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Broadcasting Film Interview Newspaper Writing

An epic end to the year

BBC Movie Cafe discusses The Hobbit
BBC Movie Cafe discusses The Hobbit

The world has once more gone Middle Earth mad, with the release this week of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit in cinemas, nine years after his last visit to The Shire.

I was asked by the BBC Movie Cafe and the Edinburgh Evening News to head along to Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema last weekend for a special screening of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a 10 hour endurance test involving Orcs, Dwarves and people dressed as Hobbits.

The radio segment can be heard over on BBC iPlayer for another few days, while I’ve reproduced the Evening News column below:

With The Hobbit arriving in cinemas tomorrow, it seemed like a good idea last Sunday to head to the Cameo to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen.

At around 10 hours in duration, this was no ordinary film screening, meaning I had to be prepared for all eventualities. Forget the lembas bread wrapped in leaves favoured by Frodo and Sam, I went for some ham sandwiches and too much coffee.

The films were a joy to revisit, with Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth, a dark and brooding place with the occasional glimpse of light as our heroes made their way to Mordor, looking suitably epic in the original 35mm prints.

Leaving the screening on a high, I hoped The Hobbit would prove to be as exhilarating, as Jackson returned to his world with a new Bilbo Baggins in the shape of Martin Freeman alongside Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf.

The director has embraced a pioneering new technology which doubles the normal frame rate of the film, 48 fps (frames per second) instead of 24. Jackson claims this is a more immersive experience and that all films will go this way.

Rather than looking as big and bold as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit looks more like it’s shot on the set of a 1980s soap opera. While landscapes look lush and rich, close-ups of the actors bring you closer to them, making the heavy prosthetics and make-up more obvious.

Most importantly, the thin story doesn’t justify the three-hour length, with not much really happening apart from some fights, lots of running around and the appearance of Gollum.

With two more films to come, it looks like it’s going to be a slog to get to the end of this particular journey.

Categories
Film Newspaper Writing

Tram Man is a superhero for the Capital

Electric Man
Electric Man

Once in a while my weekly Edinburgh Evening News column doesn’t make it from the printed page onto their website so I publish it here instead. Here’s the piece that went into yesterday’s paper:

It’s been another summer of comic book movies, with Avengers Assemble and Spider-Man already released and The Dark Knight Rises about to hit screens around the country.

Last week also saw a raft of new superhero films announced at the high profile San Diego Comic Con, Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2 just some of the blockbusters announced for 2013 and beyond.

Also making waves at Comic Con was the only UK feature film to screen at the festival, Edinburgh-set comic book movie, Electric Man.

Described as The Maltese Falcon meets Kevin Smith’s Clerks, the film follows the misadventures of two Edinburgh comic book fans, Jazz and Wolf, who run a comic shop on Candlemaker Row.

As the pair struggle to find £5,000 to prevent the shop being shut down they also discover a priceless first edition comic is in their possession. Unfortunately for our heroes, the comic is also wanted by another collector who’ll do anything to get it back.

“The original draft of the script has been around since the early 90s, after the idea for a sitcom pilot came to me one night when I was in college,” says the film’s co-writer and director, David Barras. “It did the rounds for a few years, with the BBC interested in commissioning it at one stage.”

I watched the film in 2011, in a slightly different cut to the one which premiered in San Diego, and found it a fast-paced romp that doesn’t take itself seriously. The actors, including 1980’s legend, Fish, do a good job throughout.

My own idea for a superhero film is still in development, though whether anyone will greenlight Tram Man, the story of a hero avenging the city’s evil tramworks, remains to be seen.

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Film Filming Online Writing YouTube

The future of film criticism is in the past

Being a classic film fan can be a lonely experience, one of those people who regularly scans the TV listings for 1am repeats of Clarence Brown films or documentaries about RKO.

This past year has found me immersed in cinema history, through my visit to the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), my work running the Park Circus blog and my weekly Edinburgh Evening News column.

A few weeks ago I wrote in the paper about the arrival of Scorsese’s Hugo and new silent film, The Artist, both of which celebrate the early days of film, while on Thursday I noted the arrival of Edinburgh’s IMAX screen and the need to keep an eye on some of the smaller films in the city.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8K9AZcSQJE]

As I’ve discovered through working with Park Circus, the world is increasingly looking to the past for its entertainment, something I’m more than happy to be a part of.

I’ll be visiting the IMAX for Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol in a few weeks, and appreciate the need to promote quality new cinema via sites like my own www.reelscotland.com, but I also think it’s my responsibility to tell readers about our rich cinematic heritage, as I did back in September for the Evening News.

It’s also the reason I recently started another blog in the shape of Holyrood or Bust. With the huge volume of DVDs and Blu-rays currently being released, not to mention cinema re-releases and films such as The Artist, it’s a golden period for those wanting to write about classic film.

My most recent post was requested by a friend in New York, Will McKinley, who is a viewer and fan of the US TCM channel. Though I’m unable to watch the channel, I did become a convert to TCM during the TCMFF and used their recent Buster Keaton season to launch the site in October. This time, Will asked if I could write a post to celebrate the return of TCM host, Robert Osborne, to the screen after a short absence.

I obliged by using an excerpt from an interview I carried out with Osborne in LA earlier in the year:

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I’m now gearing up for a 2012 filled with even more classic films, including another trip to Bristol’s Slapstick Festival, the second Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema here in Scotland (see my video interview below), a return to Los Angeles and a few other projects that are in the early stages.

Through my work I’ve discovered a vibrant community of classic film fans it’s been a privilege to engage with them on various websites, via Twitter and, most importantly, in cinemas around the world.

Here’s to another classic year of film coverage in 2012.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=W9MIKcPObSI]

Categories
Film Uncategorized Writing

Celebrating two years of weekly film columns

The above title is slightly misleading as I actually celebrated two years worth of Edinburgh Evening News film columns in January, but it’s been a busy 2011 so far and I haven’t had a chance to mention it before now.

It was in June 2008 that I began writing for the Evening News, first covering the Edinburgh International Film Festival in a vaguely blog-like way on the website and also in the paper itself.

From then on I was contributing reviews of plays, stand-up shows, music gigs and even some of Bob Dylan’s art before my editor approached me to write a weekly film column, Reel Time, in January 2009. With the word count varying over the years it’s hard to be precise about the amount written, but somewhere in the region of 50,000 must be close.

With a readership of around 50,000 a day for the print version of the paper alone, never mind the website, that’s a lot of people to cater for and the topics have been as varied as I can make them.

If anyone was to look back through them I suspect there would be more space to silent cinema than 3D spectaculars, with classics and forgotten or overlooked movies also getting a lot of love.

I’ve enjoyed writing every one of them and it’s fantastic to be able to challenge yourself every week to create something new and (hopefully) interesting. I’d urge everyone to do the same, even if it’s just on their own blog or a diary.

There’s also the spin-off blog which allows me to get even more obscure.

I’m not sure if I have a favourite column but a few I’d like more people to read are my Bill Douglas celebration from July 2009 and some thoughts on film-going during the recession.

A full list can also be accessed on the Evening News site.