Tag Archives: Bill Nighy

Vampires for Christmas…

Those lovely people at Screen Gems just keep on giving.  Well, ’tis the season and all that.

I'm going out on a hairy lycanthropic limb and saying that Selene's not on Team Jacob...

Not content with dropping the third trailer for this January’s fourth entry in the Kate Beckinsale PVC vamp franchise,  “Underworld: Awakening”  – which spends an awful lot of its runtime telling you that it’s in 3D, because it’s the law, now, apparently – the studio have also released a Kate Beckinsale-narrated trailer which brings you up to speed on the franchise’s highlights so far.

But oddly, Selene is kind of into were-folk when they look like Scott Speedman. Go figure.

Yes, there have been highlights, snarky internet haters.

Michael Sheen, classing up the joint all proper-like.

Sophia Myles, also offering a bit o' class.

Bill Nighy, whose very presence improves a film by 278.9% on average.

And those guys are just in the first film.

The “Underworld” movies have proper actors in them, don’t you know – and none of them give the impression that they’re slumming, which is pretty cool.  It’s one of the reasons that I like the series – I’m well aware that it’s noisy, derivative, B-horror fare and I’m pretty sure that the creators are, too.  There seems to be an implicit bargain between audience and film-makers that we’re going to enjoy this film and the universe it occurs in and not think too much about how silly it is – it’s a shame that critics haven’t joined the party, but you can’t have everything (where would you put it?).

So, there’s a new “Underworld” flick out in January and I’m kind of excited to see it.  Revelatory stuff from Fluffrick, once more.

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Bonfire of the Nerderies – “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy”

Mos Def and Martin Freeman in "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy"

Where do you start with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”?  Do you talk about its place in the great tradition of pomposity-puncturing, absurdity worshipping British Sci-Fi?  Do you try to decode the almost dizzying cross-continuity which exists between differing versions of the story?  Do you mumble something about always needing your towel and then move on?

It’s a tale which has seen iterations on radio, as an increasingly inaccurately numbered trilogy of novels, a fondly remembered BBC TV series, stage plays, comic books, a beloved PC game and this most recent of adaptations in 2005.

There’s something about it, a unique selling point which survives translation to different forms of media, in different decades and manages to appeal to generations who weren’t even a blip in their parents DNA when Douglas Adams began writing the BBC radio show in the 1970s.  It’s always potent, slightly counter-culture, wonderfully humane and surprisingly moving.

A Vogon demolition squad, pictured next month during the inevitable end of the planet…

At its core, “The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” is a simple tale of friendship, intergalactic travel, planetary strife, adventure, universally translating fish and invaluable towels.  The tone and humour of the stories is quintessentially British, but manages to be reasonably accessible and doesn’t require a hard-won degree in science fiction arcana to be able to understand it – it’s a common misconception, I think, that the “Hitchhikers” series requires the audience to do a lot of heavy lifting to follow things.

The story’s hero Arthur Dent is very much an Every Bloke and, therefore, an audience identification figure.  He’s a not terribly successful, unlucky in love but generally decent.  Arthur’s previously unadventurous and stultifying  path through life is rudely interrupted one morning by his best friend Ford Prefect who rocks up just in time to save him from the planet Earth being demolished to make way for an interstellar bypass (on that last point, I’m sure that some would say ‘not before time’…).

In the film, which I’m primarily basing this post on, Dent is played by Martin Freeman, an English comic actor most recently seen in Steven Moffat’s update of “Sherlock” but still perhaps best known for his role in Ricky Gervais’ doc-com, “The Office”.  I say ‘perhaps’ here as I’ve never seen “The Office”, in either the Gervais original or the American Steve Carell-fronted version.  Seeing this film was really the first major exposure that I can recall having to Martin Freeman, and I feel that he made a difficult role his own.

‘Difficult’ in this context as to a certain generation of Brits, Arthur Dent is Simon Jones, from the BBC TV adaptation.  He’s so ingrained in my consciousness that I tend to hear his voice, or David Dixon as Ford, when I go back to reading the Douglas Adams books.

Arthur Dent, in the British gentleman's armour of choice, a comfy dressing gown.

Freeman captures Dent’s bemusement at the incomprehensible world that he’s forced to leave and his wonder at the wider galaxy that he finds himself hurtling through.  He’s not an actor who mugs desperately to wring laughs where none exist but one who finds the funny in quiet moments and expertly conveys Arthur’s slightly creepy neediness when he meets the proverbial dream girl who got away, Trillian  and tries to win her back.

Trillian, played by Zooey Deschanel. If you just marked off "Intergalactic hipster glasses" on your bingo card, congratulations!

A tough job normally but one which is made exponentially difficult by the fact that Trillian is travelling in the presence of errant Galactic president and twin-headed alpha male Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell, channelling equal parts David Lee Roth and Bugs Bunny).  He’s  the kind of guy that will seduce your girl/boyfriend, steal your spaceship, kidnap himself and generally do his best to destroy your life, sometimes for kicks, mostly because he’s bored and hey, that seems like kind of fun thing to do.  Pan-cosmic sociopath or excessively fun dude – I’ve never made up on that one.

Arthur, then, is roaming the galaxy in the company of a gang of weird-beards, a depressed automaton, the girl of his dreams and knocking heads with the Vogon race who initially destroyed his planet.  Along the way, there’s a bit with a galactic religious cult leader (John Malkovich) which isn’t in the books (and doesn’t really go anywhere – perhaps a set-up for the sequels which should have followed this film?) and a visit to the smartest machine in the universe, Deep Thought (voiced by Helen Mirren).

My favourite bit in this adaptation?

Hey, hey! It's Bill Nighy!

Yep, Bill Nighy plays Slartibartfast – slightly hippy-ish builder of the Earth and other planets (So, Bill Nighy and a quiet big-up to Atheism in the same scene? No, I can’t think why I like this part of “Hitchhikers” so much…) and takes Arthur Dent  to his shop floor…

Arthur & Slartibartfast go to work...

…which results in one of the more underrated bits of (literal) world-building in recent science fiction cinema.

to quote another favourite film of mine, "They should have sent a poet..."

It’s this part of the film which has my favourite moment in the film – and possibly in pop culture – which hinges around Slartibartfast’s philosophical approach to some of existence’s more difficult-to-grasp vagaries:

“Perhaps I’m old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what’s actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, “Hang the sense of it,” and keep yourself busy. I’d much rather be happy than right any day.”

Those, my friends, are words to live by.  There’s nothing to look forward to after this comparatively short life  ends, much as we might want to believe there is.  There’s only the here, the now and how we treat each other whilst we’re fumbling around for meaning in a world which resolutely defies any attempts to understand it.  And that’s what this movie gets so right,  in my opinion – though this film was in development for decades, with countless script drafts and iterations discarded to time, so much of Douglas Adams’ singular voice and humanity survived the process and made it through to the final film.

Though the film wasn’t successful enough to justify Disney subsidiary Touchstone Pictures green-lighting further adaptations of the novel series, director Garth Jennings and his producing partner Nick Goldsmith can be justifiably proud of what they achieved here.

The S.S. Heart of Gold. Ain't she purty?

The span is galactic, but the characters are very human.  The story zips about all over the place but never really loses focus.  Changes are made to the core story but the story’s concerns and truths are not jettisoned to make things more accessible to a mainstream audience.

I love this version still, and was more than happy to watch it again as I wrote this piece.  Here’s hoping that some upstart film maker manages to build on this foundation in the future and revive the stories for a new generation – I really, really want to be able to see Disaster Area rock out on-screen one day…


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Some notes on David Yates’ “Doctor Who” movie…

Ever since it was announced the other day – causing regrettably vocal sections of the internet to go into full, petition-starting meltdown – the prospect of a “Doctor Who” film directed by David Yates has been near the front page and key to the discussion on most nerd-centric websites.

Not to be uncharitable, but I imagine the thought process of most negative posters on forums and in comments sections goes something like this – “It’s a terrible idea!  How dare Americans conduct a cultural smash-and-grab on one of our favourite Sci-Fi heroes! Furthermore, if you just examine my seventeen-volume collection of fan-fiction, you will see that only I am capable of successfully rebooting this franchise with my hitherto unheralded genius”.

Let’s see whether this project goes beyond being fodder for fevered blog posts and traffic-grabbing news stories before writing off the project before a word of the first screenplay draft has been written –  at this point, there are so many steps for this film to travel along before I’m writing a fevered blog post about the first trailer for the actual film.

That said – let’s get to casting this mother.

As the Doctor, I will accept no substitute.

Greatest. Living. Englishman.

Eccentricity? Yes. Have seen him?  Laughs? He makes me chortle like a loon.  Emotional range?  He can break your heart with a single, well-timed pause and a low-key line delivery.  There’s life and a tangible thought process going on behind his eyes and he’s an actor who appears to have lived life – he’s definitely not a substance-free leading ‘man’ and as we’ve had a couple of Doctors in the TV series who have skewed younger in age, it might be time for a Doctor who’s slightly older?

Additional, not-to-be-overlooked advantage – he’s worked regularly with project mainstay David Yates in the “Harry Potter” films, as Ministry of Magic head Rufus Scrimgeour.

I’m inclined to veer towards somebody with looks and acting chops as a companion – if, indeed, that is the format with which Yates proceeds.  I mean, we might not see such traditions being adhered to if the director is as good as his word and goes back to code, not focussing so much on the demands of established canon and choosing to create a new world to draw stories from.

So, if we do have a companion, I’m going to suggest…

Serious, funny, rather delightful - very British. Yep, she's a keeper.

That’s Hayley Atwell, who you might have seen in this summer’s “Captain America – The First Avenger”, the recent cinematic adaptation of “Brideshead Revisited” and Woody Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dream”  or her roles in TV series such as “The Pillars of the Earth” and “The Prisoner”.

She’s done franchise work, she’s done more cerebral fare – she’s funny, refreshingly not a stick-thin every-Blonde and has an undeniable but oddly relateable poshness which might well endear her to some American fans.

Not sniffy about genre, unapologetically bright and a dog lover:  I may be biased, but she makes my list.

Of course the fun of writing a post like this is looking back on it in a few months and finding out that you were completely wrong and that somebody you could never have thought of in a million years has been cast in the film:

Had to use this pic - thanks, Google Image search!

Coming soon – Alan Carr is the Doctor in “Carry On Who!”

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Rachel Weisz Wednesdays (any old excuse)

The eyes - they follow you!

Playing shortly at the Toronto International Film Festival, and on the international Film Fest circuit thereafter, is David Hare’s spy drama, “Page Eight”.

I mention this mainly because I will be watching this film on Sunday night, in my living room, thanks to the unique awesome sauce and idiosyncrasy of the BBC, who funded the film and are playing it on BBC 2 this weekend. What larks!

And, for a change, it’s not only the luminescence of La Weisz which recommends this drama, as Bill Nighy stars alongside fellow Potterists Michael Gambon and Ralph Fiennes, Judy Davis and Ewen Bremner.

We’re talking thesped, people. Seriously thesped.

And, as is my tradition, here’s a splendid picture of Rachel looking nifty on the September 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal’s magazine, traced via the kind bounty of FashionEtc.com

Via FashionEtc.com

Context? What is this thing you call ‘context’?

My thoughts on “Page Eight”, should there be any reason at all that you might care for them, will be with you anon…

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