Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Field of Blood (BBC One)

Here's my Orange review of the first part of The Field of Blood, a very watchable thriller set around a Glasgow city paper newsroom in the early 1980s. It's written and directed by David Kane, based on a novel by Denise Mina.

I'm very surprised it didn't receive more promotion (having been broadcast in Scotland earlier in the year). It's definitely worth a look on iPlayer.

Set designers must make quite a few bob these days from recreating the murky world of the '70s and '80s – after Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes and Red Riding, we're now back to the smoky fug of an early '80s news room for The Field of Blood, a grim and gritty two-parter. 
Adapted from a novel by Glaswegian crime writer Denise Mina, it revolves around Paddy Meehan (Jayd Johnson), an ambitious (female) copy boy on one of the city's newspapers who aspires to becoming a fully fledged journalist.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Page Eight (David Hare), BBC Two

Here's a quick Orange review of tonight's upmarket spy drama Page Eight, written and directed by David Hare.

While Page Eight is a spy drama produced for the BBC, the similarities with Spooks end there. As you'd guess from a cast led by Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon, these spies, ahem, rock it old skool. However, after taking a while to warm up, David Hare's film eventually cranked up the tension in a satisfying way.

Nighy carried the piece as Johnny Worricker, a veteran MI5 officer who became drawn into a dangerous game when his boss and lifelong friend (Gambon) gave him a file revealing that the Government had been colluding secretly with the US to use intelligence gained via torture.

Meanwhile, Johnny's alluring neighbour Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz) started to butt her way into his life. With Nancy being the daughter of an Arab activist and angry over the covered-up killing of her brother by Israeli soldiers, we were invited to wonder if she had a hidden agenda.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Man Who Crossed Hitler (BBC Two)

Another quick review for Orange - The Man Who Crossed Hitler, last night's drama on BBC Two.

Last night's drama shone a little light on a remarkable but obscure moment in history. It depicted the occasion in 1931 when ambitious German lawyer Hans Litten called Adolf Hitler to the witness box in an attempt to scupper his rise to power.

However, that summary highlights the main problem with the film: we know, sadly, that Hitler wasn't ruined by his court appearance, so the biggest question in the drama was – for all Litten's moral courage – how glorious a failure his attempt was going to be.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

(Repost) Glorious 39/Q&A with Stephen Poliakoff

Sunday night was a goodie for films on BBC: as well as Mid-August Lunch and Fish Tank, we also had Stephen Poliakoff's Glorious 39 (which is still available on iPlayer until 10.59 on Sunday 21st)

When the film came out we saw it at the BFI, followed by a Q&A with the writer/director, so I thought it might be worth reposting that:

This is a bit after the event (Blame it on St Ives), but the other week we saw Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39 at the BFI, followed by a Q&A with the writer/director, as well as cast members Romola Garai and Bill Nighy.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Borgias (Sky 1)

A little after the event, here's a quick review of The Borgias I wrote for Orange.

Even with my limited grasp of Renaissance history, it seems obvious the dark doings of the notorious Borgia family should make good telly. Add to that the talents of writer/director Neil Jordan (Mona Lisa, The Crying Game), and we had to be on to a winner. Didn't we?

Well, for anyone expecting a glossy hurricane of sex and violence, the first episode of this nine-parter might have come as a bit of a shock. Instead of bloody excesses, we had the clandestine pigeon-based politicking required to make sure that family patriarch Rodrigo (Jeremy Irons) was elected as pope.

With a ponderous pace and distinct lack of humour, the opening hour definitely dragged until very close to the end, when Rodrigo’s son and lieutenant Cesare (Francois Arnaud) foiled an assassination attempt and hired the would-be murderer (the excellent Sean Harris) to work for the Borgias instead.

Monday, 15 August 2011

(Repost) 15 August 1968: The day I won the lottery

(I posted the original version of this last year, but given the date I think it seemed totally appropriate to post it again.)

The queen and I don't have much in common, but we do both celebrate two 'birthdays'. Forty-three years ago today, my mum and dad, John and Rita, collected three-month-old me from the Home for Catholic Friendless Children in Liverpool.

Obviously not everyone has had such a happy experience, but being adopted was a priceless gift to me. While a lot of parents seemed to treat their kids as an inconvenience, knowing how many hurdles my parents had to jump to get me made me realise just how wanted I was.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Salt of Life (Gianni Di Gregorio)

(Edit: We went to see The Salt of Life yesterday, at the very comfortable Picturehouse in Greenwich. It was as enjoyable as I'd hoped, with some beautiful subtle touches that reflect perfectly the male outlook on life.

The atmosphere of the film was very similar to Mid-August Lunch, and many of the same cast members shone again - especially the marvellous Valeria de Franciscis as his mother.

My only reservation would be that the ending wasn't totally satisfactory, although the little montage that ends the film, to Here Comes Your Man by (the) Pixies, was an absolute joy.

In addition, Mid-August Lunch was on BBC Four last night - so it'll be available on iPlayer until, hmm, let's think, 12:54am on Wednesday 24 August.)

A couple of years ago we were lucky enough to see Gianni Di Gregorio's lovely film Mid-August Lunch, which won the Satyajit Ray Award. I blogged about it here.

Anyway, it was a very nice surprise to get an email from the Barbican Cinema saying that his new film, The Salt of Life, will be on from the end of the week. Here's the blurb and a trailer:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

BAFTA/BFI Screenwriters' Lecture Series (September)

NB. The site (http://tiny.cc/p23ov) says 'public tickets on sale soon', but by clicking through the booking link for Charlie Kaufman I was able to buy a couple.

Some of the world's finest screenwriters explore the art and craft of storytelling through their own words
"Without great scripts, films are nothing. born from a desire to celebrate the art of screenwriting and acknowledge its primacy in film, the inaugural 2010 Screenwriters' Lecture Series had a huge cultural impact. With the aim of making this the greatest celebration of screenwriting in the world, BAFTA and BFI are proud to announce an extraordinary line-up of speakers for our second year, featuring many of cinema's major screenwriting voices."
Jeremy Brock, Screenwriter and Founder of the Lecture Series
  • Tue 13 Sep, BAFTA: William Nicholson (Shadowlands, Gladiator)

  • Fri 16 Sep:, BAFTA: Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe)

  • Tue 20 Sep, BFI: John Logan (The Aviator, Any Given Sunday)

  • Mon 26 Sep, BFI: Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel)

  • Tue 27 Sep, BAFTA: Frank Cottrell Boyce (Welcome to Sarajevo, Hilary and Jackie, 24-Hour Party People)

  • Thu 29 Sep, BFI: Paul Laverty (numerous collaborations with Ken Loach)

  • Fri 30 Sep, BFI: Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovitch, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine... etc)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Trollied (Sky 1): a sitcom with a bit of heart

Here's a quick review of tonight's Trollied I wrote for Orange.

As a grizzled veteran of the North-West value supermarket scene, part of me was looking forward to Trollied, Sky 1’s new sitcom. Meanwhile, another part was dreading it, fearing something like When the Whistle Blows, the awful comedy-within-a-comedy in Extras. So, how did it turn out?

I’m happy to say the opening double bill fared well, even if the comedy never reached a higher gear than “gentle” and a couple of gags got flogged to death.

With a quality ensemble cast, including Jane Horrocks (above) and Mark Addy (The Full Monty, Game of Thrones), it flitted at first from character to character a bit like a sketch show, before beginning to hint that there was a bit more going on beneath the surface.

The Fades, written by Jack Thorne: preview at BFI

Exciting! I just got an email from the BFI announcing a late addition to their September programme...

TV Preview: The Fades + Q&A

Mon 12 Sept 18:20 NFT3
From award winning writer Jack Thorne (This Is England '86, Skins, The Scouting Book For Boys, Cast Offs) comes The Fades.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Daniel Kitson: It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later (extra dates)

I've sung the praises of comedian/storyteller Daniel Kitson on here more than once, and the recently announced run of his latest show - It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later - at the Lyttleton Theatre (National Theatre, London) sold out sharpish.

However, he's announced a few more performances at the same venue in December:

Monday, 1 August 2011

Circalit writing competition (Deadline: 10 September)

This has been posted extensively elsewhere, but just in case anyone is using this blog as their sole source of screenwriting info...

Get your Short Film Script Produced by an Award Winning Director
Circalit Announces Free Short Film Competition 

Award winning London director, Gabriel Bisset-Smith, will produce the winning script of a new screenwriting competition at Circalit . Bisset-Smith is best known as a writer on Channel 4's ‘Skins’ and as the director/writer of the short film Thrush , which won the Tenderpixel Audience Award at Rushes Soho Shorts, the Vimeo Best Narrative Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the Disposable Film Festival. The competition is free to enter, and Bisset-Smith will choose one script to turn into a film in the unique style of ‘Thrush’. The public can also read and vote for their favourite entries at www.circalit.com/projects/competitions/gabriel/toprated .

Bisset-Smith commented, " As a writer it's often incredibly difficult to get anyone to take your script seriously, so I'm glad I can offer this opportunity for a talented writer to take that leap from writing to production. The quality of scripts on Circalit is generally very high so I'm excited to read through the entries and I look forward to getting started on producing one."

The deadline for entries is 10th September 2011. Scripts should be no more than 5 pages in length. For more information please visit www.circalit.com/projects/competitions/gabriel/ .