condensed, and the third novel was largely absent from the adaptation as a whole. In spite of this, ‘The Changes’ is some-thing that I would really love to see re-made, but as a trilogy in the proper sense of the word, either on TV or as three movies. I feel there is an untapped well of material in these old programmes. In this area of drama, the past does fashion the future.

Greenlighted – Movies & TV Shows In Production


Frankie Machine – Robert De Niro
Mary, Queen Of Scots – Scarlett Johansson
Ye Olde Times – Lindsay Lohan, Cary Elwes
Bob Funk – Rachael Leigh Cook, Lucy Davis, Stephen Root
Spring Breakdown – Amber Tamblyn, Will Arnett, Mae Whitman

TV Shows

My Spy Family – Alice O’Connor, Milo Towney
Skellig – No cast listings at present
Tess Of The D’Urbivilles – Gemma Arterton, Ruth Jones, Hans Matheson

The Gossip Pot

The lights went down early in a play that Ralph Fiennes was starring in. Emergency lighting was fortunately employed so that the performance could carry on….Fourty-four years after
The Rolling Stones were banned from Blackpool, Mick and the boys have been allowed to return to the seaside resort, but it’s not yet clear whether they will or not…After twenty-one years, a British female singer has topped the US chart. Leona Lewis, ‘X-Factor’ winner, has scored her first American number one. The last woman to do that was Kim Wilde with a cover version of
The Supremes hit, ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’……..

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Anthony Minghella - A Retrospective (1954 - 2008)

Before Minghella could start work on his newest film project as writer and director, 'The Ninth Life Of Louis Drake', he died, whilst undergoing surgery. In spite of it being documented that he first made a name for himself with 'Truly Madly Deeply', Minghella's career actually hit its stride with 'The English Patient', a film that the quality within it can be felt by any cinemagoer, whether they have or haven't seen it.
Collecting nine Oscars at the 1997 Academy Awards, the cinematic tale of a disfigured man who falls in love placed Minghella firmly on the international movie scene. In spite of his acknowledgement as a top-quality director and screenwriter, he only made three other feature films between 1999 and 2006; 'The Talented Mr Ripley', 'Cold Mountain' and 'Breaking & Entering'. Well on its way to becoming a classic of modern cinema, 'The English Patient' seems to be the high-point of his overall career, which began when he was the script editor of 'Grange Hill'. Acclaimed as he was, he never really fitted the mould of the current crop of Hollywood directors. Some may that's a good thing, others might see it differently. As for me, I viewed him as being a film-maker that made the best use of the Hollywood system, embracing the quality-driven aspects of Tinseltown. His adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel was a Hollywood production, but he steered it away from being part of the 'conveyor-belt' mentality that some movie producers find hard to let go of. His directorial style seemed to get the best performances of the actors in his movies, regardless of whether they were A-List stars or not. He didn't seem to be a director that let celebrity status determine who was right for a particular role, and who wasn't.
Now he has passed away, we can only speculate on whether he had it in him to make another modern movie classic. Had he lived, I feel sure tha his talent would have enabled him to write and direct something that could be every bit as good as his 1996 romantic epic.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The retrospective on Minghella's career will be coming on Tuesday, after the Easter weekend.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Breaking News......

I am saddened to announce that Anthony Minghela, the director of 'The English Patient' & 'The Talented Mr Ripley' has died at the age of 54. He had recently completed work on a BBC adaptation of 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency'. A more detailed retrospective will be posted here on Sunday.

The article on the return of cult TV and film favourites will be posted here on Sunday 30th March 2008.

Saltzberg Summer - Will Miss Strallen keep the hills alive?

I don't need to tell you about 'The Sound Of Music'. It is one of those things that gets an immediate reaction from the majority of people around the world; nor do I need to tell you that TV was used to find a new Maria. What I do need to say is that Lord Lloyd Webber has used this form of entertainment again to seek a replacement for Connie Fisher, now that her run as Maria Von Trapp has come to an end, who was the original winner of the BBC's 'How Do You Solve A Problem?'. The difference here is that his quest was woven into the format of 'Hollyoaks' as a storyline, involving the character Summer Shaw.

The young lady in question, Summer Strallen does hail from a showbusiness pedigree. Her aunt, as you can probably tell from parts of Miss Strallen's facial structure, is none other than Bonnie Langford. Her older sister, Scarlett, is also a theatrical performer.

This way of seeking people for specific roles in celebrated musicals allows television audiences to participate in the selection process, similar to 'Pop Idol' and 'The X-Factor'. The definite upside of this method is that the losers receive visual exposure that they need to find work in other stage productions, be they musicals or straight forward plays. Connie Fisher was a genuine uknown and had genuine talent, which silenced crtitics who believed that the selection process wasn't a fair one, and led me to believe that she was right person to come out on top, even though I was still convinced the only other contender remaining, at that point, was the right choice for the role. I've yet to hear Summer Strallen sing, so I will defer any sort of opinion until I get the chance to hear her open her mouth to sing the most famous opening line of a song in the history of Broadway and the West End.

Greenlighted - Movies & TV Shows In Production

Baby On Board - Heather Graham, Jerry O'Connell, Lara Flynn Boyle
Blue Valentine - Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling
The Tender Hook - Rose Byrne, Tyler Coppin, Hugo Weaving
Toy Story 3 - Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
Personal Effects - Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates
Morgan's Summit - Bruce Willis, Julianne Moore
Brothers - Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mullligan
The Post Grad Survival Guide - Alexis Bledel, Michael Keaton, Kirk Fox

No drama or comedy production listings this week

The Gossip Pot

New Bond girl Gemma Arterton has signed up for the new BBC adaptation of Thomas Hardy's tragic romance 'Tess Of The D'Urbivilles', alongside fellow 'St Trinians' co-star, Jodie Whittaker...The last cinematic instalment of the Harry Potter series is to be divided betwen two movies, so as to accommodate the entire story within the book...The Scissor Sisters are planning to write a musical based on the bestselling novel 'Tales Of The City', which is set in San Francisco.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Sorry about the delay, folks. The next entry will be coming tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Well Read Winners - The 2008 Empire Awards

I can think of no other film magazine in this country that has an awards ceremony named after it. There are, in fact, only two homegrown movie publications; Empire and Total Film, but the latter isn't responsible for one of the most prestigious awards gatherings in the movie calendar from the British perspective. Both the critics and the readers of Empire interact in the process of deciding which films, actors, actresses, director and other vital members of the production team are worthy of nomination. This means the loyalty of the magazine's readers is rewarded by the chance to be a part of that task. Now in it's thirteenth year, the awards are a reminder that people's participation can be useful in helping to reach a decision about who deserves to walk away with one. Below are this year's list of nominations.

Best Newcomer:

Shia Le Bouf - Transformers

Saoirse Roman - Atonement

Sam Riley - Control

Gemma Arterton - St Trinians

Thomas Turgoose - This Is England

Best Comedy:


Hot Fuzz

Knocked Up


Run Fat Boy Run

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy:




Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix


Best Horror:

Thirty Days Of Night

Twenty-Eight Days Later

Saw IV

Death Proof


Best Thriller:


American Gangster

Eastern Promises

The Bourne Ultimatum


The Sony Erricson Soundtrack Award:





Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix

Best British Film:


Hot Fuzz



This Is England

Best Actress:

Keira Knightley - Atonement

Emma Watson - Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix

Katherine Heigl - Knocked Up

Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart

Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Best Actor:

Matt Damon - The Bourne Ultimatum

Daniel Radcliffe - Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix

James McAvoy - Atonement

Simon Pegg - Hot Fuzz

Gerard Butler - 300

Best Director:

Paul Greengrass - The Bourne Ultimatum

Joe Wright - Atonement

David Yates - Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix

Edgar Wright - Hot Fuzz

David Fincher - Zodiac

Best Film:

The Bourne Ultimatum

Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix


The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford


Grin And Bare It - Sex Sells Starlets

Starting from Marilyn Monroe's Playboy photospread, showing some skin has steadily morphed into a tactic that the majority of photogenic film actresses use for the sake of publicity. Over the past forty years, men's magazines have been only too happy to meet this demand. Global sales of FHM, Maxim and Stuff have risen because they contain some Hollywood starlet baring as much as she dare. It's a win, win situation. They get the exposure (no pun intended) and they encourage males to agree to see a chick flick that she might be in, and their girlfriends are also happy, because they don't need to push their partners to go with them. The latest of these female celebs to disrobe is troubled teen mega-starlet Lindsay Lohan in a photo shoot for New York Magazine, except she is not really a teenager any more. Many prudes will be keen to point out that this is the most outrageous thing she has ever done, but the headlines have fully documented that she is capable of behaviour that is much more scandalous. The most worrying aspect of this current trend in the media's sudden need to get starlets, some of whom have yet to leave their teenage years behind, to become more sexualised. As much as I detest the evangelical, self-righteous ramblings of top moral crusader in the media circus, John Beyer, I do feel he would have a little bit of justification for saying this way of selling rising actresses could get out of hand, if not supervised properly.

Saying anything goes can be both a good and a bad thing. I think that few media types would want to repeat the mistakes made by Channel Four, when they commissioned 'Minipops', which ticked every box on why stranger danger was ever present at the time.

I freely admit that the spectacle of seeing Scarlett Johansson wearing next to nothing turns me on, but there does need to be some sort of limit. It is the responsibility of every publicist to apply the brakes a little.

What's Wrong With This Colour? - BBC's 'White' Season

For many viewers, the announcement of a new season of programmes regarding one specific topic, set of values, or a social issue, means that in amongst the documentaries and short films, you will expect a drama that will be good enough to challenge the viewer's perceptions on the issue around which the series of programmes encircle.

This time, this lies heavily on the shoulders of 'White Girl', a one-off TV play, to deliver on such a promise. Starring Anna Maxwell Martin of 'Bleak House' fame, and newcomer Holly Kenny, who plays the character that sets up the central premise of the story, the drama addresses the positive and negative aspects of the attitudes towards the Islamic community that are thrown up by the actions of the daughter of Ms Martin's character. As for Miss Kenny's character, Leah, undergoes a transition from white working class sensibilities to those that the members of the Islamic community hold dear. This tale seems to be the central focus of what this series of shows is all about - the alleged disappearance of white working class Britain. Leah is the fictional representation of every child who finds themselves embracing a multi-cultural society. I have yet to see it myself, but all the critical indications suggest it is a promising effort on behalf of writer Abi Morgan. There is always the possibility that it might contain controversial elements, but I think that, now and again, we need our programme makers to put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Greenlighted - Movies & TV Shows In Production


The Vintner's Luck - Vera Farmiga, Keisha Castle-Hughes
Me And Orson Welles - Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Imogen Poots
Need - Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts
The Secret Of Moonacre - Ioan Gruffudd, Dakota Blue Richards
Franklyn - Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley, Bernard Hill


P.A's - no cast details as yet.
May Contain Nuts - Shirley Henderson, Sophie Thompson, Darren Boyd
Poppy Shakespeare - Anna Maxwell Martin, Naomie Harris
Bone Kickers - Julie Grahame, Tamzin Merchant, Hugh Bonneville
Apparitions - Martin Shaw, Mia Fernandez

The Gossip Pot

A dress specifically designed for Kate Winslet has been auctioned off for £20,000 with the proceeds helping to fund Cardboard Citizens, a UK charity for the homeless....Hollywood heart-throb Ryan Phillippe is so concerned about the effect the paparazzi's intrusive behaviour is having on his kids, that he is thinking about leaving Los Angeles....Australian actress and singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem, having failed to make it big in the US, is set to try again, thanks to her recent signing to the Mercury label....Gary Oldman's next role will be as a spiritual expert in David Goyer's untitled crime thriller.....

Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Gossip Pot

The British Eurovision entry has been decided upon. In spite of the whoops and cheers given to Michelle Gayle, former dustman Andy Abraham will represent his country....Hilary Clinton has a joker in her pack. Jack Nicholson is apparently pledging his support for her bid to become the Democratic candidate for the Presidential contest....Country and western star Wynonna Judd is to organise a benefit concert to raise money to help the victims of tornadoes in Tennessee....Angela Griffin, former star of 'Coronation Street' and 'Cutting It' has revealed she is in talks for her to return to 'Waterloo Road' during the fourth season, but it has yet to be established whether Jamie Glover (Andrew Treneman) will be joining her.

Apologies for the order of the first weekly blog, I'll have it rectified come the 9th of March.

Greenlighted - Movies & TV Shows In Production

Quantum Of Solace - Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylesko, Gemma Arterton
The Lovely Bones - Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Rachel Weisz
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince - Daniel Radcliffe, Alan Rickman,
Emma Watson, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith
State Of Play - Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams
Awaydays - Stephen Graham, Holly Grainger, Liam Boyle
Red Mist - Sarah Carter, Andrew Lee Potts, MyAnna Buring
WMD - JoAnne Knowles, Glenn Conroy, Simon Lengan
'K' - Colin Salmon, Phillipa Peak, Zak Davies
Cass - Nathalie Press, Robbie Gee, David Lea
Robin Hood (Third Series) - Jonas Armstrong, Keith Allen
After You've Gone (Third Series) - Nicholas Lyndhurst, Celia Imrie
An Englishman In New York - Cast unknown at present
Hope Springs - Cast unknown at present
Free Agents - Frances Tomelty, Anthony Head
Wallander - Cast unknown at present
Waterloo Road - Neil Morrisey, Lauren Drummond, Jason Done
Doctor Who (Fifth Series) - David Tennant; other cast members
unknown at present

Sense & Over-sensitivity.....

Recent headlines have seen a question mark hung over when one of BBC Three's drama pilots will be shown. The programme in question, 'Dis/Connected' has been temporarily moved to a new air date, which the heads of the digital channel have yet to decide upon. The issue of suicide is something of a minefield, emotionally, but that doesn't mean television drama shouldn't tackle these subjects. The risk of being insensitive is not a good enough reason to re-schedule, or even ban, a drama that deals with an important issue. Most of the TV critics who were allowed to see it have concluded that the subject matter was handled in a responsible way; so why has it been postponed?

Being bold and daring has helped to create some of the greatest television drama in the BBC's seventy-two year history. The need for sensitivity is all well and good, but imagine if 'Cathy Come Home' had not been broadcast because there was an item on the news about a mother who was homeless, and had seen her children taken into care. The result would have been that nobody would've seen it, and a shift in attitudes wouldn't have taken place. Too much sensitivity can be counter-productive, in terms of issue-led dramas, and the BBC should bear that in mind.

The Long Distance Runner Of Hollywood.....

Whether you care or not, ten years have passed since 'Titanic' hit cinemas globally. However, behind that anniversary lies the fact that has been a decade since Melanie Lynskey, the first person to share an on-screen kiss with the star of James Cameron's romantic epic, started her long journey to achieve the same leading lady status as Kate Winslet. Lynskey underwent a two year period going back to the starting line, having made her first splash as the female lead. In a few of the official sites promoting some of the movies she has made since 1998, her career biographies state slightly different versions of the now familiar story to fans of the actress about the lack of acting work post-'Heavenly Creatures', which led to three months of hell in Los Angeles, during which she endured the fruitless labours of trying to get a role in a movie.

To this day, Lynskey has remained cagey about her first visit to America, and will probably continue to do so, as is her right. The information chronicling the years 1994 to 1997 can easily prove to be the basis for a movie biopic in its own right, Trouble is, she is still alive, and given her lifestyle, she will remain that way for many years to come; the bulk of biopics are usually about icons who are dead, or who are not far away from the grave. She fits neither category.

The one she does fit is an actress who runs to win, but the finishing line keeps being moved further and further away. As a metaphor, this might seem pretentious, but I feel it is the right way to describe her career as a whole.

Regarding her comeback, it didn't actually start out as that. Instead, it began with a website designer and aspiring director getting in touch with Lynskey, via internet means. This was at a time when she had got to the point where she knew what was required of her, in order to be more successful in auditions. After two years in the wilderness, she slipped back into the business of acting in front of the camera completely un-noticed, which was helpful, as it didn't heap upon her unfair expectations of what she could achieve. The project, 'Foreign Correspondents' (not to be confused with the Alfred Hitchcock movie) was so low-budget that it did not even register on the outer fringes of Hollywood or the American Independent movie circuit. Financing for the film came through its official website, and for Melanie came the advantage of being in Los Angeles for vital auditions, one of them being for the role of Jacqueline in 'Ever After'. Getting that role was her way of securing a fresh point from where she could start climbing the career ladder again. However, the journey has provided her with other pursuits, besides acting. Spurred on by her close friend, Emily Deschanel (star of 'Bones'), Lynskey has become an active supporter of PETA. She is also a supporter and member of Power Up, an organisation that finances gay & lesbian cinema and television.

The quote that she gave, which seems to affect me is "I don't think I'll ever be a movie star", a verbal acceptance of where she stands in the Hollywood circuit at the present time, but her ten year endeavour to get her big break has allowed major steps forward to present themselves; the most significant of these is her relationship with New York-born actor, Jimmi Simpson whom she married in 2007. It remains to be seen whether she'll get her breakthrough role, but the only comfort her fans can take is that she does enjoy the journey, though she may never becoming a leading lady at the end of it, even if she can sprint that extra mile....

Coppola's New Muse...where now from here?

'Downfall may have been made four years ago, but Alexandra Maria Lara's peformance as Hitler's private secretary still managed to be memorable enough for British and American casting directors sit up and take notice of her. However, the Christmas release of 'Youth Without Youth' seemed to be something of a setback for her. The critics were less than kind to it; some even didn't give it a single star. I haven't seen the film, so I cannot effectively elaborate on whether it is as bad as the movie journalists state that it is: the main question here is where this negativity leaves Alex's career. The answer seems to be that it hasn't really made a great deal of difference to it, at all.

'Control', released a month before Francis Ford Coppola's first film in ten years, has shown itself to be the stronger of the two movie projects she made during 2007. The biopic of the late Joy Division's lead singer, Ian Curtis, was greeted favourably by the critics. Playing the mistress of the late Mr. Curtis created the circumstances that led to her falling for the movie's male lead, Sam Riley. On-set liaisons add that much more interest from the media, but before they could break the story, Alex and Sam were already living together as a couple, as Riley had ventured to Berlin to be with her. Yet, this fact isn't the reason why she has become more well known; her body of work has to be thanked for that.

As for Hollywood, she has allegedly been quoted as saying she can take it or leave it. She has probably been sent a good deal of movie scripts from Tinseltown, and only looked twice at one, possibly two. This could be her path from now on. Like Julie Delpy and Penelope Cruz, she has gotten the international clout not to have to spend too much time having to be at Hollywood's beck and call, but I feel she will do one, maybe two mainstream movies. If that were to happen, I would like to add my voice to calls for Miss Lara to take on the role of Selina Kyle/The Catwoman. Until then, she is happy to test herself as an actress, something that will make anyone opposed to becoming part of the European union think again.

Eighty & Counting......

As far as I am concerned, January and February are the months that get people warmed up for the year ahead. It's the same principle for the showbusiness world, in particular the movie world. The Oscars (or Academy Awards, if you prefer) had two very good reasons to celebrate; being eighty years old and actually going ahead. The same couldn't be said for the Golden Globes - a sobering press conference replaced the usual razzamataz.
To be honest, I thought there'd be more excitement generated by the whole event, but the mood of the attendees was probably still encapsulated in the previous month's writer's strike. Their solidarity to their cause probably contributed to the atmosphere being less hyped than in previous years. There were British wins, but there was still an American slant to them. Daniel Day Lewis won for 'There Will Be Blood' and Tilda Swinton took one home for her performance in 'Michael Clayton'. Any win for UK talent is welcome, as far as I'm concerned, so I'm not put out that a British film with a distinctively British feel to it only won an Academy Award for Best Score.
Mr. Lewis wasn't the only Irish-born winner; there were two more of; the other winner did not hail from Ireland, but from Europe. The reason for this win was the song 'Falling Slowly'. The composers - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - proved to be the archetypal outsiders triumphing over the songwriting efforts of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. An independent Irish movie about struggling musicians was not what most people expected to win in the category of Best Movie Song. When it did, there was a genuine sense of astonishment. The 81st Academy Awards may be a whole year away, but let's hope they posssess a win that is just as surprising as this one was.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Welcome to That's Entertainment.....

This is a different celebrity blog to the majority of them. Besides reporting celebrity news, I will be spotlighting the performers in the areas of movies, TV, music and theatre who are talented, but who aren't as well known as stars like Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise or Lindsay Lohan. It is time to strike a blow for the underrated and unknown.