Larry Oliver – Diary of a Film Reviewer - 1 to 30 April 2013

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Monday 1 April

This cold weather is no joke. Global warming?  Global freezing more like! Stroud Green must be the twin town of Reykjavik – temperature-wise.

Kumar and I meet P, an old theatrical acquaintance from my University days. He presents Kumar a ukulele.

Kumar fingers it suspiciously, but is grateful. Of course, he would rather have a DSLR camera, a few lenses, a film crew, or better yet an idea for a film.

He is contemplating making a short film to screen at the Hackney Picturehouse as part of their promotion of filmmaking talent. The thirty minute time slot appeals to him. However, he is short of inspiration, though not perspiration, he uses a roll-on like there’s no tomorrow. Not that ‘tomorrow’ is an alternative to deodorant.

P fills us in with his news. He is still teaching and playing Spanish guitar. He still loathes the country where he has made his temporary home. He does not think much of a tube line undergoing urgent maintenance. He had to take a replacement bus service which took him to a replacement destination – Hampstead, not Chalk Farm. We drink coffee in Costa Coffee in Belsize Park, a stone’s throw (with a strong wrist) from the hospital where Kumar was born 15 years, nine months ago.

We take two buses to the South Bank. P hates buses – prefers the tube. He buys me a pint – hates lager, likes bitter. Earlier I bought Kumar 12 cans of fizzy drink – he works his way through can number three.

P is intrigued by my idea of doing stand up. He asks me to recite some of my material. I oblige, but he complains about the lack of zingers. ‘I have no doubt that you’re funny, but.’

I feel a big but coming.

P is in the country until 11 April. He is staying in a branded budget hotel that is not fronted by Lenny Henry. A good night’s sleep is not guaranteed, only burly builders taking coke in the room next door. They hammer on his door: ‘Room service!’ P knows not to answer. He can hear the sniffs of freshly snorted white stuff, smell the booze. When he catches one on his own, the builder seems normal, reasonable. In packs, that is a different matter.

Kumar and I get home after 10:00pm. We have pizza (to cook, that is). Lady O is not amused.

Tuesday 2 April

Kumar and I film our entry to the Robert Rodriguez Project Green Screen piece: TWO SCOOPS.  The London Film Museum is closed, so we head for our fall back location, the third floor of the National Theatre. With my back to the Thames and adopting a sub-Al Pacino accent that hurts my throat (Al, how do you do it?) I recite the lines. We do six takes. My reading of ‘stay frosty’ makes Kumar shake the camera.

At Marks and Spencers in Oxford Street, I leave my travel mug behind. The mug, purchased from Universal Studios in 2011, the logo long since worn off, has been my constant companion. I even took it to New York with me. If you wonder why I don’t sleep with it, I say, ‘but where would Teddy go?’ I notice the grievous loss on a 29 bus heading down Tottenham Court Road. I run back and retrieve. Man and cup are re-united. I was previously under charged for two tins of Chicken Tikka Masala so re-pay fifty pence.  The man at customer services is surprised.

Wednesday 3 April

I see THE COMEDIAN, an ‘improvised’ low-budget British drama at Soho Screening Rooms in D’Arblay Street. I see a couple of more well-known critics whom I greet. The film is well-made but seriously depressing. I lose the use of my legs, or maybe the one bottle of Corona Beer left me legless. (Corona: you can use that in your advertising.)

Thursday 4 April

Time for a haircut! I lose my locks at a barbery in Crouch End. I meet Lady O and Kumar in Costed Coffee emporium. We lunch at the Devonshire House. In the evening I trek to see the 20:15 show of POPULAIRE at the Cine Lumiere in South Kensington, only I get the day wrong. I see DANS LA MAISON at Cineworld Fulham Road instead. There are two talkative Spanish girls whom I have to shush. (Could they not just text each other their inanities?) When I tell her that I have seen it, Lady O is irked. There is snow but it does not settle.

Friday 5 April.

Second attempt to see POPULAIRE at Cine Lumiere in South Kensington ends in defeat. A full house! Good for Monsieur Poinsard, the director. Not so good for me. I return to Cineworld Fulham Road and see the 20:15 show of THE PAPERBOY. Very well attended! A lot of blokes wanting to see Nicole Kidman wee on Zac Efron. Well, it is Friday night.

Saturday 6 April

DR WHO features another story about stealing souls – this time the Crouch End choir and a little girl (daughter of Aled Jones) have to sing to placate an alien. I thought he would be more of a Lady Gaga fan. The Doctor is saved by his companion. I get bored. Arsenal win their match (against Sunderland?), with two goals from Rosicky, not exactly prolific on the score sheet but welcome nevertheless.

Sunday 7 April

I shoot a short ‘video’ with Kumar, VITE ET SPURIOUS. The production is fractious. I do a lot of running in a heavy leather jacket. I know what Arnold Schwarzenegger must have felt like being barked at by James Cameron, except my jacket has a sticker strategically placed to cover up the STARSHIP TROOPERS logo. As I edit my version using Flip technology, Kumar sees GI JOE: RETALIATION for a second time, this time with one of his school friends. He and Lady O watch NIGHTWATCH (Bekmambetov) and GLEE afterwards.

Monday 8 April

Kumar and I meet P again, this time in a Costa Coffee on the first floor of Waterstone’s bookstore on Trafalgar Square (corner of the Strand). P is talking to a woman who happens to be Polish and has three books in front of her. I feel like letting them get on with it but P says his goodbyes and we head to a pub called The Angel on St Giles High Street. A round (two bitters and a coke for Kumar) is under £8. Result. Kumar describes his week and his plans to make a short film to screen at the Hackney Picturehouse. We also describe the shooting of our TWO SCOOPS entry, which has one (Facebook) dislike and one like. Apparently our location is awesome and I have the right voice. You can find it on YouTube (well, I haven’t had much luck getting my films on Film Annex – subtle hint).

We learn that Baroness Thatcher has died. This inspires a ‘good riddance’ party in Brixton. Rioters have relatives.

Tuesday 9 April

As Kumar attends his Steering Group meeting I see the documentary BLACKFISH by Gabriela Cowperthwaite at the Soho Screening Room. It concerns the 2010 fatality at SeaWorld in Orlando caused by a very unhappy killer whale. By the way, why are whales called ‘killer whales’? Why aren’t there ‘killer bears’, ‘killer lions’, ‘killer McDonald burgers’ (if you eat too many of them)? Is it because the whale song seems so friendly? For all we know, those whales could be swapping profanities! ‘What up?’ ‘Who you splashing?’ ‘Don’t mess with my blowhole!’ That sort of thing. By the end of BLACKFISH, which opens in July, I wanted to free Tilikum too. Who’s Tilikum? See the movie in July, my friends.

Wednesday 10 April

Lady O is working late at the Ministry for Oppressive Behaviour so no EE241 Wednesday film at a multiplex. There is a screening of THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES at Soho Screening Room but it is not Kumar’s thing. Miss seeing P again. He goes to Surbiton instead (well, who wouldn’t?)

Thursday 11 April

Score another set of tickets for OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN for next Monday at Vue Wood Green. Fingers crossed we see it this time. Also obtain tickets to see soon-to-be-released Mathieu Kassovitz film L’ ORDRE ET LA MORALE (aka REBELLION) at the Odeon Covent Garden, with a Q and A with Kassovitz himself on Sunday. Maybe I can interest Lady O. Kumar is unmoved. In spite of their valiant efforts, Tottenham and Newcastle fail to qualify for the semi-finals (or is it quarter finals?) in the Europa League. Chelsea does so.

Friday 12 April

I treat Kumar to a Bacon Double Cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant that ascribes royalty to a rather thin slice of processed meat. He saves me the tiniest corner of the bun with a microscopic edge of cheese. I consider making a thriller entitled EDGE OF CHEESE.

Saturday 13 April

Lady O, Kumar and I see OBLIVION. It features Tom Cruise in a love triangle between Tom Cruise the action hero, Tom Cruise the maker of inoffensive blockbusters, and Tom Cruise the insecure man who won’t share the screen with another major star; putting him opposite Dustin Hoffman - what’s that about? Very twisty plot and I am not entirely sure it makes sense. I could tell you why but I fear the cold dark hand of Universal Pictures – ah, well, they’ve stopped letting me into press screenings. Arsenal beat Norwich 3-1 at home, but got some favourable decisions, notably a corner that should not have been given, and a goal that resulted from off-side play. Chris Hughton (Norwich manager) will feel hard done by.

Sunday 14 April

Lady O has an upset stomach caused by a combination of Haagen Dasz ice cream, sushi, white wine, a Tennessee burger and something from Marks and Spencer in a punnet. So no REBELLION for her. Get well soon, Lady O! Kumar does not fancy the Kassovitz film but has a bath instead. He should have a tagline: ‘You’ll believe a teenager can wash!’ Incredible, I could have sworn it was CGI.

I am the only one who leaves the house to do my Fitzcarraldo impression, dragging a shopping bag over Crouch Hill. Glorious sunshine belies the snow and freezing temperatures we have had. When I go out later, I wear just a t-shirt – and the scarf of course, cannot forget the scarf.

REBELLION is moderately gripping. It is intelligently made, but lacks the impassioned intensity of Kassovitz’s landmark film, LA HAINE. With the military drumbeats, ceiling fans and an extended single take of soldiers firing at unseen opposition, it owes a lot to 1970s and 1980s Vietnam War movies. It is more successful when it deals with characters being obstinate – for example, the politicians who refuse to compromise.

Kassovitz arrived from the Hackney Picturehouse to the Odeon Covent Garden for a sixty minute question and answer session moderated by Jason Solomons who was kind enough to hold my Flip camera when I asked for a photo at the end. He compared New Caledonia, the setting of his film, to the Falkland Islands, somewhat erroneous – the Falkland Islanders are the only population, not westerners suppressing the indigenous population. (A woman spent no time at all correcting him.) It was a mostly female audience. They were fascinated by the film and (like me) knew nothing about its subject, New Caledonia, the Kanak population, their reverence of the elders, Alphonse Diarou or Philippe Legorjus, the hostage negotiator who is unable to prevent a massacre and who betrays the Kanak. I think Kassovitz has seen too many movies. He needs to unlearn cinema to arrive at a purer form of storytelling rather than use bravura tricks for scenes that are undone by a more sophisticated sensibility. I hope he does not return to popcorn moviemaking like BABYLON AD but rather keeps at more serious fare.

Monday April 15

Lady O, Kumar & I see OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN at Vue Wood Green, a packed screening with barely a seat to be had. It is an unashamed B movie. I did not believe a word of it and occasionally laughed at its risible plotting. We were not to know that in Boston, a bomb went off at the Marathon. A terrorist attack? The act of a psychopath like Brevik (in Norway)? No one yet knows. I think we would have watched the film differently had we heard about that attack.

Tuesday April 16

The extent of the casualties of Boston becomes known. Three dead, including an eight year old boy. One hundred injured. No films. Reality is rather more pressing. Kumar takes an Ethics and Cultural Studies exam and says he did quite well. I watch the end of an Indian Premier League Match but it has more in common with WWE with its contrived high scoring and ‘down to the wire’ ‘super-over’ finish (between Delhi Daredevils and Bangalore Royal Chargers). I lose interest when a batsman deliberately plays a bad shot. Kumar insists on humming film themes and asking me to guess the movie. I had not seen some of them (HOT ROD, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS), could barely remember others (COWBOYS AND ALIENS).

Harrison Ford’s new film, 42, is the number one flick in the US. It is a baseball movie, which means it is unlikely to be released here. It is, however, a biopic of sorts of Jackie Robinson, and is directed by Brian Helgeland.

I can barely listen to Arsenal playing Everton on the radio, although my hearing is all right, thank you. 0-0 at half time. Have a couple of followers on Twitter, including The Fold Movie, whom I have never heard of. Follow a few more film companies. The Arsenal score remains at full time.

Wednesday April 17

Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.  I heard the hearse went down Whitehall like a vehicle responding to an emergency distress call. Maybe they were expecting bottles thrown at it. In football, Tottenham win but Manchester United lose. The pressure is still on Arsenal to secure a top four finish.

Thursday April 18

The location of my French lesson has moved, so I miss it. Quelle dommage.

Friday April 19

No sign of the magazine that I write for, so my reviews of YOU AND ME and LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED were for naught. Has it closed down after 76 years of being published in various incarnations?

Kumar and Lady O watch PSYCHO. I have an early night.

The Boston bombers are apprehended. One is killed, the other remains in a critical state.

Saturday April 20

The usual shopping then laundry combination. Kumar and Lady O watch THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT as I continue the search for my paper at Swiss Cottage Library. Not there either. Arsenal scrape a 1-0 win at Fulham, Mertesacker headed goal. Giroud is sent off. Look for freesias for Lady O’s birthday. The ones I find are sagging and half-dead.

I get my first glimpse at the Cannes 2013 line-up, which as every critic and his/her dog knows opens with Baz Luhrmann’s THE GREAT GATSBY.  Amongst the line up are new films from Paolo Sorrentino, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Alexander Payne, Ashgar Farhadi (tip ‘im for the Palme D’Or, I shall) and that well known auteur, James Franco. He proves that if you sing a Britney Spears song in a Harmony Korine movie, the world takes you seriously. World, what are you coming to?

Roman Polanski’s VENUS IN FURS will be screened together with Polanski’s documentary about Jackie Stewart. Jackie Stewart? Are you having a laugh? How is he a Polanski hero? I guess, he’s a little short. There is also a new film from the director of I WISH. And INSIDE LLEWLYN DAVIS, the slightly delayed film from the Brothers Coen. The jury is headed by Steven Spielberg. I didn’t see that coming. Neither did he, he was supposed to be directing ROBOAPOCALYPSE with Anne Hathaway. Apparently, the script wasn’t ready. He wants to see how PACIFIC RIM does.

Sunday April 21

Kumar sees WRECK IT RALPH in 3D. I watch EVIL DEAD (2013) in 2D. Lady O stays at home – 1D.

Our respective cinemas are Islington Vue and Cineworld Trocadero.

Tottenham beat Manchester City 3-1, with three goals scored in 7 minutes. Chelsea drops a 2-1 lead to finish their game against Liverpool at 2-2. Suarez allegedly bites a player. Ouch.

The London Marathon – can’t get into it; can’t get excited about it. It’s like Oxbridge for a Comprehensive school student – a remote world.

Kumar has his nails cut. He does not scream, which is a first. We watch the R.I.P.D. trailer and agree it is entertaining if a tad similar to MEN IN BLACK with Jeff Bridges doing his ‘Rooster Cogburn’ schtick. ‘If it earned the Coen Brothers a hundred mill, heck, I try it again in another movie. How about in that long-overdue JAGGED EDGE sequel?’

Monday April 22

Lady O has reached a milestone – well, she finds walking quite difficult these days. She’s aged. She has chalked up another twelve months on the clock. She has also gone to work as normal.

It is the finale of BROADCHURCH this evening, a series that has captured her – and by extension, the nation’s – imagination? Who killed Danny Latymer? Apparently, we’ll find out at nine o’clock. It is BOUND to be disappointing. These things always are.

I buy Lady O some freesias. They don’t speak youth and beauty, rather ’another day up and down the stairs’. Purple sagging stems, as if starved of oxygen. When Lady O arrives home, she does not acknowledge them. I leave fish fingers, hash browns and peas in the oven. Well, it is hardly a birthday banquet.

There is always the weekend.

A birthday isn’t just for 24 hours, it lasts a whole year. Then the hour hand shunts a little closer to Death’s sharpened scythe.

What am I talking about? This is supposed to be the diary of a film reviewer, not an Ingmar Bergman film.

I receive confirmation that a PR company will let me see PARADISE: LOVE on May 1, the first of a trio of films from Ulrich Seidl, he of IMPORT: EXPORT fame. (What do you mean, you’ve never heard of him?) This week (Thursday, 25th) I will also be seeing SPIKE ISLAND at Universal’s preview theatre in St Giles High Street.

A screening room as yet unvisited. Cannot wait!

But first, the small matter of THE SUMMER OF CINEMA preview, tomorrow at Somerset House.

Tuesday April 23

Yes, it was not really a small matter but I was disappointed that Lady O elected to give THE SUMMER OF CINEMA preview a wide berth. As it turned out, her instincts were probably correct. There were no seats and we elderly people like to sit down, preferably using two seats instead one on the bus, the other has a shopping cart. Yes, thank you, it does have a Freedom Pass.

The event is aimed at on-line film reviewers who have their particular constituency. They might be horror buffs, science fiction nerds, arthouse pseuds, action movie nuts, or folk strangely into films about young people putting on a show.

Well, I don’t know many of those.

In the queue, a man utters a familiar mantra of the blogger: ‘I haven’t been paid for a review since 2010.’

Well, matey, I want to tell him, I haven’t been paid for a review since the last Conservative government, when our Prime Minister made policy from blank Scrabble tiles, whose very answer to every question was ‘beige’, whose brother, whom I met once at an art gallery, had a hyphen in his surname to make him sound even sillier.


We are asked whether we are here for the Summer of Cinema 2013 event. ‘Of course,’ I reply having adhered to the strict dress code of smart clothes, no jeans, trainers or Spandex (at least on the outside). We are given quiz questions and ushered into a room where there is beer, a band playing and Adrian Wootton, head honcho of Film London was deep in conversation. The compere – ‘go compere’, get it? – Alex Zane sits on one of the few chairs, going over his script.

‘I’m not saying that ... nor that... nor that.’

Those were words not uttered by Mr Zane.

I checked the schematics of the venue very quickly – I really have watched too many episodes of 24. Steps leading out to a roped off area; a river view. A view of another bar where patrons are free to roam. A band playing inside. A corridor to the rest room. A video screen. A bar. That’s it.

At around 19:15 the event kicks off. At this time I find myself approached by a fifty-something American whose voice reminds me of Lionel Shriver who tells me she is an American filmmaker who visits the UK for six weeks of the year and is a documentary filmmaker based in San Francisco. She was the guest of someone at the hotel. Her name is Susan.  Burn, Horn? Can’t remember her surname.

She used to work for the State Department. She volunteered at Sundance and saw THE LOOK OF LOVE (‘hated it’). She asked to help out at Sundance London but they didn’t want her.

She is concerned by genetically modified food.

She drinks only water.

The beer I have in my hand – two bottles, so I don’t have to go to the bar later - puts her off. She makes an excuse and leaves. I sense I have triggered off a memory – or maybe holding two beers is a social faux pas. Discuss.

Mr Zane runs through the programme. We get quiz questions, the Summer of Cinema 2013 trailer, some other trailers (including THE INTERNSHIP and ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA) and interviews with Mr Wootton and Mr Freer of Empire magazine. I meet and scare off a man who writes from a website with zombie in the title – well, I supposed I must look like the living dead (and it’s true). I have my features sketched by a caricaturist, but believe me he could not fix them.

All very pleasant – now all I have to do is plug summer releases. Well, you twisted my arm....

I get all the answers right in the written quiz, but my name is not drawn. Sadness...

Wednesday 24 April

Do you know, I can’t remember anything about this day. I wonder if Bridget Jones had the same problem (‘Number of cigarettes smoked – who gives a ...’)

Thursday 25 April

I arrive at the screening of SPIKE ISLAND too early. It is at Universal’s new office in St Giles High Street, a very modern building with a large reception area that has its own cafe. The film starts at 19:00. I decide to drink only San Pellegrino carbonated orange and water. Good choice. The film is entertaining. Some films aspire to be a British AMERICAN GRAFFITI – SPIKE ISLAND succeeds. It has an opening broadly similar to scenes in SOMETHING IN THE AIR – kids breaking into a school. But it improves. It opens in June.

The preview theatre is like a proper theatre, complete with steep rake and cup holders. The stairs might be challenging for old people though.  There are no toilets for patrons so I have to leave Universal’s building to use the facility. Green may be Universal. Pee evidently isn’t.

Friday 26 April

The journey from Westminster to the North Greenwich O2 dome takes only twenty five minutes as I make my first visit to Sundance London. I score a seat for TOUCHY FEELY and the Lynn Shelton Q and A. The film is not good, though has one or two nice scenes. Ms Shelton is likeable.  Her next film stars Anne Hathaway. She did not write the script. She looks genuinely chuffed.

Saturday 27 April

I score a seat for EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES, a film by writer-director Francesca Gregorini. The screening is for Cineworld Unlimited card holders like me. It is not that well attended, but the Q and A session is lively, mainly because I asked about five questions. Ms Gregorini is superstitious. She likes her hat. (I like my scarf.) She thinks of a title and won’t change it. Yet she can make a film for about a quarter of what ‘people’ told her it would cost. The film is emotionally engaging and works. I wish it – and Ms Gregorini – well.

Sunday 28 April

I buy two tickets for the price of one for METRO MANILA over the internet and obtain a press ticket for me. Lady O and Kumar join me for the trip to North Greenwich. All three of us enjoy the film and the Q and A with co-writer-director Sean Ellis. We travel back to North London and dine at the Devonshire House public house in Crouch End. Kumar has a roast – well, it was a bit hot.

At 16:00, Arsenal offer Manchester United a guard of honour prior to kick-off. Man U as they are affectionately known are Premiership Champions, guaranteed the right to play in the Champions League next season, smug so-and-so’s. Their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, whom if he volunteered himself as the next host of THE APPRENTICESHIP, would give budding candidates the hair dryer treatment (‘why din ya pass to Scoles?’ ‘But we were trying to sell widgets.’ ‘That’s no the point!’) was attempting to accumulate 95 points – a league record. Standing in their way was Arsenal’s wobbly defence. Arsenal scored first but then Robin Van Persie, an Arsenal alumnus netted one back from the penalty spot. It finished 1-1. A point gives Arsenal no certainty that it will finish in the Top Four, also guaranteeing itself a Champions League place.

Monday 29 April

The first day of Kumar’s work experience at a well-known institute of British Film, otherwise known as the Cinematheque Anglais. (I’m not sure who knows it as that, but still...) He watches films all day. Call that work experience. It does not test his numeracy, which is just as well. How long is it since he had his hair cut?

I see DEADFALL at a press screening. An embargo forbids me from reviewing it online until 10 May, the day of release. I concur with another film reviewer.

Tomorrow, at the same venue, I will defend my title as film quiz champion of Cineworld Haymarket, this time with the other two members of Team Oliver, Lady O and Kumar. How will we do?

Tuesday 30 April

The film quiz at the bar of Cineworld Haymarket: how did we do? Well, Team Oliver was in the top three. There were only two questions I might have got wrong – what is the full name of the character Helen Mirren plays in THE AUDIENCE (HRH The Queen, Elizabeth Windsor, Mrs Duke of Edinburgh, take thy pick) and what Stone Roses song was named a top fifty classic. (I guessed RESURRECTION.) You see, we never got the answers, only the results (and not in any order either). The quiz master, who described William Shatner as a legend (he is so young) kept getting the years of release wrong. Ryan Gosling did not appear in a film last year; DRIVE was released in 2011, as was THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The quiz setter was a big David Fincher fan, three of the answers were his movies. He should have mentioned ZODIAC or THE GAME or ALIEN 3, three of Fincher’s films that either flopped at the box office or earned critical ire.

We prefaced the quiz with a pizza at the Hut and followed it with a movie, I’M SO EXCITED (LOS AMANTES PASAJEROS). Lady O was very crotchety, especially as she did not get a seat early and had to sit in the front row. I collected a bottle of wine in front of a packed cinema audience in screen one, most of whom passed the quiz by (in order to get the best seats). Chocolate and sweets were thrown at the audience. We felt like Tilikum.

Kumar would want me to mention the trailers: THE BIG WEDDING, THE HEAT, THE WOLVERINE and THE INTERNSHIP. If you want Twentieth Century Fox to produce your film, put ‘THE’ in the title.

I retired to bed past eleven pm with a cup of coffee.

Hope you had a good April at the cinema.

About the author


Independent film critic who just wants to witter on about movies every so often. Very old (by Hollywood standards).

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