Tuesday 25 December, BBC1, 4:35pm
If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, then how do you account for Christmas day television? From depressing filler programmes like TV’s Naughtiest Christmas Blunders to EastEnders in which everything is heart-shatteringly awful, the entire day is like being pinned down and force-fed misery by the spoonful.
Even the supposedly chirpy Live at the Apollo is pretty bleak, with some of Britain’s most derivative yet commercially viable comedians telling sub-Seinfeld observations about how terrible their electrical appliances are.
It’s surely enough to make you pine for the days when Christmas TV was fun and light-hearted and free from irreverent attacks on toasters.
Well, fortunately, this Christmas day at 4:35 there’s a touching animated short on BBC One called Room on the Broom, which has been adapted from a book by Gruffalo creators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
Narrated by Simon Pegg, it tells the story of a caring witch who invites a number of cute critters to ride with her on her broom, much to the frustration of her adorable, but very protective pet cat.
The cast is notably impressive with Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, Martin Clunes, David Walliams and Sally Hawkins all voicing characters. However, so much of the story is told through the wonderfully compelling visuals that not much is actually said, with the film sticking as close as it can to the original book.
Aesthetically, the short strikes a nice balance between computer-generated animation and an almost hand drawn style, which adds a lot of appeal to these quirky and immediately lovable characters. In fact, even the fiery antagonist, who takes the form of an enormous dragon, is somewhat cuddly.
Voiced by Timothy Spall, the dragon has far too much charisma to come across as genuinely scary — although, regrettably, I so heavily associate Spall’s distinctive South London twang with the Wickes advert that I couldn’t help thinking his character was going to force me to buy a bit of MDF or a new kitchen.
Still, it’s hard to complain about much else. With a running time of just twenty-five minutes, Room on the Broom is perfect for those with young children—or, indeed, people who, like me, spend Christmas alone eating semi-defrosted ready meals with the aid of a bit of old coat hanger.
It doesn’t really matter who you are; regardless of your age, gender or disposition, it’s difficult to deny this gem’s heart-warming charm. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of thing that you’d hope would air on Christmas day: irresistible and fun for the entire family.
Anyone with a soft spot for cartoons like Raymond Briggs The Snowman and Father Christmas should get a tremendous kick out of it.
Find out more about Room on the Broom at www.roomonthebroom.com
The DVD is available from the website or Amazon from 18th March 2013
December 24th 2012, 8pm, Channel 4
For the last thirty years Raymond Briggs’ ‘The Snowman’ has been a stalwart of Christmas TV, its images of an idyllic Christmas snowscape and sweet story of a young boy’s friendship with magical snowman warm the hearts of old and young alike.
Not me though, even as a five year old I found it twee and cheesy. There were no laser guns or explosions and the enforced viewing of it every year drove me bonkers.
Anyway, that’s the past, but in this post-apocalyptic world, the powers that be have decided to give us a sequel. Not actually created by Raymond Briggs, but made with his blessing none the less.
As the original star of the tale, James would now be pushing 40 and so we have a new central character. His name is Billy and soon after moving into James’s old house his dog dies.
Before long he has found the accoutrements of the old snowman (hat, scarf) and a photo of the frosty golem with James and sets out to build another one.
As he misses his old companion and because this is a sequel, he goes one step further than James and knocks up a snow dog as well.
From then on it’s pretty much EXACTLY the same as the previous animation. The snow man pokes around the house, this time (because it’s a sequel) the snow dog starts to melt by the fire and then they all fly off to the north pole or something and have a party with some other snowy characters.
The one part of the original I liked was the flying. A brilliant sequence, as the boy hand in hand with his weird new friend flew across the land, seeing the night time world of 80’s Britain. Its excellence was only heightened by the haunting yet joyous song ‘Walking in the Air’ sung Peter Auty (the more famous version by Alled Jones was a cover version released in 1985, if you must know).
The song they have used for the parallel sequence in this sequel is atrocious. It sounds like an abominable cross between the worst of mid-seventies chart drivel and the forgettable weary warbling of an X-Factor runner up’s stab at the big time. Just dreadful.
I could say nice things about it. The animation is good and there are some nice sequences such as building of the snow man and dog but it’s nothing that wasn’t done in the original.
Like most sequels this is just a flagrant attempt to cash in on the success of its predecessor and it will no doubt get decent viewing figures this year for novelty value. But will it be held in such high regard as the first one in years to come? Not a chance.
‘Sequels suck … by definition alone sequels are inferior films!’ This is the opinion of the all-knowing Randy of Scream 2. Sadly, this is often the case; and definitely was back in 1997 when Randy uttered those immortal, yet ironic, words.
A lot can happen in 15 years. These days every other film hitting the cinema screens is a sequel, prequel, or remake; and they are rolling in it. Death of the original film and blah blah blah? Meh, maybe. But I’m rather loving the sequel renaissance of the moment and it’s got me thinking about some of the films that deserve, or at least deserved, a sequel that they haven’t yet got.
So Pixar sees fit to bring out a disappointing Cars 2 but leave the incredible Incredibles sequeless? I’ll give the upcoming Monsters Inc prequel Monsters University the benefit of the doubt because I love those monsters but it seems incredible (forgive me) that that lovable family of superheroes hasn’t got a sequel yet.
It’s understandable that Brad Bird might be waiting on the perfect script as anything other than super would be lame, but I hope they get a move on.
Plot possibilities: A general saving the world plot with perhaps some super cousins thrown in for trials and tribulations; Jack-Jack turns into an evil super villain shaming the family name; wife swap?
Hugely popular and the genius behind such quotes as “now that’s what I call a close encounter” and “I have got to get me one of these!”, Independence Day was frickin’ awesome. A sequel could have been equally awesome and definitely should have been attempted: if only to see the brilliant brains and brawn team of Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum back together again.
Plot possibilities: Alien revenge; humans adopting the whole locus idea and invading another planet; coping with the disappointing aftermath of having only hillbillies and red necks left to populate the US after most of the cities have been blown up.
All set up for a sequel and still yet to deliver – leave them wanting more I guess. The lovable goon Wikus – prawny and alone – definitely needs closure. Alien reinforcements would probably be coming back for revenge but will Wikus be rooting for man or prawn?
Plot possibilities: Wikus becomes leader of the prawns; Wikus somehow infects the entire human population with prawniness; Wikus sets up his own cat food restaurant.
The Golden Compass
Philip Pullman’s Dark Trilogy was awesome and way better written then Twilight and the like – so why isn’t a Golden Compass sequel reaping all the benefits? The Subtle Knife was right there ready to be screenplayed, but I suppose things often go wrong when you incur the wrath of both the Catholic Church and the economy slash balls-up that we are still living through. Though Dakota Blue Richards has fallen foul of time and has grown up, Lyra still lives and there is still scope for a sequel to be made – do it!
Plot possibilities: read The Subtle Knife!
For some reason I assumed that there was a Goonies 2 but I was totally wrong. There is a video game but I am actually shocked that there isn’t a proper sequel already. There have been random rumours over the years of one in the pipeline starring the now very aged cast but nothing has come to fruition. A musical is apparently underway – can’t wait to see Sloth sing!
Plot possibilities: kids of the original Goonies get up to general mischief slash shenanigans; a map is found leading to terrorist WMDs; Sloth is now President: hilarity ensues.
Honourable mentions: Hot Fuzz (already part of a trilogy of sorts but would be amazing and is perfect sequel fodder); True Lies; Zoolander; South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (such a genius of a musical definitely deserves a sequel); The Cable Guy; Hancock; Dodgeball; Zombieland; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Scarface.
The first teaser trailer of Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder has debuted through The Guardian.
The romantic drama features Argo star/director Ben Affleck as a man who finds himself torn between a woman who has moved to the US to be with him (Olga Kurylenko) and an old flame (Rachel McAdams).
The film also features Javier Bardem as a priest who starts to question his own faith, and presumably lots of shots of fields and nature (which is no bad thing as far as OTB is concerned).
Malick’s previous film The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and was nominated for three Oscars.
Malick has had a somewhat nomadic career, taking a 20-year break from filmmaking following the release of two masterpieces, Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978), returning in 1998 with The Thin Red Line. To the Wonder will be the director’s third film since 2005, with another three in the pipeline, including Knight of Cups and a project based around the music industry. The interlinked movies will both feature Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett.
To the Wonder, Malick’s sixth feature, will open in the UK on February 22, 2013.
When Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables received its terrestrial premiere on Channel 5 recently, it secured less than 10 per cent audience share in its time slot.
In today’s worrying world of excessive male grooming, man bags, and meggings*, OTB harks back to an era where men weren’t just men – they were supermen.
When Daniel Craig emerged from the Caribbean sea in a pair of tight-fitting trunks in 2006, women the world over gasped at the sight of his well-honed physique. But for men of a certain era, Craig was a puny runt. They came from a time when muscles spawned muscles and one flex of the latissimus dorsi could block out the sun and cast shadows over a small village. Yes, that time was the 1980s. Read more
Friday 14th December, 9pm, FX.
Move over Denmark, the Aussies are coming.
Well, one of them is. And his name is Irish. Jack Irish.
For the last few years the more discerning TV junkie’s Skybox has been full of Scandinavian thrillers such as ‘The Killing’ and ‘The Bridge’, along with Italian coppers such as‘Detective Montalbano’ and the British made ‘Zen’. These obviously go alongside the staggering amount of home grown and American shows that we snort up with gay abandon.
The British crave murder and sleuthery in all its forms; from old lady amateur to grizzled old policeman. We scour the world like a rabid coke head pawing through the threads of a deep shag carpet desperate for some crumbs of white magic to satiate our cravings.
Up until now the Telescape has been free of Australian crime fiction, which is strange as the Brits love Antipodean soaps, comedy and kids television. This is all set to change with the release of ‘Jack Irish: Bad Debt’s, the first of two TV movies based on the successful novels of Peter Temple.
Jack, ex lawyer and gambler, is busy trying to get over the shocking death of his ‘too good to be true’ wife via the usual methods of drinking too much booze and a spot of carpentry. Then, out of the blue he receives a message from an ex client begging to meet him.
When the client is found murderised, Jack, inspired by a mixture of curiosity, justice and guilt sets out on a quest to find out if it really happened. Following the trail he is lead into a murky world of paedos , charity leaders and the upper echelons of government (sound familiar?) as well as the arms of sassy journalist Linda Hillier (Marta Dusseldorp).
It’s all pretty standard stuff and on paper and it doesn’t add up to the most original of formats. Even the name, Jack Irish, sounds like it was picked by a committee tasked with finding the most cliché name for a TV/Movie gumshoe possible.
However, ‘Bad Debts’ is bloody good. Yes, Jack Irish is a stereotype: he’s super bright, he has a troubled past and yes, he dabbles with the sleazier side of life whilst somehow retaining a strong moral compass. Yet Guy Pearce, with the class and restraint that has made him such a reliable and watchable character actor, makes these unlikely qualities believable, likeable and extremely watchable.
He is very much aided in this by an excellent script that manages to crackle and spark with some scintillating back and forths between the accomplished cast, whilst remaining realistic and true to life.
‘Bad Debts’ is also very nicely structured; every new location, character and revelation gently leading you toward the denouement in an unhurried yet attention stealing manner.
I was hoping I could be rude about something this week after the TV love fest I was responsible for last week, but there is no denying that ‘Bad Debts’ is a very welcome addition to the TV Detective canon.
With a few more quid to spend on production values I could very much see this mature and intelligent show pulling in the punters on the silver screen as well.
Director, Producer, Writer and Philanthropist; the master of populist movie making and storytelling, who when moved to do so is also able to make thoughtful, intelligent films on the more disturbing corners of society’s past.
Since 1975, when he unleashed the psycho fish ‘Jaws’ on the world he has thrilled audiences the world over with his formula of ground breaking spectacle married to old fashioned yarn spinning. Not only that but he has also made fortunes for himself and the studios that have supported him.
For decades it has been an accepted truth that Steven Spielberg is the “King of Hollywood”, the question is what is his legacy? Read more
Nostradamus famously predicted that the world would end in 1999, although he was wrong, of course. That year, human civilisation was left relatively unshaken, despite the release of Will Smith’s “Willennium” and The Phantom Menace. In actuality, the world is going to end this month, and we, of course, know this for certain because director Roland Emmerich says it will.
“SCIENCE HAS CONFIRMED IT” insisted the trailer for Emmerich ‘s movie 2012 (2009), which tells the prophetic tale of Earth’s gruesome destruction, caused by neutrinos that mutate and cook our planet’s core.
This isn’t merely fiction either; this is real science that has been confirmed by John Cusack in a film. Our doom really is imminent. All we can do now is watch films that might somehow prepare us for life in a dismal wasteland—if any of us are indeed fortunate enough to survive global annihilation.
We can learn a lot from films like the post-apocalyptic masterpiece Zardoz (1974), which warns that “gun is good” and “penis is evil”, while Sean Connery frolics around in a tiny speedo shooting things, proving as much.
We can learn from I Am Legend (2007), in which Will Smith plays a virologist who is immune to a virus that was originally created to cure cancer. Defending himself against the rabid sufferers who have been affected by the epidemic, in one harrowing scene we watch as the aforementioned “Willennium” singer is forced to kill his beloved dog after it becomes infected with the virus.
To avoid such a tragedy, be sure to construct your own robotic friends instead, like Freeman Lowell did in Silent Running (1972). Alone in space, he kept his sanity by building his own companions out of metal, in turn inspiring Pixar’s WALL-E (2008) and the brilliant US comedy series Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
Company is all well and good, of course, but we’ll also need plenty of mental stimulation—so best steer clear of 2012. On the contrary, Mike Judd’s comedy Idiocracy (2006) teaches us the dangers of advertising, commercialism and cultural anti-intellectualism. And much like the present, the dystopian future in Idiocracy champions stupidity over intelligence: a Gatorade-type drink has replaced water (it contains “electrolytes”!), Starbucks now serve handjobs and the most popular show on television is the all too familiar “Ow My Balls”.
The fictional series is worlds away from Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), an excellent featurette constructed almost entirely from still photos (none of which feature any testicular trauma, sadly). It tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel and was the primary inspiration for 12 Monkeys (1995).
Of course, if all goes awry and none of us survive the fate Roland Emmerich has forced on us, it’s time to accept matters and watch Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). In it, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley end up forming a close relationship as they await their cruel and certain fate.
Still, not to worry. Who knows? Perhaps death won’t be so bad. Michael Bay’s rumoured to be producing his own film on the 2012 phenomenon, scheduled for release in 2014, and thus somewhat missing the point I feel. But on the bright side, if the world does end this month, at least we won’t live to see its release.
So Undercover is in cinemas from 7 December
Miley Cyrus stars as MOLLY, a private investigator who chose to leave high school to work with her father (Mike O’Malley), a former police officer. Together their days are filled with busting cheating spouses and taking down petty thieves. However, her life unexpectedly changes when she is approached by an FBI agent (Jeremy Piven) to go undercover in the one place they’re unable to infiltrate – and a world she knows nothing about… A university sorority.
During a major makeover, Molly physically transforms herself from the tough, streetwise investigator, to a very affluent sorority girl Brooke Stonebridge. However, Molly also has to learn how to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” to keep her cover for her mission: protect the life of sorority sister Alex Patrone (Lauren McKnight) whose father plans to testify against some very dangerous people.
Surveillance proves nearly impossible for outsider Molly, who struggles to adjust to university culture, her new friends, and her new assignment, which includes Nicholas (Josh Bowman) – a strong, self confident guy who may have taken a piece of Molly’s heart, if only he weren’t possibly the hit man in disguise.
With multiple suspects on her list and the trial fast approaching, Molly must navigate a minefield of double crosses as well as the pageantry and chaos of a sorority sister’s social life. Through her journey, Molly must protect Alex while discovering that not everyone is who he or she appears to be – including herself.
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