Archived entries for Cinema

To Rome With Love

Earlier this year Robert Weide’s enjoyable documentary on Woody Allen showed a filmmaker who stores ideas on post-it notes he later develops; To Rome with Love, Allen’s latest piece, looks to be a combination of four separate post-it notes of varying strength intercut against a majestic backdrop of Rome.

Starting with a beautiful tracking shot of the Italian capital, the exterior shots of Rome are the only constant to four vignettes, that are more like extended comedy sketches. The cast is naturally strong and includes Allen himself, first appearing on screen , expressing himself like a hypochondriac John McEnroe to his wife, played by Judy Davis. Continue reading…

The Newsroom

Amidst the snappy dialogue, quick one-liners, sometimes silly set-pieces, human interest plot lines, a theme of  internal conspiracy and the occasional awful incidental music, The Newsroom is a welcome programme of substance.

It tackles issues head on, with real news stories, actual footage and, in a refreshing alternative from attempts to satire politics, hard facts and polemic. The early concerns it could be preachy are put to the side when events take over, with stories from the BP oil spill to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords becoming the real drama.

By the time The Newsroom gets in its stride, the seventh episode, 5/1, has echoes of the greatness of The West Wing, with a superb combination of characters stranded on a grounded plane while the emotion of the breaking news story, the successful mission to find Bin Laden, takes over everywhere.

As the ten episodes progress there is less of the annoying incidental music that assumes its audience as stupid, just as the show the programme is centred on, News Night, matures to treat its views with more respect. And it is the discourse within The Newsroom, from why one courtroom trial is prime time TV ahead of not only a major global economic crisis, but cases that could be exactly the same if not for the way the media, with an agenda, want to present the case, that lets the viewer listen in on intelligent and weighty conversations. Continue reading…

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Again

Marta-Emilia Bona was at the Batman Premiere this week. She reviews the film for The Substantive.

As a member of the general public who normally attends screenings of Hollywood blockbusters in a small cinema in Cardiff, it’s difficult not to feel somewhat intimidated when met with thousands of screaming fans and a red carpet as you enter Leicester Square. However, it’s impossible to deny the effect of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises (complete with twenty foot Batman mask and flaming bat crest – of course). Not being a huge Batman fan myself – I’m actually somewhat averse to the majority of superhero films – I must admit that even I was overwhelmed by the sense that I was about to experience the end of something big: the dramatic climax to an exquisitely executed trilogy. Continue reading…

Alfred Hitchcock

Let us look

Hitchcock. The word sends chills down the spine of movie lovers around the world. What a name and what a man but where does the man stop and the movies begin? Hitchcock was his movies and so was his desire to entertain through pure cinema. So let us delve into his life the only we can, through the pictures he made. Let us look, as he allowed us to in Psycho when he put us in the place of Anthony Perkins looking at Janet Leigh during her final shower – she was getting cleaner right before an audience getting dirtier and a director who was only to pleased to accommodate in revealing those secret desires. Let us look deep into someone, not like the crowd in the tennis scene in Strangers On A Train who are looking left to right at the volleys and lobs but like Robert Walker’s Bruno who we see staring at Farley Granger’s Guy Haines, a chasm of a stare, a look that says I know what you’re capable of and I’m going to make you think terrible things. Let us look, like James Stewart in Vertigo onto Kim Novak and watch as she changes into someone else and back again; a burning look, the look of Alfred Hitchcock. Continue reading…

Ally Clow’s June 2012 Film Round-up

Ally Clow looks at Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, the French film Polisse, the start-studded Snow White & The Huntsman and a treasure from Orson Wells.

Every two years, the cinema industry (and a few others) reel in anticipated horror at 22 men kicking a ball around a patch of grass. At this point, the box office crumbles like England when faced with penalty-kicks and apart from the opening weekend of June, when Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic Prometheus boosted the UK numbers by 25% year on year, the remainder of the month was an average of 25% down on 2011 due to a dearth of major new releases in the face of the football. Continue reading…

Woody Allen: A Documentary

Robert B. Weide’s documentary on Woody Allen, originally made for US Television and edited down by the Director himself for cinematic release from three-and-a-half hours to 113 minutes that flew by, has finally reached the UK. In a full-house at the BFI’s Number 1 Screen for a Preview of the film last Thursday there was naturally a lot of love for the subject in the large darkened room, with the joy of every frame even sometimes spilling out into a few laughs in the wrong places.

With the opening titles and score in the style of an Allen film, the tone is set immediately, in a documentary that is a pleasure to watch throughout, as it chronologically tells the story of a prolific independent filmmaker, who has a habit of achieving everything he wants to in life. Intercut with scenes from Allen’s own films that perfectly illuminate elements of the story as well as at times causing prolonged bouts of laughter in the audience, it also includes golden archive footage that ranges from an appearance on a chat show hosted by Derek Nimmo to Allen trading punches with a Kangaroo in a boxing ring on an American variety show. Continue reading…

Ally Clow’s May 2012 Film Round-up

May began in a funk of April’s promise of rain and cold – perfect cinema weather in my book.  The success that Avengers Assemble enjoyed was down to great direction and script but it also had luck on its side being released bang in the middle of this dank climate too.  As I write, the heatwave most of Britain is going through has all but killed the UK Box Office figures for films such as Men In Black 3 and Moonrise Kingdom. Sacha Baron Coen’s The Dictator on the other hand made the most of a mid-May release date, avoiding any of the truly hot weather.  There were a couple of great remastered classics and even a rare 35mm showing of a Russian masterpiece with what seemed like half the UK’s film industry in attendance – a real event.  May kicked off in style however with Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble. Continue reading…


Though often implausible and with holes in the substance of the messages it was sending out, ‘Homeland’ was an expertly executed thriller with hints of classic US Cinema.

On the 11th September 2001 the pictures broadcast around the World understandably had an immediate effect on American art, with Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Rising’ the best example of a great album reflecting the bereavement New York City was recovering from, and both The Sopranos and The West Wing recognising the US’s new outlook on a lurking domestic threat that had taken on a new menace. Over ten years later it is the knock on effect of 9/11 that has now become a factor in contemporary drama, with Season Two of The Walking Dead giving us a clever parallel of a prisoner of war, and some the best drama from outside the US, The Killing II and The Bridge, incorporating their own angles on Terrorism and War.

Homeland is different though. It isn’t about subtle analogies that are part of a broader picture; 9/11, and the continuing War on Terror, are the centrepiece. Based loosely on an Israeli drama, Prisoners of War, Homeland is at times daft and annoyingly implausible, but it is compelling throughout. The messages it sends out are debatable, but it works because it is expertly executed as a Thriller. Continue reading…

Ally Clow’s April 2012 Film Round-up

If one is torn between the darkly lit cinemas of weekday afternoons but also likes to soak up any hint of the British sun, April’s weather made the choice of where to spend your days very easy indeed. The dreary weather meant the British Box Office was up against last year for three weeks out of four and many cinephiles took solace from the wet, dank atmosphere of the outside world in the dry (but sometimes equally dank) atmosphere of the local multiplex. I spent my April catching up with some classic docs, a couple of big budget affairs, some US indie and even a horror all-nighter. Continue reading…


Ahead of the general cinema release this Friday of Kevin MacDonald’s documentary of Bob Marley, James Dickens reviews it for The Substantive.

I think it’s fair to say Bob Marley’s life was almost tailor-made for movie adaptation. The tough upbringing, rise to superstardom, political influence, religious excesses, womanising and eventual untimely and very public death was made for the big screen. Therefore I was very surprised at the lack of any cinematic depictions of the Reggae icon thus far.

However given the recent trend for musical biopics (Walk the line, Nowhere Boy, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll to name but three) the timing now seems right, and a biopic based on Bob’s wife, Rita’s, Autobiography is currently in production. Marley though is entrenched firmly in the documentary camp, more along the lines of Julian Temple’s Joe Strummer feature ‘The Future is Unwritten’.

This film has taken a while to get off the ground. It was initially supposed to be directed by Martin Scorsese but due to scheduling conflicts, it was passed onto famous music film maker Jonathan Demme. He then also dropped out, citing ‘creative differences’ with producer Steve Bing. So it was left to director of Touching the Void and Last King of Scotland, Kevin MacDonald, to finally finish the film for its 2012 release.

So the question really is, was it worth the wait? Continue reading…

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