Sunday, 25 May 2008

Growing On The Tree: 2008's Hot New Showbiz Talents

This is to be the first yearly edition of my pick of the best of the new talents emerging in the world of showbusiness. I can only hope that my forecasts for their futures turn out to be correct.

Actors & Actresses

Ben Whishaw - Although I have yet to see this young man in action on screen, the buzz is that he will be a major leading man quite soon. Helping him to this status is the 2008 film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's most famous novel "Brideshead Revisited". The other prominent role in his career so far was as the killer with an amazing sense of smell in the British-German co-production "Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer. However, his latest role will be a completely British one, as he is playing Sebastian, who has a torturous relationship with Charles Ryder, one that lies somewhere inbetween friendship and love, at a time when homosexuality was the type of thing that you had to keep buried and never speak of. If the critics are kind to this adaptation of the book, Whishaw could certainly look forward to more career-building parts in the not too distant future.

JJ Feild - You wouldn't have thought that someone born in Colorado, USA could receive critical plaudits for parts such as Frederick Garland in the TV adaptations of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart book series or even as the unassuming romantic hero in the ITV adaptation of Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey", Henry Tilney. Yet, he slipped into both roles with ease. The line of his acting career can be traced back to the end of the Nineties, when he was just a jobbing actor, testing the thespian waters by appearing in an episode of the ultra-cosy Sunday evening drama "Heartbeat". Real exposure came with his portrayal of Simon Doyle in 'Death On The Nile', alongside another up-and-coming star, Emily Blunt. With three movies currently in the works in 2008, it is fair to assume that major stardom can only be a film role away.

Shia LaBouf - If you can put aside that he was in the exceptionally lame US teenage comedy "Even Stevens", Shia manages to make entertainment insiders believe that he has a future in films. Having seen "Transformers", I too believe that, in spite of some people seeing the film as little more than a cinematic advertisement from toys that hail from the Eighties. Starring in the fourth Indiana Jones movie is definitely an advantageous career opportunity, whether the film goes down a storm or like a lead balloon. Let's hope that LaBouf gets more opportunities of that sort.

Holly Grainger - Her body of work, extensive though it is, has mainly been in TV, but the movie version of Kevin Holden's novel about teenage life and football hooliganism looks set to move Holly into cinema, an area of visual entertainment she had previously not entered. One of a long list of former child performers, the Lancashire-born daughter of celebrated character actor Gawn Grainger, has successfully navigated her way through adolescence with a string of roles that show her the good and bad aspects of growing up into a young woman. It is yet to be established whether the first film she has been cast in will be her only film. Still, the optimist within me would love to see Miss Grainger make more movies in the future.

Linzey Cocker - Like Holly, Linzey hails from Lancashire, but the difference is that Miss Cocker has two films in the pipeline, not one. The one that has the highest profile of the two is 'Wild Child', which will see her screen time with Julia Roberts niece, Emma, one of the current crop of new A-List teen movie stars in Hollywood. Television viewers are bound to know her, though, as Jade, the jealous twin sister of Ashley, the geeky girl who became a fashion princess. The leap into film came as something of a surprise. As brilliant as her performance was, I did feel that she was going to do some more TV parts, before auditioning for movie roles, something that very few British actresses of her age group succeed at. Nor did I think for a second she'd be one of the female leads in an American teen comedy, but the corners you do walk round can still hold surprises for you.

Ellen Page - After starting her career as a little-known Canadian actress and passing through walls in the first couple of 'X-Men' movies, Ellen flexed her film acting muscles, when she turned the tables on a pervert in 'Hard Candy', in a way that will make any man wince. This grisly tale led to her securing the lead in 'Juno', a film about teenage pregnancy, which in turn led her to receive an Academy Award nomination the Best Actress category, a welcome, or unwelcome, development for any actress, depending on how much ground they have already gained. Not all lesser known female actors can get something from such an acolade. Fortunately, she has been lucky enough to have three new movie projects come her way, and I feel doubly sure that there will be plenty more where they came from.

Talulah Riley - Thank god for Nylon Magazine! For a while, it was looking like Talulah wasn't going to get mentioned in these articles that spotlight new and talented British actresses. It is strange, therefore, that an American magazine, rather than a UK one, had done just that. The adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel "Five Little Pigs" had provided her with her first professional acting role. Appearing as a teenage Angela Warren in various flashback scenes gave Talulah her first taste of work as an up-and-coming actress. Although things were quiet for her for a few months afterwards, she soon got a steady stream of work, beginning with "Pride & Prejudice" in 2005, and culminating with the deliciously dark-humoured revamping of the "St Trinians" movie franchise. 2008 looks set to be the year that Miss Riley is lifted out of the supporting character category and into the potential leading lady one.


Amy MacDonald - She may have been launched as a hot new singer-songwriter in the music scene last year, but, as far as I'm concerned, the Scottish songstress is not quite at the stage where she is definitely a household name. The singles "This Is The Life" and "Poison Prince" are prime examples of just how capable a composer she is, but still there isn't a great deal to suggesr she is as big a star as I'd like her to be. This was signified by the fact I was able to buy a copy of her debut CD with the minimum of expense. Such talent shouldn't be cheapened in this way, and I am crossing my fingers that I'll be able to buy her follow up album for about sixteeen quid.

Paloma Faith - Coming back to "St Trinians" briefly, a Google search for the actress who played Andrea, the head of the Emo clique, revealed that she is also a singer-songwriter, and a darn good one at that. So much so, that I posted a thread on her IMDB message board, saying that I was keen to see a record label sign her up, and I was pleased to discover I wasn't alone in my belief that the big music moguls should take note of her talent, which is marvellously divided between composing tunes and acting. Versatility is always a good attribute to possess, and Miss Faith has plenty of that.

Put Away Your Flags: Is Eurovision doomed?

Since the mid-Fifties, television viewers have scoffed with good humour at the Eurovision Song Contest, the musical competition that was meant to celebrate musical talent(or the lack of it) within the confines of all the European countries and continents. Now, here we are in the twenty-first century, and you'd think that such a formula would still be adhered to, but the whole event has veered completely off course. Last night's result proved that. Fair voting went out the window. The biggest casualty of this was the UK entry. Andy Abrahams' song came joint last, and it now throws up the possibility as to whether there is going to be a British entry next year.

Even Terry Wogan, the long-time voice over host of Eurovision, seems to be wondering whether any future participation is a waste of time. He also dropped significant hints about him not wanting continue with his commentary duties in twelve months time. Perhaps the sheer politicising of Eurovision as a whole makes him feel that the contest has just become a waste of time, in this day and age, as it seems countries like Holland, Norway, Poland, France, Sweden, Ireland and Britain are deliberately being kept in the cold, so far as the Eastern European nations go. All these questions seem to be leading to the one big question; will the contest be scrapped altogether. Speaking for myself, I do hope it is gotten rid of. For the past ten years, it has gone downhill at a very sharp rate, and, given the selective nature of who gets the votes, I feel that I have to now give the entire contest NULL PWAH.....

Greenlighted - Films & TV Shows In Production

Cat Tale - Elisha Cuthbert, Jerry O'Connell, Sean Astin
Four Christmases - Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Carol Kane
Nine - Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Daniel Day Lewis
Shutter Island - Leonardo Di Caprio, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley

TV Shows:
Beautiful People - no cast announced
Blake's Seven(new version) - no cast announced
Hotel Babylon: Series Four - Dexter Fletcher, Alexandra Moen, Emma Pierson
Unforgiven - no cast announced

The Gossip Pot....

.....will return next week!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Hot For Summer: Four Blockbuster Movies To Watch For

The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian - 26th June

Three years after the Pevensie brood tumbled their way out of Narnia, they return in 'Prince Caspian', the second of the movie instalment of C.S. Lewis's series of fantasy novels. This time, they are helping the character that makes up the title of the film to reclaim the throne from his evil uncle, King Miraz. Although early reports show it having the same elements as before, both in terms of story and character, one change has been made; that of romantic feelings brewing between Caspian and Susan.
Adamson has obviously cottoned onto the fact that Miss Popplewell is growing into a young womam, and needs something to make what could well be the last time she appears in these series of movies that bit more special. If this is the case, it is a pity, as she is one of the stronger of the cast members; the strongest being Georgie Henley, even though she is still thirteen. I do hope, though, that if 'The Last Battle' is made, Anna's character will return to Narnia to marry Prince Caspian. It would be a wonderfully emotional moment, plus he will be the King of Narnia by then....
Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull - 22nd May

There is no way that I can talk about summer movies without mentioning that after nearly twenty years, Indy is well and truly back. Harrison Ford, in spite of his age, is returning to wear his trusty brown leather jacket and to crack his whip.
Ford's return was an inevitable consequence of there being a new Indiana Jones movie. The character's creator, George Lucas, can't really inject humour into his scripts - dark, dry, wacky or otherwise - so Harrison kind of has to do that for him. The first 'Star Wars' trilogy, as many critics have probably pointed out, sustained longevity because of the delicious sense of humour Ford brought to them, as he did with the three Indy movies prior to this one. This explains why he is back in the role that ensured he would get leading roles from that moment on. Also returning is Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), my favourite of all the Indy chicks.
I have an un-written rule, namely that I only favour blockbusters that have an excpetional element to them that makes them satisfy the critics. Aside from the heroes are the villains, and the chief one chronicles an odd bit of casting, Cate Blanchett. However, I feel she is versatile enough not to disappoint Indy fans around the world, the eyes of which will be watching her.
The Incredible Hulk - 13th June

Let me start by saying that I quite liked the previous movie about Dr. Banner and his giant, green-skinned, immensely strong alter-ego, probably one of the minority who did, though I did feel a small sense of bewilderment about Ang Lee helming that project. He is a director that you wouldn't equate with the superhero movie genre. Still, he did the best that job he could, and it was a shame that the majority of cinemagoers didn't see it that way.
The title of the second movie is bound to draw comparisons with the Seventies TV show . That immortal line, "Mr Magee, don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry" will doubtlessly engraved on the minds of those old enough to remember the programme, who are going to see this film. That phrase has elevated itself to become one of the most famous of the past thirty years, but at the same time, it represents a universal truth, as does the character of the Hulk; that there is a giant monster within us all, that only comes out, whenever anger turns into fury. The principle character, Bruce Banner, like Bill Bixby did, or at least tried to, in the TV show, to rid himself of the creature within him, and goes off on a journey to do just that. He could just try anger management, but who'd go to a multiplex, just to see him do that.
Mamma Mia - 11th July

Musicals that simply use songs by a particular artist or group don't turn me on. However, Abba are one of the two exceptions. The reason for this is that the group's songs lend themselves very well to musical theatre. Indeed, Bjorn and Benny teamed up with lyricist Tim Rice, to write 'Chess', which led to the Swedish songwriting team composing a tenth UK chart-topper, 'I Know Him So Well'.
Again, I am faced with a surprising casting choice for a movie musical, Meryl Streep. I think, unless I'm very much mistaken, this is the first time she has done a film of this sort. The plot itself is a solid enough one, but I suspect that people will see it for the Abba songs. And why not!
The group's music is fabulous, plus the show is the most popular of these 'jukebox musicals'. I do hope that it doesn't lead to any others being made; I don't want to see a movie version of 'We Will Rock You', as much as I love Queen. The only other exception to my rule is a musical containing the songs of The Beach Boys - that I'd definitely go and see.