Saturday, 16 December 2017

NEWS: RIP Bruce Gray - September 7th 1936 – December 13th 2017

Bruce Gray, one of the stars of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and as investment banker Adam Cunningham on the 1990s Traders TV drama, has died. 

Gray was 81.

Gray passed away in Los Angeles on Wednesday after a bout with brain cancer, his Toronto agent Jennifer Goldhar has confirmed.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ALL Trailers + Extras (2017)

Check out this compilation of all the trailers and clips in Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Stephen Woolley: A Life In Film

For the best part of 35 years, Stephen Woolley has been a driving force in British film, responsible for bringing a dizzying array of films to the silver screen. His formative years were spent tearing tickets at the Screen On The Green in London before going on to own the celebrated Scala cinema. He subsequently formed Palace Video with Nik Powell, a partnership that delivered films as diverse as The Evil Dead and When Harry Met Sally to UK audiences, and it was in this period that his producing career really began to take off. A true champion of Brit cinema, 2017 has proved a very successful year for Woolley, with Their Finest proving a critical smash. His latest offering is a full-blooded adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s acclaimed novel, The Limehouse Golem, starring Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth and Olivia Cooke (available digitally on Christmas Day before arriving on Blu-ray and DVD on December 26th), a release that gives us the perfect opportunity to delve into Woolley’s past and call out some of the highlights from a career with too many to mention:

The Company Of Wolves (1984)
One of a number of pairings with long time creative partner Neil Jordan, The Company Of Wolves is a wonderful fairy tale cult movie that rivals 1981’s An American Werewolf In London for sheer special effects magnificence. The story focuses on a young woman who drifts into a nightmare-filled sleep populated with lycanthropic threats realised spectacularly long before CGI could help, but this is a curio that gives in a variety of ways, not least of which being Angela Lansbury’s winning performance as Granny and genre stalwart David Warner thrown into the mix for good measure. Co-written by Angela Carter, the film picked up four BAFTA Award nominations.

Mona Lisa (1986)
A genuine British classic, Mona Lisa once again sees Woolley partnered with Jordan to produce a grime-tinged love story that follows an ex-con recently released from prison (Bob Hoskins, delivering a hammer blow of a performance) who gets a job driving a high-class call girl (Cathy Tyson) from customer to customer. As his feelings for the hooker grow, his ability to deal with her situation collapses and what follows is a master class in emotional impotence and stultifying repression that elicits truly magnetic performances from everyone involved. Hoskins won a Golden Globe; Best Actor in Cannes; a BAFTA; and just missed out on the Oscar to Paul Newman for his role in the film.

The Crying Game (1992)
Although Woolley’s career was already flying by this point, The Crying Game was nevertheless something of a watershed moment and ahead of its time, with the film picking up an Oscar for best screenplay for Neil Jordan, as well as receiving five further nominations including a Producers Guild award and Best Picture nod with Woolley’s name against it. Ostensibly a thriller set against the backdrop of The Troubles in Ireland, the film is elevated by peerless performances from a talented cast that includes Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker and Miranda Richardson, although it’s perhaps equally well known for Jaye Davidson’s rug-pulling sexual curveball (clue – look out for the erroneous Adam’s apple...).

Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
A film version of Anne Rice’s epic vampire saga had long been mooted, with Elton John, John Travolta and a host of other equally bizarre names circling the project for decades before Woolley and co arrived on the scene. Once Woolley (yep, with Jordan again) got things moving, however, it wasn’t plain sailing, with Rice taking out a full-page ad decrying the casting of Tom Cruise as her beloved vampire, Lestat. It was all change when the film came out, mind, with Rice retracting her statement and throwing her full support behind a performance from Cruise that shocked and surprised many – in a good way!

The End Of The Affair (1999)
Based on the melancholy novel of the same name by Graham Greene, The End Of the Affair sees Woolley delivering another study in repressed emotions as Julianne Moore (Oscar nominated for her troubles) and Ralph Fiennes rekindle a long dead extra marital affair in gloom-addled 1940s Britain. Stylistically beautiful and painfully reserved, The End of The Affair picked up an impressive 10 BAFTA nominations and is a surprisingly savage, difficult watch that lives squarely in the realm of tragedy much more than it does in romance, with Fiennes and Moore rarely better than they both are here. Not much of a date movie, though.

Stoned (2005)
A man of many talents, 2005 saw Woolley turn his hand to directing – with lesser known but very well received biographical drama, Stoned, the result. A highly absorbing and accomplished tale of the demise of the Rolling Stones founder, Brian Jones, it took Woolley 10 years to get the film to the big screen – a true labour of love that paid off handsomely. For the camera-work, colour and montage sequences alone Stoned is worth seeing, but that’s not where its merits end. Whether a fan of the band or not, this is an interesting film full of directing techniques and skilful editing that blend into a heady mix of rock and roll excess which takes the viewer to the sixties and back through one of the most interesting stories of the time.

Made In Dagenham (2010)
Woolley teamed up with producer Elizabeth Karlsen and reunited with Bob Hoskins for something altogether more joyous than Mona Lisa in the form of a dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant that saw female workers walk out in protest against sexual discrimination. This might not sound like a laugh-riot but with Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, Jaime Winston and Daniel Mays alongside Hoskins, you’re safely in classic Brit-com territory, something backed up by the recent musical version of the film starring Gemma Arteton that has taken the West End by storm.

Byzantium (2012)
There are enough curios in Woolley’s back catalogue to really give the impression that the man loves a bit of folklore. If The Company Of Wolves was his love letter to Red Riding Hood, and Interview With The Vampire was his slice of gothic romance, Byzantium seems to be him bringing folk tales bang up to date as Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan play two vampires holed up in a fading seaside town, only to ignite the ire of some ill-informed locals. Written by Moira Buffini based on her play and another film borne out of Woolley’s long-time partnership with Neil Jordan, Byzantium should be considered essential viewing for anyone brought up under the illusion that Twilight is how to make a modern vampire movie.

Carol (2015)
A visual and emotional feast, Carol is based on the novel, ‘The Price of Salt’, by Patricia Highsmith, someone who has continued to deliver a rich vein of cinematic gold ever since 1951’s Strangers On A Train (with nuggets like The Talented Mr Ripley and The Two Faces of January dropped in more recently along the way). Cate Blanchett stars as the society woman captivated by a younger shop girl in what was considered a racy text upon its original publication. That it was still considered daring as a mainstream release perhaps says more about modern mores than it should, but there’s no doubting this is another essential entry in Woolley’s back catalogue, and definitely one of the most beautiful. Teaming up with his producing partner Elizabeth Karlsen once again, Carol caught the eye of the Awards judges, earning nine BAFTA and six Oscar nominations.

The Limehouse Golem (2016)
All of which brings us to The Limehouse Golem. When one considers the themes of repression, folklore and sexuality that pepper Woolley’s career it’s not hard to see why he was attracted to Peter Ackroyd’s novel. Mixing real life historical figures (Karl Marx; music hall star Dan Leno) with pseudo-Ripper mythology, The Limehouse Golem still manages to throw in some pertinent comments on repressed sexuality through Bill Nighy’s gay policeman who must deal with whispering colleagues as much as he must track down the brutal titular killer. Adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman, this is a studied piece, as artful as it is horrifying, and featuring a cast playing against type to fantastic effect. A smog-filled London serves as the perfect backdrop and, with the film releasing on Blu-ray and DVD in time for some Boxing Day chills, The Limehouse Golem is a refreshing change to more traditional Christmas horror stories.

The Limehouse Golem is available on digital platforms from December 25th and on Blu-ray and DVD from December 26th courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Thursday, 14 December 2017

A definitive countdown of our favourite Bill Nighy films

Bill Nighy is one of the country’s beloved character actors and whether he’s breaking hearts in Love, Actually, swashing his buckle in Pirates of the Caribbean or spinning records in The Boat That Rocked, Nighy has always been one of the nation’s most dextrous and treasured performers. In The Limehouse Golem – which arrives on Digital Download on Christmas Day, and on Blu-ray and DVD on Boxing Day – Nighy remarkably takes his first ever role as a detective, Inspector Kildare, who must discover the identity of mass serial killer, nicknamed ‘the Limehouse Golem’, who is terrorising the streets of Victorian London.
In honour of Nighy and his multi-faceted acting talents, let’s take a look at some of his greatest roles, to date.

Love, Actually (2003)
A perennial Christmas classic, Love Actually has stood the test of time and remains a firm favourite in households up and down the country. In the romantic comedy, Nighy has a ball as jaded rock’n’roll star Billy Mack; a character who keeps his frazzled manager Joe (Gregor Fisher) on his toes with his unpredictability and outlandish character. A ticking time bomb and no stranger to swearing live on air, Mack is a loose cannon who cannot be tamed. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Mack’s world has narrowed and Joe is the only one who’s been there for him through thick and thin. Perfectly cast in a role that seems on the surface a caricature, Nighy adds bittersweet notes; creating the light and shade that has had audiences hooked for well over a decade. 

Shaun of the Dead (2004) 
The role of the incredibly grumpy and cold Philip in Edgar Wright’s Horror/Comedy Shaun of the Dead was something of a departure for Nighy, as he is anything but loveable from the moment he appears on screen. The film follows our mess of a protagonist, Shaun (Simon Pegg), whose epiphany that leaves him desperate to get his life back on track happens to coincide with the start of the zombie apocalypse. When he goes to rescue his dear mother, he decides he should probably take his step-dad (he’s definitely not his step-dad) with them. Even though it’s clear the world is crumbling around them, Philip doesn’t miss a chance to have a few swift digs at his wife’s screw-up of a son, in the classic quick-witted style Nighy’s known and loved for.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Another not so subtle role for Nighy came in 2006’s fantasy action adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. In the film Nighy plays one of the standout roles of the franchise; Davy Jones, a bizarre part octopus, part lobster, part man, who was once a human. Unable to deal with the grief of losing his true love, Jones cuts out his heart and puts it in the Dead Man’s Chest, which he then hides in a secret location. Not content with this, he takes it upon himself to collect the souls of dead or dying soldiers to serve on his ship, The Flying Dutchman, for 100 years. Jones also makes a return in the third instalment, At World’s End, with just a glimpse of him appearing in the fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales; a fact that Nighy himself wasn’t aware of until the film’s release!

The Boat That Rocked (2009)
Richard Curtis clearly sees Bill Nighy for what he is: One of the coolest men on the planet. For the second time (after Love, Actually), Bill is cast by one of Britain’s most prolific filmmakers as a true rock ‘n’ roller, desperate to keep the dream alive! Nighy plays Quentin, who runs pirate station Radio Rock; a station anchored in the North Sea and home to some of the most rebellious disc jockeys the swinging sixties had to offer. Nighy absolutely oozes cool in this role, and if we had to shack up with one person in the North Sea with nothing but liquor and rock ‘n’ roll music, he’d definitely top our list!

About Time (2013)
About Time is another Curtis-Nighy collaboration that sees Nighy adopt a slightly softer persona as James Lake; an early retiree with a fondness for Dickens and table tennis, husband to Mary (Lindsay Duncan), father to budding lawyer Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), and... oh, he’s also a time-traveller. In fact, so is Tim; time travel is a talent that runs through all the men in the Lake family. The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, James reveals this time-bending trick to his son, and warns him that his new-found ability is something to use wisely and not on a whim. James departs his wisdom upon Tim, who soon learns that his unique gift can't save him from the sorrows and ups and downs that affect all families, everywhere. Tim discovers that, in the end, making the most of life may not need time travel at all. Surely one of the most adorable and moving father-son relationships on film.

Their Finest (2016)
As Ambrose Hilliard, Nighy meets the indignity of playing a terrible actor brilliantly, serving thick chunks of largely talent-free ham in the scenes where he acts like he’s acting, while balancing that with the tragic weight of reality in more private moments as he both fights against and simultaneously accepts the hand the war has dealt his career as an actor. Scenes opposite Henry Goodman and Helen McRory (who individually and to varying degrees of success serve as Hilliard’s manager) allow him to let rip and deliver some peak Nighy, but he’s just as good when failing to realise he’s being manipulated by Gemma Arterton’s canny Catrin.

The Limehouse Golem (2017)
Victorian London is gripped with fear as a serial killer – dubbed The Limehouse Golem – is on the loose and leaving cryptic messages written in his victims’ blood.  With few leads and increasing public pressure, Scotland Yard assigns the case to Inspector Kildare (Nighy) – a seasoned detective with a troubled past and a sneaking suspicion he’s being set up to fail.  Faced with a list of suspects, including music hall star Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), Kildare must discover which one is the killer before the Golem strikes again. The Limehouse Golem marks a departure from Nighy’s traditional romantic-comedy safe ground, further showcasing his talent and cementing his position as one of Britain’s best loved actors.

The Limehouse Golem is available on Digital Download on Christmas Day, and on Blu-ray and DVD on Boxing Day

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Song of Granite - Official Trailer

SONG OF GRANITE revolves around the life of the great traditional Irish singer, Joe Heaney. The harsh landscape combined with the myths, fables and songs of his Connemara childhood helped shape this complex and fascinating character. Enigmatic and complex, Heaney’s devotion to his art came at a huge personal cost.

Joe Heaney was born just outside of Carna in 1919. From an early age, he was fascinated by the stories and music around him, ‘drinking (them) from the bottle when (he) was in the cradle”. By the time of his death in Seattle in May 1984, he was widely recognized as one of the most important figures in Irish traditional music, having won fans and admirers from every part of the globe and most particularly from the folk music scene in the United States. Joe’s life was also remarkably complex, challenging traditions with his way of life.

Utilizing documentary evidence, recreations and more abstract scenes that attempt to reveal the inner workings of Heaney’s psyche, Pat Collins has shaped a cinematic exploration of Heaney’s life and his music, tracing his strange, tragic and often inspiring journey from rural Connemara through Glasgow and eventually to New York City – but not always in that order.