ARTHUR CHRISTMAS

8 out of 10

Release Date: 11th November 2011

Director: Sarah Smith & Barry Cook (Walking With Dinosaurs 3D)

Voice Cast: James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen, Marc Wootton, Ramona Marquez with Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane, Rhys Darby, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Joan Cusack, Jane Horrocks, Andy Serkis, Dominic West, Iain McKee, Kevin Eldon, Bronagh Gallagher, Danny John-Jules, Eva Longoria and Laura Linney

Writer: Sarah Smith & Peter Baynham

Trailer: ARTHUR CHRISTMAS

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Review by Matt Usher:  (Yes, I know, I should have written this before Christmas, but the film’s four years old anyway so never mind and if you haven’t watched it yet watch it this Christmas instead – it comes round quicker than you think).

This is the Aardman film that got away even despite making loads of money, and it’s easy to see why (both why it got away and why it made loads of money). It’s a CGI (or CG depending on your acronymic preference) effort, and if there’s one thing we know about Aardman it’s that they’re the plasticine people. So that explains why the film never really got noticed by critics (and me): Aardman = plasticine, leave all that computer drawing stuff to the Americans. But it’s a really good film on any level, and the truth is, had it been a stop-motion animation they’d still be making it and it would probably take them another twenty years to complete, it’s that intricate. There’s a lot going on in every frame. All of it good.

But it all starts with the story of the strangely named Arthur Christmas, a young man who works in the mailroom in Father Christmas’s secret North Pole Lair. (Imagine if Santa ever turned to crime! Now there’s an idea for a thoroughly disgraceful film…) And Arthur’s also Father Christmas’s younger, more useless son. As such he’s relegated to replying to all the letters from little children around the world. And he is, of course, a true believer. But what of the implied older brother? His name is Steve and he is the heir apparent. The film’s basic premise is: how does Father Christmas make all those deliveries in one night? The answer (which should help a lot of parents at Christmas-time when asked awkward questions) is that in order to cope with the population explosion and advances in modern detection technology, the operation now masterminded by the gadget-obsessed, checklist-ticking Steve uses what is effectively the USS Enterprise (complete with cloaking ability) and a crack team of several million elves travelling faster than light. Meanwhile the actual Father Christmas (voiced by a weary, bemused Jim Broadbent – so much better here than in THE LADY IN THE VAN) has become a figurehead, simply laying down little more than the first and last presents in any given town whilst the elves beaver away like busy beavering bees.

And so the Christmas run is done in record time, but then Arthur finds that someone’s been missed! A little girl in Cornwall will not receive her bike! And so Arthur teams up with his granddad – a retired Santa from the early twentieth century with no time for new-fangled technology and a nostalgia for a good old-fashioned sleigh (and voiced brilliantly by Bill Nighy (UNDERWORLD)) to right the wrong which Steve, with a politician’s or businessman’s view of statistics and the bottom line, regards as an unnecessary and wasteful solution to an unfortunate oversight.

Arthur and Grandpa are soon circumnavigating the Earth, and getting into scrapes involving dangerous animals, aliens and a dodgy satnav. And they’re aided by an elf from the wrapping division (voiced by Ashley Jensen (EXTRAS) with a combination of comic determination and cuteness).

 James McAvoy (THE LAST STATION) is bright and fresh-voiced as Arthur, and nothing like the usual James McAvoy characters. It may be the best thing I’ve seen him in (that’s not as back-handed a compliment as it appears). Hugh Laurie (STUART LITTLE) makes a good villain (except there are no villains here – the film manages to show conflict without evil which is a good trick – Steve’s just got his priorities skewed, basically following the technology and forgetting about the purpose). Imelda Staunton (PETER’S FRIENDS) plays Mrs Christmas, the only one with any sense (but in a funny way not a boring way). Sometimes in animated films it can be a bit annoying when well-known voices are employed and the actors just sound like they’re doing someone a favour or doing an easy gig. Not here, there’s proper voice acting going on, which helps the excellent animations come to life. You’ll even forget they’re not real-life plasticine. There are also a lot of non-intrusive cameos (Andy Serkis, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jane Horrocks and others with only a line or two as elvish minions.) It helps also that the script steers nicely between sentiment and comedy without overloading on either (there are no wise-cracking reindeer).

Generally I like to think I don’t like CG animations what with their American shininess and absence of thumbprints and recourse to witty, literate scripts. But (not for the first time) I can happily make an exception here. It’s still basically the Aardman house style – simple figures, generally with big noses (and Steve’s beard is a work of genius) (even though I didn’t spot it till second time round); the elves are particularly good – huge heads dwarfing tiny military-uniformed bodies (and a much better realisation of the elf as a species than the Orlando Bloom iteration over in Middle-Earth). But on top of all that there’s busyness and pace and lots of (almost) throwaway visual gags, and a global scale which pretty much makes the CG a necessity. And there are plenty of groanworthy puns to remind us that we’re still in Aardman-land.

But what are we to make of these all-too-servile elves, an almost Ood-like race of willing and enthusiastic servants, whose unthinking loyalty turns into existential terror at the thought of the failure of Christmas (one of them even questioning the existence of children as the film takes a bleak turn)? Funny they may be, but are they not slaves, labouring thanklessly for the delight of small children unaware of their very existence? (Or maybe that is in itself a description of the modern Christmas?) On the other hand, it keeps them from causing mischief on street corners.

8 out of 10 – I love this film. It’s clever, funny, sweet and repays (and pretty much requires) multiple viewings: so it’s the almost perfect Christmas film (apart from Justin Bieber doing the song, that’s a shame.)

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • James McAvoy: X-Men 5, Victor Frankenstein, X Men 4, Muppets Most Wanted, Filth, Welcome To The PunchTrance, X Men- First Class, Gnomeo & Juliet (voice), The Conspirator, The Last Station, Wanted, Becoming Jane, Atonement, Starter For 10, Penelope, The Last King Of Scotland, The Chronicles Of Narnia- The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Shameless (TV), Inside I’m Dancing, Wimbledon, Bright Young Things, Regeneration, The Near Room
  • Jim Broadbent: Bridget Jones 3, The Sense of an Ending, War & Peace (TV), Brooklyn, The Lady In a Van, Big Game, Get Santa, Paddington, Postman Pat (voice), The Harry Hill Movie, Closed Circuit, Le Week-EndFilth, Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady, Another Year, Harry Potter- part 8, Harry Potter- part 6, The Damned United, Young Victoria, Inkheart, Indiana Jones 4, Hot Fuzz, Chronicles Of Narnia- The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Bridget Jones 2, Vera Drake, Vanity Fair, Bright Young Things, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Gangs Of New York, Iris, Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones, Little Voice, Topsy Turvy, The Avengers, The Borrowers, Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, The Secret Agent, Rough Magic, Richard III (1995), Princess Caraboo, Bullets Over Broadway, Widow’s Peak, The Crying Game, Enchanted April, Life Is Sweet, Erik The Viking, Vroom, Brazil
  • Hugh Laurie: The Canterville Ghost (voice), Tomorrowland, House MD (TV), The Oranges, Monsters vs Aliens (voice), Street Kings, Stuart Little 3, Valiant (voice), Flight of the Phoenix, Stuart Little 2, Girl From Rio, Maybe Baby, Stuart Little, Cousin Bette, The Man In The Iron Mask (1998), Spice World, The Borrowers, 101 Dalmatians (1996), Sense and Sensibility, A Bit of Fry & Laurie (TV), Jeeves & Wooster (TV), Peter’s Friends, Blackadder (TV), Strapless, Plenty, The Young Ones (TV)
  • Imelda Staunton: Paddington (voice), Pride (2014), Maleficent, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (voice),  Another Year, The Awakening, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Three and Out, Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix, Freedom Writers, Shadow Man,  Nanny McPhee,  Vera Drake,  Blackball, Chicken Run (voice), Remember Me,  Twelth Night (1996), Sense and Sensibility, Much Ado About Nothing(1993), Peter’s Friends
  • Ashley Jensen: The Lobster, The Legend of Barney Thompson, All StarsPirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (voice), Hysteria, Gnomeo & Juliet (voice), Ugly Betty (TV), How To Train Your Dragon (voice), Nativity!, A Cock & Bull Story, Extras (TV)
  • Marc Wootton: The Bad Education Movie, Nativity 3, The Harry Hill Movie, Nativity 2, Nativity!, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, Confetti
  • Michael Palin: Absolutely Anything (voice), Remember Me (TV), The Klangers (narrator) (TV), Monty Python Live – Five Down One To Go, A Liar’s Autobiography (voice), Michael Palin’s Explores (TV), The Wipers Times, Fierce Creatures, The Wind In The Willows (1996), GBH (TV), American Friends, A Fish Called Wanda, Brazil, A Private Function, The Meaning Of Life, The Missionary, Time Bandits, Life Of Brian, The Rutles, Jabberwocky, Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Monty Python’s Flying Circus (TV)
  • Robbie Coltrane: Effie Gray, Great Expectations (2012), The Comic Strip (TV), Brave (voice), Harry Potter – Part 1 to 8, The Brothers Bloom, Alex Rider – Stormbreaker, Ocean’s Twelve, Van Helsing, From Hell, James Bond – Goldeneye, James Bond – The World Is Not Enough, Message In a Bottle, Buddy, Cracker (TV), The Adventures Of Huck Finn (1994), The Pope Must Die, Triple Bogey On a Par Five Hole, Nuns On The Run, Henry V, Lenny Henry – Live and Unleashed, Bert Rigby You’re a Fool, Slipstream, The Fruit Machine, Blackadder (TV), Tutti-Frutti (TV), Mona Lisa, Absolute Beginners, Caravaggio, The Supergrass, The Young Ones (TV), Krull
  • Rhys Darby: We’re Wolves, Killing Hasselhoff, What We Do In The Shadows, Diagnosis Death, The Boat That Rocked, Yes Man, The Flight of The Conchords (TV)
  • Sanjeev Bhaskar: Absolutely Anything, Goodness Gracious Me (TV), The Kumars At No.42 (TV), Zero Theorem, London Boulevard, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, Anita and Me
  • Joan Cusack: Toy Story 4 (voice), Shameless US (TV), The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Hoodwinked 2 (voice), Mars Needs Moms (mo-cap), Toy Story 3 (voice), My Sister’s Keeper, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Friends With Money, Looney Tnes Movie (voice), School of Rock, Where The Heart Is, High Fidelity, Toy Story 2 (voice), Runaway Bride, Cradle Will Rock, Arlington Road, In & Out, Grosse Pointe Blank, Two Much, Nine Months, Corrina Corrina, Addams Family 2, Toys, Accidental Hero, My Blue Heaven, Men Don’t Leave, Say Anything, Working Girl, Married To The Mob, Star and Bars, Broadcast News, Grandview USA, Sixteeen Candles
  • Jane Horrocks: Abolutely Fabulous – The Movie, Sunshine On Leith, Trollied (TV), Absolutely Fabulous (TV), Garfield 2 (voice), Brothers Of The Head, The Corpse Bride (voice), Born Romantic, Chicken Run (voice), Little Voice, Bring Me The Head Of Mavis Davis, Second Best, Life Is Sweet, Memphis Belle, The Witches, Getting It Right
  • Andy Serkis: Star Wars 8, Jungle Book – Origins (mo-cap), Star Wars – The Force Awakens (mo-cap), Avengers 2, Tintin 2 (mo-cap), The Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes 2 (mo-cap), The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug (mo-cap), The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (Mo-Cap), Wild Bill (2012),  The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (Mo-Cap), Tintin (2011) (Mo-Cap), Brighton Rock (2011),  Burke and HareSex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll, The Cottage, The Prestige, 13 Going On 30,  King Kong (2005)(Mo-Cap),  Alex Rider-Stormbreaker, Deathwatch, 24 Hour Party People, Lord Of The Rings – Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, The Return Of The King (Mo-Cap), Mojo, Stella Does Tricks, Career Girls
  • Dominic West: Finding Dory (voice), Genius, The Affair (TV), Testament of Youth, Pride (2014), John Carter, Johnny English 2, The AwakeningCenturion, 300, The Wire (TV), Punisher – War Zone, The Forgotten, Chicago, Rock Star, 28 Days, The Gamble, True Blue, Richard III (1995), Surviving Picasso
  • Iain McKee: Castles In The Sky, Weekender
  • Kevin Eldon: The Comedian’s Guide To Survival, Danger Mouse (voice)(TV), Up All Night, Set Fire To The Stars, The Wedding Video, Faintheart, Hyperdrive (TV), Hot Fuzz, Nathan Barley (TV)
  • Bronagh Gallagher: Shooting For Socrates, Pramface (TV), Grabbers, Albert Nobbs, Malice In WonderlandThe Big I Am, Faintheart, Last Chance Harvey, Botched, This Year’s Love, Pulp Fiction, The Committments
  • Danny John-Jules: Death In Paradise (TV), Red Dwarf (TV), The Grind, MI High (TV), Underground (2008), Sucker Punch (2008), Blade II, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, London Kills Me
  • Eva Longoria: In a World…, Desperate Housewives (TV), Foodfight (voice), The Heartbreak Kid (2007), The Sentinel, The George Lopez Show (TV), Harsh Times, The Young and the Restless (TV)
  • Laura Linney: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (2016), Genius, Mr Holmes, The Fifth Estate, Hyde Park On The Hudson, The Nanny Diaries, Breach, The Savages, Jindabyne, Driving Lessons, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Squid & The Whale, Kinsey, Love Actually, Mystic River, The Life of David Gale, The Mothman Prophecies, The House of Mirth, You Can Count On Me, The Truman Show, Absolute Power, Primal Fear, Congo, A Simple Twist of Fate

NATIVITY 2

3 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 23rd November 2012

Director: Debbie Isitt (Nativity 3 / Nativity! / Confetti / Bad Neighbours)

Cast: David Tennant, Marc Wootton, Joanna Page, Jason Watkins, Ian McNeice, Rose Cavaliero with Pam Ferris and Jessica Hynes-Stevenson

Writer: Debbie Isitt

Trailer: Nativity 2

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • David Tennant: Jessica Jones (TV), What We Did On Our Holiday, Broadchurch (TV), Dr Who – Day of the Doctor, Postman Pat Movie (voice), The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (voice), The Decoy Bride, Fright Night (2011), St Trinians 2, Glorious 39, Dr Who (TV), Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire, LA Without a Map
  • Marc Wootton: The Bad Education Movie, Nativity 3, The Harry Hill Movie, Arthur Christmas (voice), Nativity!, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, Confetti
  • Joanna Page: Breathless (TV), Dr Who – Day of the Doctor, Gavin and Stacey (TV), Love Actually, Very Annie Mary
  • Jason Watkins: W1A (TV), Nativity 3, Dr Who (TV), Psychoville (TV), Being Human (TV), Little Dorrit (2008) (TV), Nativity!, Wild Child (2008), Sixty Six, Confetti, Bridget Jones 2, Circus, Onegin, High Hopes
  • Ian McNeice: Doc Martin (TV), Dr Who (TV), Valkyrie, Day of the Dead (2008), Rome (TV), The Black Dahlia, Oliver Twist (2005), The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (voice), White Noise, Bridget Jones 2, Around The World In 80 Days, Freeze Frame, Blackball, From Hell, Town & Country, A Life Less Ordinary, Ace Ventura 2, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, funny Bones, No Escape (1994), Secret Friends, The Russia House, 1871, Valmont, The Raggedy Rawney, Whoops! Apocalypse, 84 Charing Cross Road, Personal Services, Top Secret
  • Rose Cavaliero: A Young Doctor’s Notebook (TV),  Jane Eyre (2011),  Nativity!, Little Dorrit (2008) (TV), Saxondale (TV), Cold Feet (TV)
  • Pam Ferris: Call The Midwife (TV), Saving Santa (voice), The Raven, Luther (TV),  Malice In Wonderland,  Telstar, Nativity, Children Of Men, Rosemary & Thyme (TV), Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkhaban, Death To Smoochy, Matilda, The Darling Buds of May (TV), Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Meantime
  • Jessica Hynes-Stevenson: Swallows and Amazons, Winter, W1A (TV), Pudsey The Dog, Chalet Girl, Burke and Hare, Faintheart, Magicians, Son Of Rambow, Confetti, Bridget Jones 2, Pure, Spaced (TV), Born Romantic, Staying Alive (TV)

 

 

 

 

THE FIRST GRADER

6.5 out of 10

UK / Kenya co-production

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 24th June 2011

Director: Justin Chadwick (Tulip Fever / Mandela – Long Walk To Freedom / The Other Boleyn Girl)

Cast: Naomie Harris, Oliver Litondo, Tony Kgoroge, Alfred Munyua, Shoki Mpugapa and Vusi Kunene

Writer: Ann Peacock

Trailer: THE FIRST GRADER

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

FORGET ME NOT

5.5 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 6th May 2011

Director: Alexander Holt & Lance Roehrig

Cast: Tobias Menzies, Genevieve O’Reilly and Gemma Jones

Writer: Mark Underwood

Trailer: FORGET ME NOT

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Tobias Menzies: Black Sea, Game of Thrones (TV), Rome (TV), The Low Down, Casualty (TV)
  • Genevieve O’Reilly: Survivor (2015), Banished (TV), Episodes (TV)
  • Gemma Jones: Radiator, Last Tango In Halifax (TV), Merlin (TV), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2, Hysteria, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Bridget Jones 2, Shanghai Knights, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Bridget Jones, Captain Jack, The Winslow Boy, The Theory of Flight, Wilde, Sense and Sensibility, Feast of July, On The Black Hill, Paperhouse, The Devils

LOVE’S KITCHEN

1.5 out of 10

Release Date: 24th June 2011

Director: James Hacking

Cast: Dougray Scott, Claire Forlani, Peter Bowles, Lee Boardman, Michelle Ryan, Holly Gibbs, Simon Hepworth, Matthew Clancy, Caroline Langrishe, Celia Henebury, Adam Fogerty, Pip Torrens, Katrine De Candole and Cheri Lunghi with Gordon Ramsay and Simon Callow

Writer: James Hacking

Trailer: LOVE’S KITCHEN

Love's_Kitchen_FilmPosterEven the food looks pale in this amateurish rom-com flop which hit newspaper headlines for making a paltry £100 at the UK cinema box office.  Even by sticking to the most formulaic of plots Love’s Kitchen comes across as a half-hearted pilot for a forgotten sit-com of the mild sort that would have congested our TV channels in the early 90s.  What attracted the gaggle of name actors to this flop isn’t apparent in the final product. Most of the blame though for its plain awfulness must land squarely in Dougray Scott’s smug lap. He is clearly embarrassed to be there and he applies a very weak performance to a very inconsistent character. He plays cinema’s worst written and most unconvincing widowed single dad who buys a pub to reclaim his reputation as a top chef and purveyor of good English food (yawn).  The cliches mount up as he clashes, then bonds, then falls for food critic Kate (CLAIRE FORLANI – MEET JOE BLACK) whilst winning back his reputation and the hearts and stomachs of the local villagers led by ex-rocker Peter Bowles (LILTING). The makers obviously think being an arrogant c*nt is the magic key to writing rom-com gold. Well it isn’t.

Love’s Kitchen is flatter than Norfolk. It’s a dead and pale affair only livened up by a ripe Simon Callow (SOFT TOP, HARD SHOULDER) (in a brief supporting role as a TV critic.)  When the film threatens to tie the events up with a last minute romantic dash to the airport I wanted to throw the TV out of the window (except it’s too heavy).  TV super-chef Gordon Ramsay (HELL’S KITCHEN) puts in a sheepish performance as himself and adds to the cringe factor no end. Michelle Ryan (EASTENDERS) is probably fairly sidelined and awkward as a loyal waitress and I’ve forgotten about all the other cardboard cut-outs that show up along the way. A cartoon villain is about as funny as 12 years of  12 Years a Slave – so even Love’s Kitchen‘s attempts at humour are complete abortions. I began to dread watching the actors faces as they’d scoop up some of Dougray Scott‘s food, stop chewing, roll their eyes as if someone’s stick a feather up their arse and exclaim that they were eating the best thing they’d ever tasted. All the food looked pale, undercooked and shit. It’s the least appetising movie about food ever made and the least enticing. Makers of  Chef, Babette’s Feast, The Lunch Box take a long bow!

Shame on the makers for presenting such a pig’s bollock of a rom-com. This has about as much life as a Bradford roller disco. Avoid like a week old milk. It’s that rotten. Dougray Scott as a romantic lead is just creepy. Imagine Ray Liotta as a kindergarten teacher, or Christopher Walken as an Ewok and you’re getting an idea of how mis-cast this Scots bore is.

1.5 out of 10 – A boring shambles and an embarrassment to all who are involved. A pale, offensive, very weak and charmless rom-com. Paying audiences were wise to steer clear. They could probably smell the shit cooking from the street pavement.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Dougray Scott: Tiger House, Taken 3, The Last Passenger, Dr Who (TV), Death Race 3, A Thousand Kisses Deep, My Week With Marilyn, Love’s Kitchen, United, New Town Killers, Hitman, Desperate Housewives (TV), Dark Water, One Last Chance, To Kill a King, Ripley’s Game, Enigma, Mission Impossible 2, Gregory’s Girl 2, This Year’s Love, Ever After, Deep Impact, Another 9.5 Weeks, Twin Town, The Crow Road (TV), Soldier Soldier (TV)
  • Claire Forlani: NCIS – Los Angeles (TV), CSI – NY (TV), Flashbacks of a Fool, In the Name of the King, Hallam Foe, Ripley Underground, Green Street, The Medallion, Northfork, Triggermen, Antitrust, Mystery Men, Meet Joe Black, The Last Time I Committed Suicide, Basquiat, Mallrats, The Rock, Police Academy 7
  • Peter Bowles: Lilting, The Bank Job, Freebird, To The Manor Born (TV), The Steal, Rumpole Of The Bailey (TV), Only When I Laugh (TV), Blow Up
  • Lee Boardman: The Interceptor (TV), DaVinci’s Demons (TV), Fated, Rome (TV)
  • Michelle Ryan: Cockneys vs Zombies, Cleanskin, Huge, The Man Inside (2012), 4-3-2-1, Cashback, Wonder Woman (TV), Eastenders (TV)
  • Holly Gibbs: Mob Handed, The Story of Tracey Beaker (TV), Nanny McPhee
  • Caroline Langrishe: Casualty (TV), Lovejoy (TV)
  • Adam Fogerty: Bait (2015), Plastic, Assault The Darkness, Snatch
  • Pip Torrens: Kids In Love, Poldark (TV), Gemma Bovery, My Week With Marilyn, St Trinians 2, Flood, Rogue Trader, The Remains Of The Day
  • Katrine De Candole: Fated
  • Cheri Lunghi: Secret Diary of a Call Girl (TV), The Brief (TV), Burn Hollywood Burn, Jack & Sarah, Frankenstein (1994), The Manageress (TV), To Kill a Priest, The Mission, Excalibur
  • Gordon Ramsay: Kitchen Nightmares (TV), Hell’s Kitchen (TV), Hotel Hell (TV), Masterchef (TV), The F Word (TV)
  • Simon Callow: Hampstead, Golden Years, Outlander (TV), Ripley Underground, The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Bright Young Things, Thunderpants, No Man’s Land, Shakespeare In Love, Bedrooms and Hallways, The Scarlet Tunic, James and The Giant Peach (voice), Ace Ventura 2, Jefferson In Paris, Streetfighter, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Soft Top Hard Shoulder, Mr & Mrs Bridge, Postcards From The Edge, Maurice, A Room With a View, Amadeus

WEST IS WEST

5 out of 10

Release Date: 25th February 2011

Director: Andy De Emmony (Love Bite)

Cast: Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Aqib Khan, Emil Marwa, Ila Arun, Vijay Raaz, Nadim Sawalha, Raj Bhansali, Lesley Nicol, Zita Sattar with Jimi Mistry and Robert Pugh

Writer: Ayub Kahn Din

Trailer: WEST IS WEST

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To be proofread: This belated sequel to 1999’s East Is East is less funny but more poignant and dramatic.  Inverting the culture clashes of the first film which saw Pakistani George Khan (OM PURI – MY SON THE FANATIC) and his English wife Ella (LINDA BASSETT – CASS) bring up their brood of kids who just want a normal life. Ella also discovered that George had a first wife and a family living back in Pakistan. In West Is West all their children have flown the coop with the exception of the youngest Sajid (AQIB KHAN). George sees this as the last chance to bring up a good Pakistani child. Sajid is the most wayward of the brood yet and George takes drastic measures to bring him back in line with a trip to Pakistan. After 30 years will his old family embrace him or shun him. The situation throws up some interesting questions and situations made more palatable by a light touch and funny observations about the contrasts between Pakistan and the UK in the late 1970s.

West Is West is a refreshing sequel in that it doesn’t rehash elements of the old film for sentimental reasons. East Is East was a successful blend of comedy and drama. West Is West works better in it’s quieter moments rather than it’s comedy. Much of the drama that was planted in the first films plot comes to a head in this film so there’s a lot less room for brevity leaving much of it stitched on or added in at the last moment. Aqib Khan‘s acting is a touch wooden at times too – which fluffs a number of the gags. The game international cast are largely fine though with five members of the original cast returning – even Jimi Mistry (BASEMENT) turns up in a brief cameo as a dodgy womaniser.  Various members of the community are enlisted by George to improve Sajid’s outlook on the world including a wise old man Pir Nassem (NADIM SAWALHA – THE SPY WHO LOVED ME). These scenes in particular are very corny (well-played though) and are reminiscent of the scenes from The Empire Strikes Back with Yoda!

Separate scenes between George and his first and second wives are touching and are worth the viewing alone. It’s the gravity of  George’s life situation that generates the energy of the film, but it also unbalances everything else, rendering previous struggles in the film merely trivial. For instance older brother Meneer’s (EMIL MARWA – DOGHOUSE) quest for a wife is disposable, pointless and played for weak laughs. It seems rushed and stapled on.

So West Is West is a mixed bag. It’s not entirely successful but gains points for re-establishing well loved characters and giving them an interesting story arc (for the most part). Most viewers are back for the light comedy though and the film is low on really good laughs. It feels like the latter stages of Only Fools and Horses when the writers felt the need to give the characters dramatic baggage at the expense of any fun. Great performances from a seasoned cast particularly Om Puri and Ila Arun (as George’s first wife).

5 out of 10 – Worthwhile for the drama but very weak in the laughter department – this culture clash has enough legs to see it through this sequel, but a part three would be most unwelcome. Not as good as part one and that’s all you need to know.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Om Puri: The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Shoot On Sight, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Ballad Of Mangal Pandey (voice), Code 46, The Parole Officer, East Is East, Such a Long Journey, My Son The Fanatic, The Ghost and The Darkness, Brothers In Trouble, Wolf (1994), In Custody, City Of Joy
  • Linda Bassett:  Call The Midwife (TV), Effie Gray, Cass, The Reader, Kinky Boots, Separate Lies, Calendar Girls, The Hours, The Martins, Beautiful People, East Is East, Oscar & Lucinda, Alive & Kicking (1995), Let Him Have It
  • Emil Marwa: Doghouse, Code 46, East Is East
  • Vijay Raaz: Delhi Belly, Monsoon Wedding
  • Nadim Sawalha: The Nativity Story, Syriana, Dangerfield (TV), The Avengers, The Hawk, Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger, James Bond – The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Lesley Nicol: Downton Abbey (TV), East Is East
  • Zita Sattar: Casualty (TV)
  • Jimi Mistry: Coronation Street (TV), The ArborBasement, Exam, 2012, Blood Diamond, My Kingdom, Eastenders (TV), The Guru,  Rock-n-Rolla, Born Romantic, East Is East
  • Robert Pugh: Game of Thrones (TV),  Love Bite, Hunky Dory, The Ghost, Robin Hood (2010), Kinky Boots, Master and Commander – Far Side Of The World, Enigma, The Tichborne Claimant, Different For Girls, The Near Room, Priest (1994), The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Casualty (TV), Brookside (TV)

TERRY

1.5 out of 10

Release Date: 10th March 2011

Director: Nick Nevern (The Hooligan Factory)

Cast: Nick Nevern, Ian Duck, Manuel Atkinson, Daniel Burten-Shaw

Writer: Nick Nevern

Trailer: TERRY

Unknown-12TO BE PROOFREAD: Terry was actor/director Nick Nevern’s (MRS BROWN’S BOYS D’MOVIE) industry calling card back in 2011.  He since shown that given the right role he’s dependable mainstay in the UK’s independent cottage industry having worked with all the other ‘faces’ since. I’d been putting off watching this ever since I began watching the beginning on LoveFilm’s freeview. I got as far as ten minutes and turned it off and put it back on my DVD delivery list. Now some funny bugger down at the depot thought they’d send me Tony and Terry at the same time. Sadly Terry only wishes to lick the boot laces of the superior Tony. It’s filmed like the camera man had his apparatus on a bungee chord and director Nick Nevern seems to be happy to lazily ape the non-stylings of mock-doc Man Bites Dog,

The plot as it stands is film student Charlie Ruez (MANUEL ATKINSON) has an unoriginal brainwave to make a documentary about vain thug Terry (NICK NEVERN). The fake filmmaker intends to just follow Terry around and observe his average day.  Most of the film is a blur of scrapes with just about everybody they come into contact with. There’s a dopey best friend to snort bags of coke with (IAN DUCK) and a comic but ultimately deadly adversary Billy Black (DANIEL BURTEN-SHAW) to contend with too. If I was Charlie’s film lecturer at this university I wouldn’t have even gotten past the first five minutes of this self-congratulatory piece of shit sh*t.  Terry is hard work and even though we’re treated to very realistic and naturalistic performers as an exploitation flick it’s just badly filmed, repetitive and criminally dull. It’s ill-advised shot of redemption at the end rings hollow given all the mischief that had occurred over the course of the film’s running time. As stated Nick Nevern has gone on to bigger and better things (I don’t know what’s become of the rest of his game cast) and his second film as director is just around the corner, The Hooligan Factory of which we can hope there are at least a few things to recommend.

1.5 out of 10 – Barely watchable, exploitation flick that wants to be Man Bites Dog 2 but just ends up being an unoriginal derivative fanboy of the latter. For fans of Nick Nevern only, this will test your patience though.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?