By Leo Owen
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha
Release Date: April 21 2010
Running Time: 100 mins
Starring: Sanjeev Bhaskar, Zoe Wanamaker, Jimi Mistry, Sally Hawkins, Steve Morphew, Jamie Sives, Sendhil Ramamurthy,, Mark Addy, Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Ray Panthaki
Honour killings, family feuds, arranged marriages and a “Curry killer” who seemingly has a taste for elderly ladies, “clearly has cooking skills and knows their spices”, are among the troubles the Asian community of Southall face in It’s a Wonderful Afterlife.
The BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated husband and wife writing team behind Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Bride and Prejudice and Bend It Like Beckham are back for another successful chuckle-inducing union, cooking up darker humour than previous projects.
Roopi Sethi (Goldy Notay) is a young independent single woman whose father recently died, leaving her mother alone to worry about her daughter’s marital status and dosser DJ brother, Jazz. After bearing witness to an onslaught of insulting statements about her daughter’s appearance (“There’s no excuse for a moustache like that”, “Who will marry that? Think of the grocery bills”…), Mrs Sethi (Shabana Azmi) snaps and decides to kill off all those who have spurned Roopi.
When Roopi’s critical suitors start returning as blue Smurf-like ghosts and are visible to only her, Mrs Sethi recognises her crime and unable to rid herself of her entourage decides suicide is the only answer but only after Roopi is happily married and provided for. Angry and bitter at first, the stuck spirits realise that confession will result in a group prison sentence and suicide may be their only hope of being laid to rest. After days of following Mrs Sethi and witnessing Roopi’s kindly nature, they agree to help her find an eligible willing husband.
Meanwhile the police are desperately hunting the “Curry Killer”, the media are having a field day and Roopi’s childhood playmate, Raj (Mohinder Suresh in Heroes), has moved to the area and is on the case. Even Roopi’s best friend, Linda (Sally Hawkins), aka Gitali (“Melodious One”), has managed to find herself an Indian husband so in desperation Roopi concedes to her mother’s wishes by attending an Asian speed-dating night.
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’s lame and blatant message that dough-shaped curry lovers can find romance too is forgiven by the tongue firmly stapled to the cheek and barrage of witty lines from the groan inducing “He’s just currying favour” to a vegetarian victim complaining of death by meat and the more spiteful “Whoever marries her will never need a mattress”.
Opening with an unforgettable exploding curry surgery splatter scene, the tone is set for a film packed full of inventively ludicrous murders like suffocation by chapatti, a kebab skewering through the neck and curry poisoning. An amazingly melodramatic party scene paying homage to Carrie with guests high on weed pakora, involves a vat of chillis, flying popadoms, inverted heart décor, speeding chicken-wing bullets and self-popping champagne bottles – all grotesquely exaggerated for maximum comical effect.
For a film steeped in death, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife manages to find and create humour all around. The A-Team’s music accompanies Raj as he carries out his investigations among the local Asian community. Mrs Sethi is unable to escape death accidentally and purposefully destroying anyone who crosses her path. Even her attempt to commit suicide ends badly as her friend and next door neighbour, Mrs Goldstein (Zoe Wanamaker), innocently eats one of the poisoned sweets and dies, later reflecting: “I always said your cooking is so good, it’s going to kill me one day.”
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife is a delightfully playful lighthearted affair, cleverly twisting and utilising a very real concern to masterful comic effect.
By Matt Fricker
Speed dating is something I have never done; in all honesty I’ve never been interested in the concept. I may not be Brad Pitt in the looks department, but I’m no Susan Boyle either. I’m also not a fan of the traditional date, this stems from one such date I went on while a university student, things seemed to be going well until my date introduced me to her stalker, true story too.
But then I heard about a new kind of speed dating, speed dating and comedy, taking place on the first Wednesday of the month at Up the Creek. Read more »
By Stephen Bain
A highly unusual, yet inspired pairing to say the least. Ewan McGregor starring alongside zany funny man Jim Carrey, a man people seem to either love or hate (I personally have been a big fan since his early days). This is perhaps not the comically mismatched “double-act” movie one may have expected but instead a pleasantly strange contemporary tale of love between two men.
Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a seemingly happy family man whose life is suddenly altered by a car crash. Soon afterwards he ends up in prison where he meets the Phillip Morris of the title (McGregor) and the two form a romance. What follows are a series of events involving scamming and deception which (incredibly) are based on a true story.
The pairing of Carrey and McGregor certainly pays off. Carrey’s character is sure to provoke mixed feelings of genuine hilarity and disgust. His admittedly devious activities (which will make sense as the film develops) combined with his usual comic madness make this one of Carrey’s more interesting characters.
Indeed the main fault with this film is that it does not always seem to know itself which direction it is heading. One minute it pans out like a (certainly funny) screwball comedy with Carrey doing his usual Ace-Ventura style routine, the next it is almost stepping into the “Philadelphia” territory of serious drama. This is all sprinkled with more than a few, admittedly crude, jokes about homosexuality. The overall tone of the film however is certainly that of darker one compared to most of Carrey’s previous work. The opening scene demonstrates this clearly with Steven lying in a hospital bed apparently near to death as he begins narrating the story. As do the brilliantly executed final twenty minutes.
Ewan McGregor’s performance is possibly the superior out of the two however, with his character remaining a confused, yet constantly likeable figure. Carrey, on the other hand, shows that, while he can indeed do drama, it is perhaps the old-school rubber-faced routine that he is best at as this style regularly pops up during the films duration.
That said there are plenty of laughs to be had and the film remains a satisfying, if slightly uneven experience.
By Matt Fricker
First of all, what award have you won tonight?
“I’ve won the outstanding contribution to comedy award… I’ve been dying for this one!”
Are you surprised at how long it’s taken you to get this award?
“It’s taken me twenty years to get this award; I’ve chipped away at it”
I was saying earlier that I think you’re the most important writer of British comedy since Spike Milligan
“Really? That’s very kind of you”
Well you, Peter Baynham, Chris Morris and co, you were the first guys since Spike to really take Britain and society and look at it in a satirical manner and go actually this is where society fails and this is where we can satirize it and you guys were the ones that did that.
“Well thank you very much, that’s very kind of you. Spike Milligan is a big hero of mine, so that’s very nice.”
“I was a real fan of radio comedy and I got really excited as a kid and as a teenager listening to really good stuff and I used to tape it and swap it with friends at school,- you know learn and recite it and whatever. So I’m always really touched when kids and students and young people come up to me and say, ‘we used to tape all of your shows and we used to swap them’ I love that.”
I remember reading an interview a few weeks ago where you said you were a lens down member of the entertainment industry and then The Thick of It came out and you became a lens up member.
“It’s strange yeah, it’s a bizarre thing and I have noticed that more in the last year especially with the film and things like the Oscars and so on and on the one level it’s quite nice and on the other I kind of enjoy being able to go on the tube and bus and people not staring at me. I have to deal with people’s stares now, but I’m hoping that might die down.”
Do you like being dragged into speed dating arenas like this? (The media room for the event was an empty disco room, complete with glitter ball that resembled a very bad speed dating event)
“I don’t mind actually. I was joking upstairs that I don’t know who anyone is but I actually get a real buzz out of meeting new comedians and new writers and trying to encourage them… the good ones obviously, a lot of them are shit, but that’s because a lot of everybody is.”
I was reading an article last night saying that comedy is something you’re born with; you’re born with natural wit.
“I think so, you can guide people who you think have got talent, you know, advise them on the best way to go about it, but you can’t tell an actor who doesn’t have funny bones how to make it funny.”
“A lot of the casting process is about just weeding out people who aren’t funny, like Chris Addison (Olly in The Thick of It) He’s never acted but I found him very funny and when I did a casting with him I found him a genuinely amusing funny guy and I thought he’s the guy in my head that I see doing this part.”
Do you find with the success of The Thick of It that Westminster are now afraid of what The Thick of It may bring out?
“Well, someone told me a story that David Cameron was having a consultation with his strategy team and said, ‘When I get into Number 10 I want to call the cabinet office the Department Of Strategy and Communications’ and somebody said ‘no, that spells DOSAC’ (the government department in The Thick of It) and David went ‘On no, we can’t call it that’”
Do you find it quite strange that in The Thick of It and Time Trumpet you’ve got scenes of Gordon Brown fighting and suggestions that David Cameron will say whatever he thinks will make him popular. When you see that, do you think, ‘that’s brilliantly funny’ or do you think, ‘that’s quite scary’?
“Well, I did at the time because I felt that, so it comes as no surprise to me that that is the case because I thought that at the time. I just find it funny to kind of try and put that into comedy. I like it if other people discover it and then go ‘Oo that’s true!’
Have you seen Four Lions yet?
“Oh yes, it’s very good, it’s very good. It’s both very uncomfortable and quite reassuring, whenever, in your head you’re thinking ‘surely’ and then in the next scene answers the question that you have in your head.”
So it’s very much along the lines of what you guys were doing with The Day Today and Brass Eye
“Possibly, yeah, I mean it’s a very well acted, well scripted, well directed, quite involving story. It throws no punches as to what these guys are up to.”
Knowing that you’re now a great success in Hollywood as well as over here there have been a lot of rumours that you and Steve Coogan are getting together to take Alan Partridge over to America.
“I don’t know, at the moment we’re just talking about whether we should, and the ideas we’ve come up with are very much Alan in the UK and his ideas of what he could be, rather than, you know, Americanised.”
So you don’t see Alan, for example getting Simon Cowell’s spot on American Idol?
“No, that’s too good for Alan; Alan’s future is always brighter in his head than it is in the real world.”
I always liked the idea, in my head that Alan would one day be asked to cover 2012 and he goes ‘yes, yes, yes’ and then it turns out he’s covering the Paralympics.
“Yes, there is a whole breed of sports reporter who’s hauled out to go to the Winter Olympics and cover some of the very obscure sports absolutely. I think Alan harbours this distortion that, with reality TV bringing back your Keith Chegwin’s and your Tony Blackburn’s and so on that his time will come, but it hasn’t come, he hasn’t had that call.”
I ask as I did my second year dissertation on Alan Partridge and the history of the British Sitcom and always loved how, the joke was always on Alan and that you could do exactly what he does in real life, so you would play air bass in a room when you think you’re on your own and then you get caught and you just freeze and think ‘what do I do now?’
“One of the things I discovered when I was out in Hollywood was that the opening titles to Superbad, there’s a silhouette of a guy dancing, they were actually inspired to do that when they saw the DVD menu of I’m Alan Partridge series 2, they really enjoyed that so they put it in the movie.”
Did you enjoy Superbad more when you found that out?
“No, I didn’t know that, I really liked Superbad, but I was invited round to visit Seth Rogen and his writers on the set of The Green Hornet and it turned out they were big fans of Alan Partridge.”
How strange do you find it that people go, ‘wow, you’re Armando Iannucci, we know your work’?
“I always found it very strange and I’ve always had this insecurity thing of ‘at some point somebody will find me out’ the next project will be utter shit and then it will be revealed to the world that I have just ridden off the back of other people’s talents, I still live in dread of that moment.”
But surely you must think now that actually that’s not going to happen?
“I do occasionally think, ‘I’m 45 now, I’ve nearly got through this’ another 15 years and I’ll have got through my working life without being miserable, drunken, you know.”
So, will you stop in 15 years or will you go, ‘the day I die is the day I stop’?
“I can’t imagine stopping, I might slow down and I might do other things but I can’t imagine stopping.”
My final question is what’s your ideal job, if you could make any project tomorrow what would you love it to be?
“Well, I think it’s what I do, I’m kind of, I’m in the middle of the moment of plotting out slapstick and we’re just having fun thinking of more complicated ways that people can get hurt badly, in a visually interesting way, and occasionally we just look at each other and think, ‘this is ridiculous, what are we doing, we’re being paid to do this, this is madness!’ and I just feel blessed that I’m doing that and not going into a Bank everyday.”
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 Diana N.
Ok, so am I the only person who misses this show? I know everything has to come to an end, but Friends was one of the greatest sitcoms of the 90s. Don’t you agree? Read more »
By Michael Somerville
Britain’s answer to Curb Your Enthusiasm has perhaps not surprisingly, been heavily influenced by the “paradigm shift” of the emergence of “The Office” that made everyday conversation funny, without the need for a canned laughter studio audience.
Embarrassment, social humiliation and exasperation are high on the agenda in Jack Dee’s sitcom, about a failed TV personality who tries to cobble bits and bobs of out not much at all. Teaming up with condescending American writing partner Marty, (Sean Power) the pair trundle through life hoping for their big break. This being Dee, if never really comes. Although the show doesn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking and does nothing to dispel the “myth” that Dee is a grumpy old sod in real life; it still remains a wonderfully entertaining show.
The cast are nigh on perfect and go about their daily business with subtlety and aplomb alike. Comparisons have been made to other sitcoms across the water such as “Seinfield” and “Curb Your Enthuiasm” as Dee looks to steal Larry David’s crown of understated situational comedy from him.
Jack Dee has made the step from stand up comedy to sitcom, a hurdle where many British comedians have failed at, such as Baddiel, Skinner, Rhona Cameron and Lee Mack. Dee is happy to share the limelight with his co-stars, something that goes against the grain of the stand -up psyche. It’s just as well he does, because his co-stars are absolutely terrific.
Series Four is due to land on British screen in late 2010
By Guy Stagg
Comedy is caricature: exploding the bad bits until they fill the stage. And the simplest caricature makes the most cutting satire.
Borat roadtripped the US with racism, sexism and an obscene moustache. Brüno showed off the best bleaching in fashion celebrity. Throwing the Jew down the well or chatting up a terrorist, it is a shocking, savage level of comedy. But with Sacha Baron Cohen the caricature is in fact the person being interviewed.
When comedy tells the truth it can be painful, and using an idiot alter-ego softens the blow. In the same way, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (guys behind South Park and Team America) push satire to the places stand-up is too scared to visit. Because you can hit a cartoon character as hard as you like.
They all piss on taboos. But, just as important, they pack in as much vulgarity as an 18 certificate can take: cage fight orgies and naked hotel room wrestling; puppet sex and a swear word every six seconds. It is so clever and so foul you can’t stand to watch. Read more »
By Matt Fricker
Last week the BBC released their draft editorial guidelines for the future of the corporation. Among this document, Section 5.4.31 to be precise, there is a passage which raised some questionable eyebrows towards the future of comedy at the BBC.
The paragraph in question reads;
“BBC content must respect human dignity. Intimidation, humiliation, intrusion, aggression and derogatory remarks are all aspects of human behaviour that may be discussed or included in BBC output. Some comedy can be cruel but unduly intimidatory, humiliating, intrusive, aggressive or derogatory remarks must not be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment.”
If we were to take these guidelines and apply them to the BBC’s rich history of comedy, how many examples can be found that would be in contravention of these rules?
It turns out quite a few; here is an example for each guideline…
Humiliating: lowering the pride, self-respect, or dignity of a person; mortifying: Such a humiliating defeat was good for his overblown ego.
1: The Office
The Scene: Gareth discovers with distaste that someone (Tim) has encased his stapler in jelly.
The Problem: Tim humiliates Gareth in front of David and the rest of the office by making fun of Gareth’s views towards office supplies.
Hilarious yes, but this scene could be seen as and example of bullying in the workplace and therefore not allowed.
Intimidatory: to make timid; fill with fear.
2: Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em
The Scene: Frank Spencer attempts to learn to drive.
The Problem: Frank’s sweet natured incompetence drives his instructor up the wall, in response; the instructor becomes annoyed and begins to intimidate Frank by yelling at him. Causing Frank to make even more mistakes.
Intrusive: tending or apt to intrude; coming without invitation or welcome: intrusive memories of a lost love.
3. Just For Laughs
The Scene: A sketch called the Royal Boot during which one actor, dressed as a Grenadier Guardsman, proceeds to kick another actor, dressed as a business man, up the backside as he walks by. The business man then proceeds to blame the member of the general public that had been walking alongside him at the time.
The Problem: In order to perform this sketch, the actors have to be able to intrude on the everyday life of commuters, tourists and people just going about their daily business, it’s also likely that none of the participants were asked if they would like to be in the sketch before it took place either.
Aggressive: characterized by or tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, or the like; militantly forward or menacing: aggressive acts against a neighbouring country.
4. Fawlty Towers
The Scene: Upon being told by Manuel that a spoon is clean, Basil proceeds to rub the spoon through Manuel’s hair before hitting him over the head with it in anger.
The Problem: The joke of this scene is simple, undue aggression towards a staff member, many other times in Fawlty Towers we see Basil in fits of rage towards his waiter for a vast number of reasons. Nearly all of which are unfair… poor Manuel.
Derogatory: tending to lessen the merit or reputation of a person or thing; disparaging; depreciatory: a derogatory remark.
5: Mock the week
The Scene: Frankie Boyle, while talking about the Beijing Olympics, makes a number of derogatory remarks about Double Gold winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington.
The Problem: Although Frankie Boyle is known for his dour and cutting style of humour, he is just one of a number of comedians who have formed jokes based around derogatory remarks.
Mock The Week was in fact reprimanded for this particular incident on Monday, as the original broadcast received 75 complaints from viewers.
The main question these new guidelines raise is simple, will the scenes exampled be deemed unsuitable in the future? If so, will that mean that any comedian who wants to make content that could be deemed controversial will have to leave the BBC in order to achieve their intended result.
If that is the case, how will BBC comedy compete as a provider of humour in the future? Or are these new guidelines just another sign of the Beeb’s reaction to the Sachsgate scandal that covered the media at the end of last year.
With Halloween on the horizon, the release of the latest film adaptation of the popular ‘Twilight’ series approaching and the brilliant ‘True Blood’ in full swing after its recent UK debut, vampires are very much in the popular entertainment consciousness. Over in the USA there is even a new television show called ‘The Vampire Diaries’, an adaptation of the book series by L.J. Smith originally published in 1991. The popularity of our sharp-toothed friends of the night has allowed for an older series to be revisited and brought back to life in a different way.
There’s just something sexy about vampires from the forbidden fruit aura that surrounds them, the allure of the mysteries of the night and all that biting. Furthermore, vampires are soulful – all that living forever young leads to a lot of deep thinking, and a lot of unresolved teenage angst. The masses lap it up, and are hungry for more. Read more »