Tag Archives: British films



The Fab Four, back when they were the Fab Five

Make a Beatles biopic with absolutely no Beatles music in it. Go on, I dare you.

Getting the Fab Four to grace your movie or TV show, however big your budget, is notoriously difficult. Their manager Neal Aspinall was wary of diluting the brand, and for years Michael Jackson jealously hoarded the back catalogue (I picture him as an etiolated, racially ambiguous dragon crouching in the bowels of Neverland on a crumpled heap of sheet music, occasionally pawing a copy of Lady Madonna and hissing semi-threateningly through his nose). Since Jackson’s untimely/ timely demise (I have no clear idea how old he was, which I’m sure he would have been happy to know), a cover might occasionally slip through the net (The Black Crowes doing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on the I Am Sam Soundtrack, a bunch of then-unknowns with an unwelcome cameo from Bono in the dull musical Across the Universe). It reportedly took $250,000 and a lot of earnest sweet talking for HBO’s Mad Men to use a snippet of the psychedelic mind bender Tomorrow Never Knows in their final series, and who knows how much for The Social Network to get Baby, You’re a Rich Man playing out over the end titles (worth it).

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The End of the Affair

EA - Happy couple.jpg

Spoiler alert: they don’t stay this happy for long

There’s not many Certificate 18 films in my collection, which I like to think is more of a reflection on my total lack of capacity for horror or violence rather than any particular prudishness. It’s actually quite difficult to get an 18 rating for sex outside of actual porn, it seems – you can have any number of fuzzily lit bedroom scenes complete with clenched jaws and bulging forehead veins without unduly bothering the censors (though it helps if they’re heterosexual, of course), and when you see a film like Danny Boyle’s Trance starring a lovingly rendered slow pan up Rosario Dawson’s naked body – entirely naked, you understand, given ladies who choose to eschew even a token tuft of pubic hair somehow manage to be an actual plot point (the Hollywood wax being particularly aptly named here) – and realise it merited only a 15, you have to wonder what it would take to get bumped up. (The answer being, of course, full frontal male nudity, which still makes the Film Certification Board come over all unnecessary in the manner of a Victorian lady in need of a fainting couch and explains why in the same film all you get of an equally naked Vincent Cassel on screen is a coy glimpse of his right calf). Continue reading

Dog Soldiers

Man, your breath stinks

Breath mint?

There is absolutely no reason why I should enjoy this film, let alone own a copy. I am scared, properly unenjoyably terrified, by horror films. I dislike movies which glorify the armed forces. I hate gore, and suspense, and being made to guess in which order the whole cast are going to die and in which inventive way the next person is going to snuff it. I especially hate films which have an all-male cast running round casually toting enormous guns with a token female in a vest top thrown in as an afterthought.

So as you can imagine it’s quite a relief to find I must not be quite the Grinch-y, bitter, humourless scaredy-cat I affect to be most of the time, because I adore Dog Soldiers. At last count it’s one of only two horror films in my collection (hold out for 28 Days Later at some point), and on a rewatch I believe the reason why can be attributed to one thing alone: It’s all down to the Geordies.

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Sliding Doors

Gwyneth does her best impression of an ordinary person

Gwyneth does her best impression of an ordinary person

Perhaps in the end, all British people want to be convinced that Hollywood stars would much rather be living in England. And not living in England like Gwennie used to before her ‘conscious uncoupling’, writing ecstatically in her scary lifestyle blog about her yoga retreats and the best way to make your own almond milk. No, we’d like to imagine they’re just like us – complaining half-heartedly about tube delays, drinking English Breakfast, putting up with twattish British men on unsatisfactory mini-breaks and popping out of a Thursday evening for sharing plates with their mates in overpriced bistros. Why bother with all those palm trees and red carpets when you could be enjoying half a pint of mild in a draughty pub somewhere?

Anyway, a long time ago (17 years! I’ll give you a moment to mourn the inevitable yet astonishing passing of time) in a galaxy far, far away (West London is basically its own universe) Gwyneth Paltrow brit-ed up like a trouper to join John Hannah in giving us that classic of the rom-com genre, Sliding Doors. Still occasionally popping up as shorthand to describe the ‘what might have been’ effect, the moral of the story appears to be that if mildly bad things happen (missing your train) you shouldn’t worry because everything will turn out pretty great in the end, at least right up until you (spoilers) die traumatically and prematurely. If mildly good things happen (catching your train), then this just means that you’ll be in blissful ignorance of the terrible things happening all around you for a while longer. No honestly, it’s a rom-com, but writing a proper plot synopsis for this one is up there with trying to explain Primer. The only thing you really need to know is that there are two Gwyneth Paltrows in this film, differentiated by their haircuts and living out two parallel existences after a significant split in their timelines (like Terry Pratchett’s ‘Trousers of Time’ theory but with more public transport). Continue reading

Blue Juice

Surfing in Cornwall. God it looks chilly.

Surfing in Cornwall. God it looks chilly.

I saw Blue Juice before I had much concept of Cornwall as a semi-independent sovereign state clinging reluctantly on to the tail end of England. But even then (what was it, about 1996? Taped off the telly and one of the only things my older brother and I could agree on to watch, anyway) I could see it was a different kind of place. There were surfers where I came from, sure. But this was surf culture. In the north, anyone who was daft enough to venture into the sea was too busy getting their circulation back and self-treating incipient frost bite to retain the energy to think up new slang and grow their hair long. Quiksilver hoodies, beach raves and flip flops as functional outdoor wear were all exotic concepts of which we could only dream.

The surfing stuff is obviously going to be the draw of this film for some people (extreme sports fans, neoprene enthusiasts), and apparently the actors all had training beforehand. But endearingly they’re pretty obviously all rubbish at it, except for Sean Pertwee’s JD who you barely see in action until the big set piece at the end when he’s obviously being doubled. There might be some token chat about ‘perfect barrels’, ‘six foot and clean’ and the like, but I sort of appreciate the film doesn’t try to cram in too many duplicated scenes of virtuosity to make their point or drag in the enthusiasts. In the end, this is not really a surf film in the same way that Riding Giants is, or that – god help us – Blue Crush tries to be. Continue reading