By Leo Owen
Director/ Producer: Tom Ford
Writer: Tom Ford
DVD and Blu-ray release date: June 7 2010
Studio: Icon Home Entertainment
Number of discs: 1
Price: From £10.99
Running Time: 97/101 mins
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Goode
American fashion designer, Tom Ford, a name synonymous with Gucci makes his highly anticipated film debut with A Single Man, based upon Christopher Isherwood’s novel.
English college professor George finds life difficult after his lover of 19 years, Jim (Matthew Goode), is killed in a car crash. The fact Jim’s parents still refuse to admit their dead son’s sexuality and fail to invite George to the funeral adds insult to injury. He only discovers his lover has died when one of Jim’s cousins “sees fit” to phone him.
Unable to move on with his life and forget the domestic bliss he shared with Jim, A Single Man is full of the pain of flashbacked memories, showing the couple at the beach or at home amused by their neighbour’s precocious son being urinated on by the family dog.
Set in Los Angeles in the 1960s, George is acutely aware that his sexuality remains misunderstood and viewed as a “hidden threat”. Even his best-friend, Charley is unable to accept or understand, still hankering for his love and comparing her husband of nine years leaving her and her no longer dependent child flying the coop to his ordeal.
Views of family scenes in George’s next-door neighbour’s garden, remind him of what he will never have and Charley, of what she has already had. Unable to foresee any future without Jim, A Single Man follows the events in one day eight months after his death as George prepares to commit suicide.
While A Single Man is full of overly indulgent lingering shots, Ford’s exploration of grief subtly injects humour through George’s obsession with tidiness, shown in his very considered suicide plan – George lays out all his important documents for whoever finds him, undergoes a series of comical trial-runs and fails to shoot himself inside a sleeping bag, in order to avoid blood splatters.
What should be an unhappy ending is strangely uplifting as after a self-confessed epiphany, George finally makes peace with his grief and a decision – the only socially acceptable one – but still unexpectedly gets what he had yearned for.
A rather flaky-looking Julianne Moore gives a sympathetic performance playing drama queen Charley, trapped by her own unacceptance and desperately in love with the unobtainable while Colin Firth finally moves away from his typecast lovable charmer roles to shine as George.
Nicholas Hoult (Skins, About a Boy) plays one of George’s students, Kenny, a squeaky clean all-American wonder-boy having serious doubts about his existence, while viewers may be experiencing similar feelings about his accent. Through Kenny and fellow student, Maria, Ford suggests history is to repeat itself in the doomed but addictive relationship of Charley and George.
More about suffering and loss, A Single Man is not a “gay film” but a captivating and highly moving piece of art.
- Commentary with Producer/Director Tom Ford
- The Making of A Single Man
- MovieIQ +sync and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie! (Blu-ray only)
With more than 35 original letters displayed with 65 paintings and 30 drawings, the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy, gives a closer look than ever before into the mind behind the sunflowers, the mutilated ear and ultimate suicide.
This is the first major exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh’s work to be displayed in London since 1968 and with 7 rooms the exhibition is easily worth a two-hour visit if not two visits. As the 120th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death approaches, visitors are able to gain an insight into the artist, who only sold one painting in his lifetime.
The letters, which are mainly to his art-dealer brother Theo, reveal a contemplative man who analysed his works at length and strived to capture detail and movement in his paintings and sketches.
Vincent died in July 1890 from self-inflicted gun shot wounds and Theo died six months later, supposedly suffering from the last stage of syphilis. Theo left these letters together with pictures to his wife, Johanna, who subsequently devoted herself to promoting the pictures.
Consumed with his work but less so with people, Vincent led a solitary existence, and his letters give snapshots of all aspects of his life from his feelings to his finances, lodgings, and his art.
The exhibition is a road to discovery about the artist. As well as learning that the artist struggled to capture movement in his early works, the letters also reveal his preference for portrait painting and a love and respect for Japanese art.
“All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art,” the artist wrote to his brother.
Despite being famous for his characteristic colourful brush strokes, his early work favoured grey tones, and when he used colour he often replicated his sketches, such as The Sower, 1988.
His art reflects his mindset and as his bouts of mental illness struck, (which was then thought to have been epilepsy), his work appears haunted, but free.
The exhibition ends with his most abstract paintings, which were done while in an Asylum at Saint-Remy, including the now infamous starry night, 1889.
The exhibition is open until 18 April.
By Stephen Bain
It is a city where self-control is essential, a place where very few will tell you to stop. From the moment I stepped out of the airport and started travelling past the strip to our hotel, I knew this was going to be a somewhat unique experience.
I am talking about my recent visit to the infamous Sin City, otherwise known as Las Vegas, my only trip to the United States to date. Talk about jumping in the deep end.
Las Vegas has been featured in many films over the decades, perhaps most famously in 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, the resulting song, sung by Elvis Presley, having been associated with the entertainment capital of the world ever since. Most recently Vegas has been seen in the hit 2009 comedy “The Hangover”. Likewise Katy Perry has also sung about “Waking Up in Vegas”. Being someone who admittedly enjoys an occasional early night and a cup of coco I was a little apprehensive about going to this so-called “adult playground”.
So what is it actually like? Well for a start, the sheer sizes of the hotels are something in themselves, with each resembling a palace. That last word is even co-operated into possibly the single, most famous hotel in the strip, Caesars Palace. There is also the Stratosphere hotel, which stands at a whopping 1,149 feet tall. The view from the top was a truly spectacular experience. The hotel which I stayed in, The Mirage, also did not fail to impress.
The city is perhaps known best for gambling. Go into any hotel and it is not long before you are greeted by apparently never-ending rows of slot machines, roulette tables and all the other forms of gaming you can think of. However, for me, some of the best aspects of the trip were well away from the betting tables. If anyone ventures to the city I highly recommend taking a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon and then flying back over the strip (especially at night). The former acts as a deserved, breathtaking, break away from all the glitziness of the city (which will possibly be needed after a couple of days) and is one of the few attractions that is 100% natural in the area.
There is, of course, the less glamorous, seedy element of the place. Those who have seen 1995’s “Leaving Las Vegas” will remember that the city certainly has a dark side to it. Like everything else it is very much in your face. One sound that stuck with me was the distinctive flicking of escort cards being handed out to members of the public at all hours. There is also a fair share of so called “gentlemen’s clubs”, the few places where men are NOT sitting round playing cards.
So, to answer my earlier question, what is Las Vegas like? Well it is very much a city of two sides. For a United States virgin such as me, the scale of the place is bound to impress. The spectacle of Vegas is something not seen anywhere else in the world, and as a result, it has a unique sense of beauty to it. On the other hand there is an undeniable feeling of tackiness all around you. To use an old cliché Las Vegas is definitely a city of excess. You can eat what you want, drink what you want and gamble as much as you want and, as I said at the beginning, few would tell you to stop.
Is it a ‘real’ city? Certainly not, and it is subsequently not for everybody. I hesitate to imagine what it would be like to live there for anytime longer than a week. Surely the showiness would eventually wear thin. However it is safe to say that there is nothing quite like it elsewhere.
By Stephen Bain
I have to admit am not overly familiar with the original Alice in Wonderland literature, and it has been quite a while since watching the original 1951 Disney cartoon, so my canvas was pretty much blank when entering the cinema to watch Tim Burton’s latest tale. With a screenplay written by Linda Woolverton, whose previous credentials include Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King (the latter possibly being Disney’s finest achievement in recent years), Alice is in more than capable hands.
The familiar gothic style associated with Burton is once again present. Once Alice falls down that infamous rabbit hole we are, unsurprisingly, transported to a visually rich world containing all the classic characters: the grinning Cheshire cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), the mad hatter (Johnny Depp in his umpteenth collaboration with Burton), the Red Queen (Helena Bonnam Carter in her umpteenth collaboration with husband Burton), the White Rabbit (voiced by Martin Sheen) and Tweedledum and Tweedledee (who are hilariously modelled to resemble Matt Lucas).
Visually Alice is certainly a treat. The ‘wonderland’ in question is a place that alternates brilliantly between a colour enriched kingdom and a gothically dreamlike universe. This is all backed up by Burton-regular Danny Elfman in a brilliantly appropriate score. However this time round the 3D ‘experience’ does not (arguably) add much to the events onscreen, unlike Ferngully-with-Smurfs hit Avatar. I am more than confident that this adventure could be enjoyed just as much in good old fashioned 2D.
Newcomer Mia Wasikowska does a fine job as Alice, a girl trapped in a bourgeoisie family and soon to be engaged to a comically upper-class idiot. Her innocence and girl-next door image make her an instantly likeable onscreen presence. Johnny Depp is his usual quirky self as the Mad Hatter (complete with a slightly questionable Scottish-sounding accent). However Helena Bonham Carter steals most of the scenes as the wicked, unremorseful Red Queen. She, without a doubt, swipes the film from right under Mr Johnny Depp’s nose. Clearly an act of revenge following the conclusion of their last film together Sweeney Todd!
Some voices are a little surprising on the ears, those who are fans of Eastenders may be shocked to hear Peggy Mitchell (sorry…Barbara Windsor) as a dormouse.
Whilst Alice may not have the originality of Edward Scissorhands or The Nightmare before Christmas, it still shows considerable flare and creativity. Certainly an experience that adults are bound to appreciate just as much as children.
By Stephen Bain
He has chased after his kidnapped son, watched his wife murdered by English soldiers and become one, unstable, half of a cop duo. Now, after seven years absent from the big screen Mel Gibson (or “Mad Mel” as he has been named) returns as cop father Thomas Craven investigating the brutal murder of his young daughter (Bojana Novakovic). Read more »
By Stephen Bain
Those little golden statues are beginning to reappear on our television screens. That can only mean one thing, the Oscar season is fast approaching once again. Preparations are well and truly under way for the first ceremony of the new decade. What exactly is in store? We will find out on the big day itself, however the usual weepy speeches and endless ‘thank you’s’ are a near certainty. Read more »
By Stephen Bain
For several years there has been an argument that more and more violence is sneaked into lower rated films. People are apparently able to withstand more blood and gore onscreen. The latest vampire flick Daybreakers is possibly one of the most extreme examples of this, and if this blood-heavy flick does not re-ignite the debate I am not sure what will.
Upon leaving the screening of the entertaining if cheesy Daybreakers, two thoughts existed within my brain i). It was hilariously gruesome to the point I was actually laughing and ii) this was only rated a 15 certificate. Heads either explode or are lopped off (the latter is often followed by close-ups of the heads), limbs are ripped from the body, vampires are seen burning up when exposed to sunlight and guts are shown flying across the screen. The final 15 minutes are, without a doubt, particularly notorious. According to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) around six seconds of footage was cut in order for it to receive a 15 rating. Exactly what these six seconds were we do not know. The BBFC state:
“Many of the violent scenes in the film show the blood as almost black and this lessens the impact of the bloodshed and allows these scenes to be contained at ‘15.’”
“The scenes at the film’s climax, in particular, show both vampires and humans being torn apart but these shots are all in the distance and very rapidly edited with much of the stronger detail carefully masked”.
Nonetheless this still felt (at least to me) exceptionally graphic for a film with such a certificate, others who have seen the film may question whether the detail was indeed “carefully masked”. One may remember that this is the same rating that appeared alongside the original logo for Batman in 1989. Whilst Tim Burton’s tale certainly had some grisly moments (Jack Nicolson’s ‘handshake’) it seemed like light children’s entertainment compared to Daybreakers. In fact I am sure that this film contains considerably more shots of spilled blood than a lot of 18 rated movies. The more recent incarnation of Batman (‘The Dark Knight’ rated a 12 by the BBFC) has recently come under fire for having a seemingly inappropriate certificate. Upon watching the film it (arguably) is not difficult to see why. Heath Ledger’s ‘pencil trick’ is a scene that quickly springs to mind.
Before I am accused of acting like a 21st century Mary Whitehouse I will point out that some of my favourite films are heavy in the violence department. The violence can range from being brutal and realistic (Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and Saving Private Ryan) to being cartoonish and outlandish (Wanted, Face/Off). Nonetheless they all have a considerable body count and are (in my opinion) more appropriately classified. Maybe it is time for the people at the BBFC to have another look at their criteria.
One thing is clear though: if you are feeling in any way vulnerable or queasy, and want a film with light relief, Daybreakers is certainly not the ideal choice. If, on the other hand, you want your vampire movies to be truly bloodthirsty then this definitely fits the bill.
By Stephen Bain
Robert Downey Jr. has already portrayed comic book character Tony Stark in the recent adaptation of Iron Man (the second instalment is due in cinemas this summer), now he is going for the big-guns and bringing literatures most famous detective to the screen. Behind the camera is Guy ‘Lock Stock’ Richie. An unusual choice for bringing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character to 21st Century audiences? Maybe. Especially after flops such as Revolver, one may be entitled to look on with some suspicion. However the results are, although certainly not perfect, undeniably fun.
Downey Jr. is excellent as Mr Holmes, his fast talking manner fits perfectly with Sir Conan Doyle’s creation. Like his portrayal of Tony Stark, Downey Jr. oozes charm and wit as the womanising lead and it is clear that he seems to carry off these roles within his sleep. His incarnation of Holmes is someone who is, as often demonstrated, more than capable in a fight, never letting a person twice his size intimidate him (in typical Conan Doyle style, Holmes carefully notes the body’s weak spots before neutralising an opponent). Likewise, there is a lot of fun to be had watching Holmes dryly explain his various theories, especially as events reach their conclusion.
Visually there is a real sense of the period as the hustle and bustle of a murky Victorian London is captured wonderfully. It is clear Mr Richie went to a lot of trouble to get the look and feel right, with some scenes featuring dozens of extras.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law work well together, although it is undoubtedly the former who sticks in the memory for longer. Mark Strong additionally is brilliantly menacing as the villainous cockney Lord Blackwood.
However the film feels too long, subsequently some of the action set pieces (particularly one around the dockyards at the middle-point) lose their intended impact. The film would have certainly benefitted from being cut down a further 20 minutes. Similarly the heroine Rachael McAdams is given relatively little to do onscreen besides look and act glamorous.
By the time the credits roll it looks like another franchise is on the horizon. Will this potential series of films do well with the public? Yes of course it will.
In summary, Sherlock Holmes is an enjoyable if flawed adventure with a shining central performance from Jr. and sufficient support from Law. That alone is enough to keep the audiences entertained.
By Stephen Bain
What exactly makes a good Christmas flick? That is a question which has caused never ending debates at this time of year. On a day fraught with emotions (both good and bad) there is nothing like spending two hours in front of the television watching a story which, to use an all-too-familiar phrase, tugs at the heart strings. Every December the same films resurface in our local retailer. The faces of Bruce Willis, Will Ferrell, Bing Crosby and Macaulay Culkin stare out from the dvd shelves. Of course everyone has their own opinion but I thought I would give my all-time favourite Christmas film. Read more »
By Stephen Bain
Well its that time of year (again!) and that means more countdown lists and the inevitable debates/arguments which follow. Having figured out I have made around 20 trips to the cinema this year (I dread to think how much that amounts to financially) I thought I would look back on the last 12 months and give my top 5 favourite films as well as my top 5 disappointments. Maybe its a sign of my youthful ignorance but I cannot remember a previous year in which films featuring the elderly have made such an impact on me. Read more »