Saturday, 30 April 2011

Kick-Ass (says it all!)

There are brilliant films made in every genre. Of the graphic novel variety, they are often met with disapproval by the general public for excessive use of violence ... or innacuracy by the comic book fans who hate for their beloved comic books to be altered for the big screen (and rightly so!) Then along came Kick-Ass. Many viewers were outraged that the film's young star uses severe expletives as easily as most girls her age would ask for more ice cream with dinner, but the filmmakers insisted it was to keep the film more accurate. If she swears in the comic (or is it graphic novel?!) then she should swear on the big screen. In the words of the great Mr Big, to that I say abso-fuckin-lutely!!!

So many films nowadays panda to the 12A rating so they can reach a wider audience by removing half the plot (Time Travellers Wife removed some horrific parts of the book and turned it all shmaltzy for the film, completely losing what made the book so unique and brilliant!) Other films manage to include just enough sex, violence and swearing to scrape past with a 12A. Then there is the world of the 15 certificate which Kick-Ass has. To compare, this film has the same rating as Black Swan. While Kick-Ass has a whole array of graphic novel violence and a few uses of pretty severe swearing, Black Swan had stabbing yourself in the face with a nail file and a pretty graphic lesbian sex scene.  So take your pick.

The plot revolves around a young guy who decides to be a superhero in the form of Kick-Ass. His work defending a guy from some street thugs becomes an overnight youtube phenomenon and catches the attention of far more experienced superheroes Big Daddy (played by Nic Cage!) and Hit-Girl, a father daughter superhero combo who are introduced to us just as daddy lovingly shoots his little girl (played by Let Me In star Chloe Moretz) so she can feel what it's like while wearing a bullet proof vest. Awwww shucks. Meeting these two means our unlikely hero gets caught up in far more than he could have ever imagined.

The violence in this holds up but is far less dark than its graphic friends Sin City and 300 mainly because of the use of humour. What makes it an all round KICK-ASS film is its ability to combine so much so well. It manages to be violent and funny, terrifying and adorable all at once.  The relationships are real and heartfelt, some more awkward and angsty than others and the humour is perfectly timed. But when the action sequences start, the skill and weaponry used is mind-blowing! Mixed in with a fantastic soundtrack, it's all round greatness.

There are rumours of a second film being written so can't wait for that!

This film is certainly not for the faint hearted but if you don't mind the violence and the dropping of the C-bomb by a pre-teen in a purple wig then this film is stylish, clever, funny and endearing.

Highly recommended!

4.5 FOBLES out of 5 :)


LE xx

Friday, 29 April 2011

Top 5 Film Weddings

Everyone loves a good wedding, from the sappy overly romantic ones to the dramatic, theatrical ones. And the world of film has offered us so many wonderful weddings. Here are just some of my favourites:

Wedding 2 in Four Weddings and a Funeral (Rowan Atkinson)
"In the name of the father, the son and the holy spigit."
The awkwardness and the willingness of all the people to get the end of the service in one piece - comedy genius. 

Love Actually
Instruments pop out from the crowd and Lynden David Hall sings with a choir. A tribute to Jim Henson's funeral when all the puppeteers brought their puppets out. What's not to love?

Three Men and a Little Lady
Ted Danson revealing himself to be the priest by pulling off his face and the little Mary saying "What a crock!".

A dragon, a spell, the guys with cards writing "aaaaw" and the best afterparty Kareoke ever.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Funny dancing from Luna and dad, the man with 10 collars, a swan like wedding dress and a wand battle with the wedding crashers - the deatheaters. "The Ministry has fallen."

Enjoy, LE xxx

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Film vs. Book meets film critic James King

Formerly the movie man for Radio 1 and now host of ITV2's The Movie Show, James King tells me how he came to be a film critic, what his guilty pleasures are, the secrets to his ever improving interview technique and just how he managed to anger a legion of Twilight fans with one word.

But watch out readers – because I think I may have found the more successful, male version of me... and isn't that the part in Timecop when the world implodes? ;-)
Enjoy, LE xxx


A couple of years ago I was on Radio 1 to answer competition questions and win cinema tickets. When I called back the following Monday to discuss the films I'd seen, one listener wrote in that I could give James King a run for his money. High praise indeed. So when the man himself agreed to chat with me, I was just a little bit starstruck.

Within minutes of sitting down, James feels the need to explain why he is wearing make-up (he has just been filming for this weeks Movie Show) and brushes over the fact that I have inadvertently made him traipse across Kings Cross to come and meet me - what a gent!
After a chat about the intricacies of Twitter and keeping things under wraps that you just want to tweet about (James obviously knows some very cool film info but sadly couldn't share it!) I get down to the nitty gritty... all the way back to the beginning.

Where did the love of film all start for you?
I think I was probably looking for direction. I was 14/15 and was into so many things I wasn't sure where I wanted to go. It was very natural and enjoyable for me but it was a conscious decision to really focus on films. It all started with Sci-Fi which I loved, having been to conventions and spent lots of time in comic book stores. I still get that tingle when I go to conventions, even if I'm there to work. I admire the dedication of the Horror and Sci-Fi fans.

When did you start critiquing films?
I guess I was always doing it. You almost don't realise you're doing it. You start to write notes and it just goes from there. When I started out my bible was Halliwells Film Guide which just had a few lines about each film. Then I jumped to university where suddenly I was expected to write 10,000 words on a film!
My love for film was always a very personal thing, very introverted. There was no real support system, it was just me on my own – which I liked! It was me against the world. The idea of me becoming a broadcaster at that age just wasn't thought of. I was probably as into the films then as I am now, I just didn't know what to do with it.

What was your first job?
Well I started at Radio 1 doing work experience and working on local radio. Though the film part of the job didn't start straight away, I left college and joined Radio 1 as a Showbiz journalist.
And now you're on TV!
Yeah! Which is really different. I've done radio for so long that I don't really think about it. Ultimately people just want to know what films to go and see. I love reading really knowledgeable film reviewers but often they don't actually say whether the reviewer enjoyed the film or not. They're really interesting thoughts but are interesting to people who have no interest in going to see the film, they just like good journalism – which is fine!

How have you found the transition from radio to TV?
It's weird because you're starting all over again – it's weird to feel like a novice. But it's good - it's good to shake things up every now and then. I'd say my one regret is that I learned on air – so when I made a mistake people knew about it.

Did you make any really bad on air mistakes?
I made a lot! They were normally factual errors but when 5 million people are listening – they will text in and make sure you know you've made a mistake. Last year, I was talking about Eclipse and had been mentioning Jacob Black a lot. I said that Billy Burke (who plays Charlie) was called Billy Black. I got lots of angry Twilight fans telling me I didn't know what I was talking about.

The annoying thing about it though is that I love Twilight and have always championed the films! There's not a lot of blokes out there my age who like the films and I've always been happy to say I was one.
It's live, you're on the spot. It happens! Now what I do is recorded and it might not be as daring but at least I can edit out silly mistakes!

So are you looking forward to Breaking Dawn?
I am actually. I've just seen Peter Facinelli say on Twitter that they've just finished filming. Eclipse was good because it got dark like the Harry Potter films. You can get away with a lot nowadays on a 12A.

So what is your favourite film of all time?
Normally I answer with Grease, it's the first film I really remember watching and it's the ultimate American Teen Movie which I love. I also loved Ferris Bueller's Day Off and more recently Lost in Translation.
When I left Radio 1, I got lots of good luck messages which was really sweet, but I got one that said they would never forgive me for recommending Lost in Translation! You're either with Sophia Coppolla or you're not. I am.

You clearly have quite different tastes...
I do waver. I love the cheese of Step-Up or Fast and Furious for the spectacle but I also love to wallow in artsy fartsy films. That's as valid as cars blowing up for me. My love of the artsy stuff is definitely a hangover from my university days and I don't often have the chance to talk about it.

Are you a fan of films made from books?
People often ask if a film is as good as the book and I have to say I'm judging the film on its own merits. A lot of my favourite books have been made into films, just not necessarily good ones. Someone like John Irving for example - I thought Cider House Rules was a great film but I just don't think they really captured the spirit of the book. Especially when the book is like 300 pages long, you have to cut stuff out – unless you're Peter Jackson! I try to keep them separate.

What books do you normally read and are there any you'd like to see made into a film?
I try to read classics because I don't feel I've read enough of them and I should. I can go and enjoy Fast and the Furious and then go and read a classic. My favourite author who I read at university was Wilbur Carver – amazing amazing books about the American West! - but the writing is quite bleak so I'm not sure it would work on the big screen. It would have to be quite an art-house film. They managed it with No Country for Old Men though so maybe, you never know.

What's your favourite classic then?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The older film adaptations have a sort of nostalgic appeal to them but the films just haven't managed to convey the language that makes the book brilliant.

Do you read modern books too?
I like to read what's big so I look at the book that's won the Booker Prize normally and think I really should read it and see what it's like.

Who was your favourite person to interview?
Some people are really interesting and they're not the people you think will be your favourites. When I interviewed Kenneth Branagh for Thor, he was really charismatic. My favourite is probably Tom Hanks. He was just brilliant, genuinely such a funny, lovely and easy-going person. It's just so nice sometimes to know that really, you can't screw it up because they will be on it! They'll give you long answers and you just sit and listen.

I also interviewed Quentin Tarantino who was one of the reasons I originally got into films. And I was so lucky that I got to chat to him for a while so we basically sat and went through all his films in depth. And he was more than happy doing that - he's not exactly a shrinking violet!

Have you had really awkward interviews?
When I started out there were a lot like that – but I think that's because I was rubbish! At first, I thought people were horrible and then suddenly everyone seemed really nice and I realised it was because I had improved.
Someone like Harrison Ford though, who I interviewed more recently, was difficult. There is a man who doesn't want to be there. He wasn't interested in talking about himself and wasn't comfortable. As the journalist, you feel uncomfortable. He got angry at one of my questions and I had to convince him to answer it. But then as soon as the microphone was off he was brilliant and started telling me a really rude story! He also stuck up for me when a camera crew messed up an interview so he does seem to be a really decent guy!

Who would you love to interview?
I would love to interview Steven Spielberg. I hosted a satellite link Q&A with him but I would love to sit down and have a 1 on 1 chat. You might as well go big! But then your heroes might let you down so perhaps it's better not to meet them!

Have you ever walked out of a film?
The first Tomb Raider. I just never got them. The second one was OK but the first was just awful.

What's the worst film you've ever seen?
All those spoof movies – Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie. They appear to keep getting made. Scary Movie had a point at least and was spoofing Scream but then they just started getting really random and spoofed anything. I hate them – truly!
It must be difficult to sit through them if you hate them so much.
Luckily they're very short! The last one, Vampires Suck, wasn't quite as bad – a 1 out of 5 instead of a 0 out of 5. There is a lot to spoof in Twilight and much as I love it, it does take itself very seriously so it lends itself to a good spoof.

What makes a great movie?
Surprises. There is a comfort in familiarity and the pattern in chick-flicks works a lot of the time. But when there is a surprise it just adds something great to it. Occasionally you get something where you think “Wow, that is different!”
A film I saw recently called Attack the Block manages it because it's a familiar plot but set in a housing estate in Brixton so it's a great mix.

"We spit in your food" - the place where Ron & Co eat :)

What is the funniest film ever made?
Anchorman. It's not a hugely original answer but it gets me every time. That had surprises. I was laughing so much and did not see that coming.

What film can you quote from?
Not to sound like a broken record but Anchorman! You find yourself doing it without realising it!

What is your favourite line from a film?
Well I love “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” from Ferris Bueller. But I also love “I carried a watermelon”.

What film makes a grown man cry?
Stuff like holiday romances. I love storylines that are about the intensity of a short period of time like The Breakfast Club or even Superbad. I love stuff like that. It's that idea of moving on - when we've had our adventure or romance and move on to the next bit and say goodbye – always gets me.

What are your guilty pleasures?
I do love the cheekier dance movies/musicals. For example, Burlesque (which I'll be talking about this week because it's out on DVD), I said it's like Flashdance and Showgirls and I love stuff like that. I'm not in any way claiming them to be brilliant but it's the glitz of them all – they're not intending to be realistic.

So are you a Glee fan then?
I love Glee. Glee gets that idea and doesn't take itself too seriously.

What are the best musicals?
Well obviously Grease is my favourite but Singing in the Rain, Hairspray and Moulin Rouge are also great. Moulin Rouge re-invigorated musicals in Hollywood so it's a really important film.

Have you seen them on stage?
Yes and some were better than others. Now I'd love to see Legally Blonde the musical made into a film like Hairspray was.

They're not really guilty pleasures are they?
No I guess not – but why hide it?! I enjoyed Step-Up - the acting may be terrible but the choreography is amazing.

What question would you love to be asked but never have been?
What I've always wanted to be asked by an interviewee is for them to want to be my mate - for them to say they want to go down the pub with me. The closest I ever got was at a function and there was going to be a sort of after-party. Penélope Cruz asked me “Are you coming for a drink now?” but she obviously was just being nice! I had visions of us propping up the bar and necking Jägermeisters!
If you're a movie fan you don't want to be a stalker about it but it'd be nice if that barrier was broken down and you could just hang out.

Who would you want to go down to the pub with?
Either Tom Hanks or Eva Mendez.
That would be interesting if they were both there at the same time.
That would be a great night out!

Now for the quick fire questions...
Pacino/De Niro – Pacino
Kubrick/Scorcese – Kubrick
Top Secret/Top Gun – I'll only say Top Gun because I've seen it more than Top Secret.
Comedy/Action – Comedy
Disney/Dreamworks – Disney

What film are you most looking forward to seeing in 2011?
X-Men: First Class. I like the franchise and it looks like it'll be really good.

What would you tell people they had to see when it came out?
Attack the Block. It's a little gory if you don't like it but it's worth it! It's got real heart to it. If you like Shaun of the Dead then you'll like it. It's got Nick Frost in it and he always makes me laugh.

Who would you recommend following on Twitter?
jacques_aih. All he does is puns and they're absolutely amazing. He never seems to run out of them! Some are filmic but not all of them.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Film vs. Book meets Filmoria

The man behind the Filmoria twitter and review site answers a few questions on what he loves about cinema from his love for the Jedi to crying at ET and why his favourite film changes from week to week.
LE x

1. Have you always been a film buff? Where did your love of films come from?
Well, as far back as I can remember I've been obsessed with film.  One of my earliest memories is of my dad taking me to the local cinema to see Return of the Jedi when I was just 3.  I can remember being utterly transfixed by what was happening on the screen. It wasn't just the bright lights and fast action that thrilled me, but the whole process of story telling on the cinema screen.  I think from that point on I was hooked.  I pestered my parents to be taken back to the cinema at any opportunity.  The list of films I enjoyed as a kid was endless; films like Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Superman, Back To The Future, The Dark Crystal, Romancing The Stone, Explorers, Goonies, The Never Ending Story, Ladyhawke, Labyrinth, Inner Space and The Princess Bride all helped fuel the obsession.  And it only escalated the older I became.  My love of films led me to study film theory at University, which also broadened my tastes.  I still believe there is nothing better than sitting in a cinema watching a great film.

2. What makes a perfect movie for you?
Anything with a great story you can get absolutely lost in.  For me, a perfect movie is less concerned with special effects and action and more concerned with plot and how characters interact.  Escaping into a great story is what makes a perfect movie experience.  

3. What is your favourite film?
Hmmm, that's a tough one and I never know what to say; there are so many great films.  I guess The Godfather would be up there along with Vertigo, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, Casablanca, The Big Lebowski, Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, Star Wars, Warriors, Lord of the Rings and The Dark Knight (plus a whole heap of others) of films I can watch tirelessly over and over again. I don't really have an out and out favourite, but if I had to pick one today, I'd say The Godfather.

4. What film can you quote from continuously?
Loads, Star Wars, The Big Lebowski, Casablanca, Napoleon Dynamite, Anchorman... the list is endless.  

5. What got you into blogging and the world of twitter? And how long did it take to take off?
I guess it was because I had an interest in film and I wanted to share my opinion with anyone else that might be interested to read it.  The internet is a great place to find like-minded people. Not many of my friends are as into film as I am, it's nice to be able to talk about the things you love.  Twitter came hand in hand with blogging.  I guess it's the easiest medium for getting real time news.  I'm not sure how you would class something as "taking off" but the immediate response for the site was pretty terrific and I've had some really nice feedback.  It's very humbling to know so many people like it. 

6. What film can make a grown man cry?
I think the first film I can remember crying at was E.T.  The bit where E.T says to Elliot "I'll be right here" gets me every time.  the end of Turner and Hooch caused a few waterworks.  Hmmm, what else... oh, yes, the horse Artax in the swamp from The Never Ending Story.  For some reason I also remember crying at a film called The Boy Who Could Fly, but I can't remember why.  Million Dollar Baby as well.  Oh, the end of It's a Wonderful Life.  Oh, and the flashback scene in Bill Murray's Scrooged where the kid gets given a pound of meat for Christmas and all he wants is a choo choo train - to quote the film... "Niagara Falls"

7. Is there a question you would love to be asked but never are?
If you could adapt any book into a film, what would you choose?  Either The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by GW Dahlquist, Un Lun Dun by China Mieville or The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally.  I'd also like someone to have another crack at the His Dark Materials Trilogy after Chris Weitz's attempt at The Golden Compass, which wasn't good (in my opinion).

8. What is the funniest film ever made?

Now for some quick fire questions...
black and white/colour films?  Black and White
Spielberg/kubrick? Kubrick
Drama/Horror? Drama
Best film of the year so far..?  Black Swan
And looking to the rest of the year, what film are you most looking forward to in 2011?
The Tree of Life
My Dog Tulip
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Captain America
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Skin I Live In
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Hugo Cabret

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Let Me In (American remake)

Guy falls for the new girl next door only to discover that she is a vampire. Just like Twilight right? WRONG! This is so creepy with a very clever plot and brilliant young actors. Though some vampire clichés are kept (sunlight kills them, they need to be invited in to enter a home - hence the title, they need blood to live) new ground is covered in this original twist on a vampiric love story.
I say original but of course this is the American remake so that's not technically true!

Like Battle Royale, it's the young stars who steal the show because they act with such subtlety and childlike innocence and simplicity. Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen and Chloe Moretz as Abby are intoxicating in their transitions from cute and adorable into just plain terrifying and seeing Owen suffer at the hands of the brutal school bullies is horrifying as his fall from innocence. Abby is not the moral vampire we have seen in so many books and films of late thanks to the Twilight effect but her fondness for Owen is done so sweetly, you cannot doubt its sincerety. This polar opposite makes for fascinating viewing and the ending is clever and surprising. 

3 out of 5 FOBLES - an adorable and unlikely blood bath of a love story


LE xx

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Welcome to the South (Benvenuti al Sud)

It's been a while since I've seen a foreign film at the cinema. Sadly I never made it to see Javier Bardem in Biutiful and hadn't realised just how much I had missed it. You see, seeing a foreign language film at the cinema is an experience in itself. The crowd are foreign, their reactions less reserved, less quintessentially British and for a couple of hours, you are not in the UK, you are anywhere in the world.

Thanks to the fabulous people at my local Phoenix Cinema, I managed to swing free tickets to any of the films showing at their Italian film weekend spectacular and chose the one on the only evening I was free with no idea what the film was even about. So along I went to spend an evening in Italy...

I learned that there was a short film being shown before the feature, which was introduced by the charming young Italian director himself. The film set the mood brilliantly with craftily edited clips of interviews with elderly Italian folk talking about what cinema was like in the 50s and 60s - from the rats to the sleezy guys and the clouds of smoke above everyones heads.

Then came the main feature... which tells the story of Alberto - a man so set on providing for his highly neurotic wife Sylvia and their 8 year old son that he fakes being in a wheelchair to get the highly coveted transfer to Milan. But his plan goes horribly wrong when he stands to say goodbye to the Inspector.

So then he gets the bad news. Is he fired? No. Worse... What could be worse? he asks... and he is told. He is being transferred... to the South. THE HORROR!!!

His wife is horrified and refuses to submit herself or their poor son to the horrors of the South and so Alberto is sent off on his own, armed with a fire extinguisher (for the extreme heat) and a bullet proof vest. On his journey down, he is stopped by police for driving too slowly.

"Sorry," he says, "I'm going to the south."
"Oh," the police officer says sympathetically. "I have a brother in Kosovo, I understand."

Of course, when Alberto arrives he realises how much of his pre-conceived ideas are actually wrong and as he encounters the people of his new home, the cultural and linguistic clashes make for cinematic gold. One scene where the locals try to teach Alberto how to speak like them had me crying with laughter. "We don't just throw these vowels away, we recycle."

The comedy is genius, the characters were quirky and endearing and the plot was clever and honest. I haven't laughed so hard in ages and would recommend it to foreign film fans and newcomers alike.

Enjoy! (You will, trust me!)

4 out 5 FOBLES :)

LE xx

Thursday, 7 April 2011

April DVDs: Jumper, The Lovely Bones

If you can get over Hayden Christensen's Keanu Reeves school of acting, then this is a totally watchable film. The landscape shots are incredible from the top of the Sphinx to the bottom of the Colloseum and the effects when they jump are really impressive. Jamie Bell is really good, though I still can't figure out where he was meant to be from (accents may vary) and the lost little neglected boy that Haydn does so well actually works quite well. The jumping drive through Japan is on a par with other really impressive car chases. Samuel L Jackson's hair is just terrifying and the normally brilliant Diane Lane is just as deadpan as the rest.

Round the world in an hour and a half with a freaky looking Sam Jackson, Anakin Skywalker, Summer and Billy Elliott :) Silly, impressive and a great piece of mindless film making.

3 out of 5 FOBLES

The Lovely Bones
This is the story of Susie Salmon (like the fish) who is murdered at the age of 14 and then watches over her family as they try to cope with their loss.

Now this is not quite as bad as the Time Travellers Wife conversion from book to film, which conveniently removed all the brilliant but dark moments which made the book so compelling, and it at least didn't pull a My Sister's Keeper and change the ending - but it doesn't do the book justice, mainly due to its 12A rating. I happily (and unhappily) watched it though so wouldn't say it was a bad film at all. The plot of the book is a dark one and in making it 12A, it lost a lot of its darkness (Susie's murder is entirely cut and left to your imagination while the book graphically details it). There is also no explanation of how much time actually passes which confuses matters somewhat when characters suddenly have new hair cuts or new lives.

However, what the film manages to do well is the dreamlike land Susie finds herself in and the sweet, naive way she sees the world. The large dollops of cinematic cheese are forgiven because that is how she sees the world. The way the family crumbles is honest and watching Mark Wahlberg crumble under his love for his daughter is heartbreaking. The fantastic character of Grandma Lyn is done justice by the only woman who could - Susan Sarandon.

It also sticks to the ending, which many would have tried to change I'm sure. Well done to Peter Jackson for that!
Worth a watch - but if you read the book, give it a few months before daring to see the film - otherwise it might anger you.

3 out of 5 FOBLES

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Film vs. Book meets Author Ali McNamara

The fabulously witty Ali McNamara has had big success recently with her debut novel From Notting Hill with Love ... Actually and it certainly is not the last we will see of this talented film buff-come-author.
But where did it all begin? Is she a Mark Darcy or Daniel Cleaver fan? And what can we expect from Ali in the future... The lady herself reveals all.

LE x


Who’s your favourite writer?
My two favourite writers are actually script writers rather than authors. Richard Curtis (Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Love Actually) & Nora Ephron (When Harry met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail) both who wrote and directed some of my favourite romantic comedies of all time.

What’s your favourite film ever made?
‘When Harry Met Sally’ I love the sharp witty dialogue between the two leading characters.

Who is your favourite leading man (Is it Hugh Grant?)?
I’ve recently discovered the gorgeous Mr Bradley Cooper – and no else gets a look in right now ;-)

Here's a little treat for the Bradley Cooper fan club - LE x

Now for some quick fire questions:
Notting Hill/Love Actually?:
Notting Hill

Dream man - Mark Darcy/Daniel Cleaver?
Mark Darcy: “Nice boys don’t kiss like that...” “Oh yes they ****** do!” ;-)

Best friend - Bridget Jones/Shaz?:
Bridget Jones

Best leading lady - Julia Roberts/Meg Ryan?:
Julia Roberts

Black and White / Colour films?:
Colour in general, but I do love the odd classic black and white movie like ‘Brief Encounter’.

How did you get into writing?
My route in getting published (I began by writing stories on Ronan Keating’s website which were then sold as a fundraising project for his cancer charity) is not your usual story of becoming a published novelist. My story was more a ‘happy accident’ I didn’t set out to become a writer. But once I discovered that people were enjoying what I wrote I wanted to keep writing, and that’s when I began writing full-length novels. But it was still a long hard journey to get my first novel ‘From Notting Hill with Love... Actually’ published.

What’s on the horizon for you?
My new novel out November this year –‘Breakfast at Darcy’s’

When Darcy McCall loses her beloved Aunt Molly, she doesn't expect any sort of inheritance - let alone a small island! Located off the west coast of Ireland, Tara hasn't been lived on for years, but according to Molly's will Darcy must stay there for twelve months in order to fully inherit. It's a big shock. And she's even more shocked to hear she needs to persuade a village full of people to settle there, too. Darcy must leave behind her independent city life and swap stylish heels for muddy wellies. Between sorting everything from the plumbing to the pub, she meets confident, charming Conor and sensible, stubborn Dermot - but who will make her feel really at home?
And then it’s my third novel, out 2012 which I’m just beginning to research and write now. So as you can see it never stops. But I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Oranges and Sunshine (Plus Q&A)

Your parents are dead so you may as well go to Australia. It's sunny all the time and you can pick Oranges from Orange trees every morning for breakfast.

This is what was told to a young boy in care in England in the 1950s who was then shipped over to Australia with promises of a new life. Sadly though, this is not what awaited the thousands of children who were shipped over there during the course of more than a decade. What awaited them was slave labour in blistering heat and no family, no love, no support. Just abuse and the most degrading punishments for being weak and useless.

But this film is not their story.

This film is the story of Margaret Humphreys (played by the brilliant Emily Watson), a social worker in the 1980s who randomly came across the story of a girl who had been shipped to Australia as a young girl as she had been put into care after the death of her parents. She was now in the UK trying to track down her birth certificate and identity. While working with this woman, Margaret discovers that the woman's mother who was supposedly long dead is actually alive and well.

This starts Margaret's investigation, along with her eternally supportive husband (also a Social Worker), into the lives of thousands of children who experienced similar stories. Margaret starts to spend months away from her family and young children interviewing these people in Australia and trying to track down their roots. In doing so, the detail of these stories starts to take its toll on her health and life in general but she carries on regardless in what becomes a touching story of human longing and the search for meaning in life through history, identity and family.

I should also mention that it was brilliant to see Hugo "Mr Anderson" Weaving playing such a loveable character. His portrayal of Jack was touching, funny, heartbreaking and honest and made me want to give him a hug every time he was on screen. His relationship with his newly discovered English sister and their search for their mother is one of the most endearing parts of the film. And he comes to Margaret's rescue when people take a severe disliking to her. What a guy!

I was fortunate to attend the Q&A which followed the screening and hear Director Jim Loach's opinion on its conception and the whole process. As he told us, there were many ways this film could have gone. There are of course thousands of stories to be told by those on the boats, many of those violent and horrific. 

Loach chose a different, more subtle and completely beautiful approach. It's not overly dramatic. There are heartbreaking moments, scary moments when angry people start to threaten Margaret and tearjerking moments of pure joy at the reunions Margaret helps to arrange. But it remains personal. We are told snippets of the different people she meets but only snippets. The most poignant moment for me was when Margaret finally goes to the place the children were - for want of a better word - raised. All the snippets she has been told overwhelm her understandably and it's heart-wrenching to see. She feels their pain and wants to do so much for them but knows that there is a limit to what she can do.

That's where the film gets its brilliance. There are no easy fixes, no happy endings. The childhoods these people had cannot be undone. And the mass deportations happened for such a long period of time, that as Loach explained - no one person can be held accountable. It was only in the last 3 years that the Australian and British governments finally acknowledged what happened and apologised for it. And this all started over 20 years ago.

All Margaret can try to do is reunite them with their surviving relatives - and for many of them it will now be too late.

Loach also added that he invited the Pope to the original screening in Italy - but was not surprised that he was a no show, given the way the film highlights horrific acts done by the "brothers" who were in charge of the care of these children. More appaling still is that none of them have been punished for their acts as many (Loach informed us) were deemed unfit to stand trial due to age/illness.

The film is brilliant, beautiful and honest. Go and see it.

5 out of 5 FOBLES!!!

LE xx