On this week’s show we have the unfortunate pleasure of honouring the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, both of whom succumbed to cancer this week aged 69. After that we take a look at the freshly announced Oscar Nominations before I review the week’s big new release, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs.
Harry Deane (Colin Firth) is an art expert who under the employ of media tycoon Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman) suffers a sling of insults and humiliations such that he plans his revenge by defrauding his employer with the help of a amateur reproductionist called the Major (Tom Courtenay) and a free-spirited Texan cowgirl (Cameron Diaz).
Playing hard to stereotypes about loud, winsome Americans, and reserved, uptight Brits, this Coen Brothers’ penned, Michael Hoffman directed comic thriller owes much to 60s crime capers and despite its relentless lack of originality, Gambit makes for an entertaining way to spend 89 minutes.
I can remember the eager sense of anticipation when I heard The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was (finally) being made into a major motion picture. See, in primary school, I was a huge fan of the original radio series, which predated the now famous series of books and the somewhat less famous TV series.
Yes, I’m old enough to remember huddling around a radio to listen to a play or, later that week, listening again to the shows on tape cassettes, which became a priceless item amongst my friends. In fact, I’m pretty sure I still have those tapes!
Hitchhikers was a charming story, a gentle yet incredibly witty blend of space travel, filled with earthly satire, from the perils of solo travel, to the soul destroying drudgery of bureaucracy.
When the original radio play was remade into a TV series, it was pretty much a word for word recreation, with many of the same actors. However, it stood to reason that more than twenty years later, the film-makers would have to look to a new generation of actors to fill the roles.
This was, for many fans, where the problems started. Some of the casting decisions, like Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast made perfect sense. Others, like Mos Def as Ford Prefect or Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin (the paranoid android), seemed odd.
The first time I saw this film, I didn’t enjoy Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, though her performance won me over on repeat viewing. However, the biggest issue is still Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Rockwell is a fine actor, but his Zaphod lacks any charm or wit and is a most unwelcome departure from the original.
Not that everything needs to hew close to the original, as the film does make some deviations from the original story, with varying degrees of success. But, while the variations in plot, I did mind the way Adams’ excellent dialogue is, at times, poorly handled by the cast.
This film is not the big screen adaptation Hitchhiker’s fans would have wanted and it probably does little to draw new fans into this universe. But, it is a nice bit of mostly harmless B-movie Sci-Fi and a welcome reminder of Douglas Adams’ creative genius. Now, where are my old cassette tapes…
After fifteen years, seven novels, eight films and an almost unquantifiable amount of money, it all ends here for J.K. Rowling’s teenage wizard. To cite Harry Potter as this generation’s Star Wars saga is to belittle the success of the multi-platform franchise. While Lucas’ original trilogy of spirited, youthful rebellion in deep space was aimed squarely at younger viewers, Harry Potter managed to seduce both children and their parents simultaneously. Their popularity expanded greatly when transferred to the big screen, thanks in large part to Warner Bros’ decision to treat the material seriously and employ the cream of the British acting world to bring Rowling’s vividly imagined characters to life.
Fans who bemoaned recent installments for veering away from the formula of each covering a single school year should find solace in the fact that Deathly Hallows Part 2 takes place almost entirely within the grounds of Hogwarts. As Voldemort and his Death Eater army closes in on Harry, he seeks refuge at the school. Practically every character from the series gets at least a moment’s screen time as teachers, students and Ministry members alike take sides for the final confrontation. In terms of sheer cinematic spectacle, the film more than delivers, staging one impressive set piece after another, each brimming with tension, invention and genuine excitement. But the film also brings a surprising amount of story to what is essentially one big effects-heavy rumble, revealing long-hidden secrets concerning both heroes and villains that add a much welcome level of emotional engagement to the proceedings.
While the drama focuses chiefly around the fateful stand-off between Harry and Lord Voldemort, the script graciously offers a number of wonderful character moments to many of its supporting performers. Alan Rickman is fantastic as Snape, who traverses some very complex territory with remarkable skill, while Ralph Fiennes ensures Voldemort remains something more than a two-dimensional snarling villain. Surprisingly, classmate Neville Longbottom features prominently and is given a couple of excellent hero moments, deftly carried out by Matthew Lewis. Perhaps the highest praise of all must be reserved for director Peter Yates. Previously unknown, Yates has helmed the last four Potter films, guiding the saga away from the wide-eyed sense of childish wonder Chris Columbus brought to the first two films, instead creating a dark and sinister world where magic is not only real, but powerful and very dangerous.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the perfect finale to a series that has enraptured the world’s film-going public for almost a decade. Brimming with adventure and startling effects work, while remaining grounded in a world we can believe in, Harry Potter succeeds where so many other franchises fail because ultimately it is concerned with characters we either care about or are genuinely fearful of. The result is not only the ultimate summer blockbuster, but probably the best film of the series. All that said, the 3D is still rubbish.