Image courtesy The Room UK
Updated 15 February: enter the Twitter giveaway for two tickets to The Room
As Edinburgh prepares to host yet another cult film event, Ross Maclean steps into The Room…
The history of cinema is littered with self-financed personal projects and noble failures. When producer/writer/director/actor Tommy Wiseau plunged an alleged $7m into funding his debut feature, who knew it would be so awful? Or so enduringly popular?
To call The Room bad is to do it a disservice. It transcends ‘bad’ to become an all-encompassing onslaught of ridiculous scripting, woeful acting, cringe-inducing sex scenes, frequent non-sequiturs, bad dubbing and over-earnest melodrama.
Nominally a relationship drama, Wiseau himself plays Johnny, a gentle soul, betrayed by his girlfriend and best friend. If you’ve never seen or heard Wiseau, picture the result of a failed intensive breeding program between Sylvester Stallone and a Na’vi, with an indefinable accent approximating a tranquilised Arnie, dressed like a guest at a goth wedding.
It’s not hard to see why Tommy has gained a cult following – here’s a sample of what to expect:
Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend Slapstick 2010, the UK’s only (as far as I’m aware) festival dedicated to screenings of silent films alongside guest talks and special events.
Over four days I recorded some of my thoughts of the event for BBC Radio Scotland’s excellent Movie Café programme, and the episode is now up for seven days on the BBC iPlayer.
While I’d recommend listening to the full programme, my segment begins around 25.47 minutes in and features an interview with actor Paul McGann and Aardman Animation’s Peter Lord.
You can also read a review by fellow Slapstick 2010 attendee Walter Dunlop over on my other blog, Adventures in Primetime.
Reuniting many of the team behind 2000’s Sexy Beast, actor/producers Ray Winstone and Ian McShane working from a script from Louis Mellis and David Scinto, 44 Inch Chest begins with Winstone flat on his back, though this time he’s far from the beating sun of a Spanish poolside.
Reeling from the news that his wife, Liz (Joanne Whalley), is leaving him for a younger man (Melvil Poupaud), Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone) decides to take revenge upon the pair in the only way he knows how: with extreme violence.
Roping in his best friends – Meredith (McShane), Archie (Tom Wilkinson), Mal (Stephen Dillane) and Old Man Peanut (John Hurt) – Diamond must decide exactly what form his revenge on Loverboy will take, a decision informed by the experiences and unique viewpoints of his peers.
Opening on the face of a sweating and exhausted Ray Winstone, it’s immediately clear that what we’re about to watch isn’t going to be an easy ride: Diamond is a force of nature, enough suppressed energy coursing through his veins to power the National Grid for at least a week.
Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road
John Hillcoat’s film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road, arrives in UK cinemas with the weight of expectation heavy on its shoulders: can it possibly live up to the hype which sold the novel, words such as “masterpiece” and “classic” thrown at it like confetti?
The Road introduces us to the Man (Viggo Mortensen) and the Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they forage through the sodden remains of a post-apocalyptic future for food, shelter and some kind of future.
Convinced that the pair should head for the coast, the Man pushes a shopping cart full of their worldly possessions as they dodge groups of scavengers intent on attacking anyone who gets in their way.
As they encounter the dead and dying remnants of humanity, the question of what is good and bad hangs heavy over the two, their resolve tested as the need for food and water grows.
Clearly, no version of The Road was never going to be an easy watch and it’s to Hillcoat’s credit that his direction, working from a script by playwright Joe Penhall, tries hard not to soft peddle McCarthy’s vision of this degraded future world.
In fact this is very much Hillcoat’s film, the viewer drawn into a dreary, dirty and decidedly damp world which it’s far too easy to believe has resulted from some unnamed global disaster. We’re never allowed to forget that this a Bad Place, Hillcoat ramming the message home with every painstakingly grim shot of ruined skylines and dead trees.
Made on a shoestring and only distributed online, new Scottish thriller Mission X may not be worrying any of the major film studios when it comes to DVD sales, but if the passion of writer/director/star David Paul Baker is anything to go by they may soon want to sit up and take notice.
Mission X follows young student filmmaker Grant (Grant Timmins) as he attempts to come up with a subject for his coursework which doesn’t revolve around obesity or smoking.
Having managed to track down a real-life mercenary in the shape of Ryan (Baker), Grant soon finds himself trapped in a world of undercover operations, shady government deals and revenge as the stakes get higher.
Real-life director Baker sidesteps the issue of a lack of budget by having the film supposedly shot by Grant himself as he follows Ryan around during the planning stages of his mission, the shaky camerawork, uneven sounds and fluctuating light sources lending the picture the kind of amateur feel one might expect from a film student.
The film’s synopsis may hint at being an out-and-out action film but it’s characterisation which is the main strength. A slow drip-feed of information about Ryan and his revenge mission takes up much of the 90 minute run time, the character initially irritating as he constantly tells Grant not to pry too much into his work, mellowing as events unfold.
Making his cinematic debut with 2006’s The Gigolos, a story about relationships in modern Britain told in a uniquely sensitive manner, director Richard Bracewell returns with a variation on the theme in new film Cuckoo.
Opening with a stark close-up of Polly (Laura Fraser) as she travels to her work as a medical researcher in an unnamed city, we’re soon introduced to her world of science experiments, tight budgets and odd colleagues in the shape of Simone (Tamsin Greig) and her boss, Professor Greengrass (Richard E Grant).
As Polly begins to doubt that her current job is really for her, a feeling compounded by the obsessive nature of Greengrass, she also finds her home life somewhat lacking.
With her live-in boyfriend Chapman (Adam Fenton) barely in the house at night thanks to his work as a singer, and sister Jimi (Antonia Bernath) hardly the most compassionate of siblings, when Polly starts to hear things in her bedroom it seems that events are finally getting on top of her.
Determined to discover the source of the sounds, Polly begins searching both her surroundings and herself for an answer, a search that will bring her close to the edge of sanity and her own moral judgement.
A worrying message was issued by Edinburgh’s Cameo cinema today via their Twitter feed, stating that: “It seems the poor reviews have killed Pontypool. A real shame as it’s one of the more original films out there. Creepy and humorous.”
A quick email to the cinema’s manager confirmed that audience numbers have been low in the only cinema in Edinburgh, and I believe the only one in Scotland, to be screening the film.
The reason I’d say this is worrying is that the Canadian thriller/horror, which tells of an attack on a small town by a horde of zombies, is one of the best I’ve seen this year, a film I recently gave four stars on this very blog, stating that it’s “something of a “grower”, an always entertaining little film which stays in the memory long after you’ve seen it and improves with age.”
In Friday’s Edinburgh Evening News I went on to say it’s “a claustrophobic film with an impressive central performance from McHattie…director Bruce McDonald wrings out just enough tension along with a few laughs to create a memorable horror gem.”
Following this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival I took part in a Pontypool audiocast for the Filmstalker website, where three of us gave the film a glowing review, while the site’s owner, Richard Brunton, reviewed Pontypool and said that “despite some issues it was intelligent, different, visually engaging and had some laughter in there too.”