Tag Archives: Michael Caine

Whine On You Crazy Diamond: The Electric Cinema

Firstly, I want to apologise for this week’s blog being a few days late. Well, a week and a few days late. I know it’s an absolute no-no to blog about how you’ve been too busy in your ‘real life’ to blog, but that’s probably on the same list of rules that include “don’t name a column after a weak pun about an album that’s older than most of your readers” so I’m clearly a serial rule-breaker.

So yeah, I’ve been busy. Thankfully, I’ve also had time to watch some films and write up some reviews for the site, which along with some brilliant pieces from some of my favourite contributors has led to the most successful week in the site’s very short history. So thanks!

This week’s blog is a nice and easy one to write. It’s a simple recommendation based on the most delightful experience I had at the cinema yesterday. Sadly the film I watched was very disappointing, and if I had seen it in a bog-standard multiplex, or even the lovely, but familiar surroundings of my local arts centre I would have written an even angrier review. Luckily for my sanity I had chosen to watch it at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, the UK’s oldest working cinema.

The Electric is located just a couple of minutes’ walk from New Street, and houses two screens (with the largest of the two accessible to wheelchair users). The old-school ticket booth on your right as you enter took me back to a time I probably never really experienced. I wasn’t visiting a cinema from my youth; I was visiting a cinema that I had seen on-screen in my youth. Even my ticket was one of those tiny little stubs that sadly these days are reserved for booths exchanging them for tacky gifts on a seaside pier.

My standard seating ticket was a reasonable £7, although I was very tempted by the fantastic-looking sofa seating with waiter service for £12.80. If I hadn’t been on my own, I’m sure I would have splashed out. Concessions are priced at a budget £4.80 (including evenings and weekends), and in a nice touch the unwaged are also eligible for this price. The person who served me was friendly, polite, and seemed to genuinely care that I enjoyed the film. Good customer service costs nothing, and can make such a difference.

One inside the screen, and after being allowed to take my gin and tonic (Bombay Sapphire at just £2.50 a measure!) in a real glass with me, I settled in to a slightly rickety chair, with worn armrests, and not too much in the way of legroom. And I didn’t care – in fact loved it. It just felt like a cinema should. The projection was also perfectly handled. In short, I wish I could watch every film for the rest of my life here.

I’m even tempted to make the one hour journey from Leicester for one of their special events in the future. For example, earlier this month they hosted an evening of wine and film with a showing of Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love, and hosted by The Wine Tasting Company – who paused the film “at opportune moments to take audience members through six excellent red and white wines from different regions of Italy”. Now that is the kind of interruption and consumption of drinks I can get on board with.

If you’re ever stuck for a few hours in Birmingham with time to kill, I cannot recommend visiting this cinema highly enough. Even if you see a poor film, you’l still have a great time.

Please note – I was not asked to write about The Electric Cinema, and I paid for my ticket and refreshments.

www.theelectric.co.uk

This week’s viewing:

DVD – There’s a number of big releases out on DVD this week, but the best of them in my humble opinion is Brave – Pixar’s first ever film with a female lead. It’s not as out-and-out funny as some of the studio’s other releases, but it is the perfect marriage of Pixar’s wonderful visuals and a classic Disney fairytale-style narrative.

TV – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Sunday 2nd Dec, 3.05pm, Film4. The perfect film to have on as you dig out old decorations, untangle what feels like three miles of fairy lights, and deck your halls with bowls of holly etc. A retelling of Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) and his bah humbug approach to the festive season. May contain loveable puppets.

Lovefilm Instant  – Easy A (2010). Brand new to Lovefilm Instant, Emma Stone stars as a high school girl who sees her life echoing Hester Prynne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and decides to manipulate the school’s rumour mill to improve her lot in life. Clever teen comedy also starring Stanley Tucci, Lisa Kurow, and Malcolm McDowell.

Netflix UK – 21 Jump Street (2012). One of the biggest surprises this year was not how genuinely funny this reboot of a long-forgotten 80s TV show was (it really is), but that Channing Tatum had a performance like this in him – out-funnying Jonah Hill no less.

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Can We Not Film It?

Steve Norman is not only the host of the Failed Critics podcasts – he writes for the excellent football site Born Offside, and hosts their podcast as well (which he’s also persuaded our editor James diamond to contribute to). In his first piece for Failed Critics he examines the difficult relationship that football and cinema have had over the last century.

Football and cinema have been intertwined since the early part of the twentieth century when both were rising in popularity. With the Beautiful Game becoming ingrained in society, especially now in the United States with David Beckham hanging out with Hollywood’s finest, it’s no wonder it continues to find its way onto the silver screen.

Obviously more prevalent in British films than American, football can either be central to the plot, referenced in the background, or be some part of a characters persona.

The first film to really have football central to the plot was the 1939 Arsenal Stadium Mystery. Arsenal are set to play against a fictional side, the Trojans, and one of the Trojan’s players dies during the match having been poisoned. [Arsene Wenger claims not to have seen the incident – Ed.]

Shot at Highbury the film features many Arsenal players and their manager George Allison who has a speaking part. Match footage came from a league game with Brentford who actually wore a special ‘Trojans’ kit for the filming.

Many, when asked to think of a film about football will, almost by default, go for Escape to Victory starring Hollywood heavyweights Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine and football heavyweights Bobby Moore, Pele and the Ipswich Town team of the time.

The film may be cheesy at times but is thoroughly enjoyable even with ‘Rocky’ being the least convincing goalie of all time. It has everything you would want from both a football film and a POW escape movie.

Another Michael Caine movie featured football as a plot device. In the Italian Job the heist takes place on the day of a game between Italy and England which helps add to the traffic chaos needed to pull off the robbery. Some of the gang escape the city disguised as football fans.

Mike Bassett: England Manager is another football film that should consider itself a triumph. A comedy starring Ricky Tomlinson the film is funny throughout, poking fun at football culture and ripping on the infamous Graham Taylor documentary ‘An Impossible Job’ (which spawned the catchphrases “Do I not like that?”, and “Can we not knock it?”) perfectly. Part of its success is down to it not being lowest common denominator stuff which often happens when football and comedy collide.

Football and Hollywood then met spectacularly, or at least it was meant to be spectacularly, for the GOAL! Trilogy. Santiago Munez is a young Mexican playing local football in America, he is seen by an ex Newcastle scout and given the chance of a lifetime, to play for The Magpies (apparently Newcastle were picked as they were both recognized and well liked outside of Sunderland).

The obvious plot hole is that this Mexican illegal immigrant to the United States who hasn’t received a call up at any level for either nation is granted a work permit to play in England.

The trilogy continues in Goal!: Living the Dream where Munez earns a move to Real Madrid and features all the stars of the team of the time.

To give the films credit they are watchable and the match/training footage does involve the actual players from the teams involved. Although not as good as Sky One’s Dream Team it is often believable.

The final film of the trilogy flopped though. It was meant to be big. Munez would be playing in the World Cup, maybe for Mexico, maybe for England as he’d married an English girl and somehow claimed citizenship, or for Spain through ancestry or some other contrived plot device.

However this big budget end to the trilogy never materialized and it ended up being a direct to DVD effort hardly featuring any of the favourites from the first two and generally disappointing.

Kes has one of the most iconic football scenes from film with the P.E. teacher (played by actor and professional wrestler Brian Glover) pretending to be Bobby Charlton and generally being a prat and trying to show up the children in his class. Gregory’s Girl involves a socially awkward teenager, his football team and…and…a girl joining the team.

There are plenty of terrible efforts as well – with a ‘soccer’ based remake of The Longest Yard titled Mean Machine starring Vinny Jones, and There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble being among the worst culprits. When Saturday Comes, starring Sean Bean as a factory worker who gets signed by Sheffield United, isn’t much better either.

Fever Pitch fared somewhat better. The film starting Colin Firth and Arsenal Football Club gets a credible 6.5 on IMDB and is a decent enough film, while Bend it Like Beckham received positive reviews globally and helped launch the career of Keira Knightly. Telling the story of a young girl who wants to play football but is deterred from it by her parents, it holds the honour of being the first Western-made film to be broadcast on North Korean TV.

Film-makers seem to find it hard to get football right. When they do the results can be very good, as seen in Escape to Victory and Mike Bassett: England Manager but more often than not they get it wrong and we end up with Green Street, all unconvincing Cockney accents and a hobbit as a hooligan.

Failed Critics: Episode 14 – The Dark Knight Rises BATMAN SPECIAL

Holy half-baked opinions Batman! This week our very own Rogues Gallery of Villains (Gerry – The Joker, Owen – The Riddler, James – The Penguin, Steve – Catwoman) not only review The Dark Knight Rises, but also tackle all things Batman in a bumper 2 hour Batman Special.

THWACK!

In the opening section we discuss our randomly-allocated Batman films of the past – including Gerry’s near-breakdown over the 1966 movie and Owen looking for the positives in Batman and Robin. Plus Steve puts us all to shame with his tales of heroism. Well, sort of.

BIFF!

This week’s Triple Bill sees the critics giving us their favourite performances from the actors that have played the Caped Crusader in the last 25 years.

CRACK!

Then finally (at 1hour and 19 minutes if you want to skip) we review the most anticipated film of the year. Does it live up to expectations? Was it a worthy conclusion to the Dark Knight Trilogy? Could we understand a word Bane was saying?

We’re away next week, but will return on 7th August with a review of Ted and our favourite sporting movies.

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