The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Review: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (UK Cert 15)

1927. On a sweltering hot Chicago day, renowned blues singer Ma Rainey attends a recording session for a new album. There are tensions between members of the band- with young trumpeter Levee, eager for his own record deal, clashing with established older members Toledo and Cutler- which escalate further when Ma arrives an hour late and begins her demands.  

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the second piece in playwright August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle [also known as the Century Cycle] which looked at the Black experience throughout the twentieth century (with each play set in a different decade). Another of the Pittsburgh Cycle plays, Fences, was filmed in 2016, directed by Denzel Washington. Washington acts as producer here, as part of an arrangement to bring Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle to the big screen. Direction duties are taken by George C. Wolfe (Nights In Rodanthe), with the script adapted from Wilson's source material by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. 

Chadwick Boseman's unexpected passing from colon cancer in August 2020 makes Ma Rainey's Black Bottom his final film role. For anyone who only knows Boseman through Black Panther and the other MCU films, you've only seen a fraction of what Boseman could do as an actor. Honestly, he has never been better on screen. Levee is a fascinating multi-faceted character: ambitious, flirtatious, forthright, deeply wounded, confident, quick to anger. A man who wants more than he's got but (perhaps) naïvely thinks he'll get it. Levee gets two big moments (what no doubt look like massive chunks of text on a page): one where he describes what happened to his parents, and one where he rails at the notion of God. Boseman is simply breath-taking in these moments. Such a magnetic and charismatic performance, and a poignant reminder of what the acting world has lost. 

Frankly, Viola Davis could read a takeaway menu and make it engrossing. Here, she's utterly superb as the rambunctious, take-no-prisoners Ma. Despite limited screen-time (27 minutes of a 94 minute film), she looms large over proceedings. There's a short, but very powerful scene, right at the beginning when Ma arrives at the studio and her car is damaged; immediately, she is out of the vehicle and starts to remonstrate with a white policeman. The cop's reaction is telling: he's never had a Black person, let alone a Black woman, speak to him in such a way before. What's also interesting is Ma has a girlfriend, Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige), but that's never made an issue of or seen to be something controversial or wrong. Ultimately, Ma knows her worth- she knows the white producers see her voice only- but she'll be damned if she doesn't get the respect she's due. In a career of fascinating performances, this stands high as one of Davis' very best. 

As with Fences, the ensemble cast all meet the high standards laid down by the leads. Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, and Glynn Turman are just superb as the old-timers in the band, laughing at Levee's naivete and wanting to get the session done to get paid and go. There's such an authentic camaraderie between the men; you can believe them as an established group. Jeremy Shamos and Jonny Coyne play Ma's manager Irvin and studio owner Sturdyvant, at odds with how to deal with Ma: Irvin knows that you catch more flies with honey when it comes to Ma, whilst for Sturdyvant, time is money. Rounding out the cast are Paige as Dussie Mae- a sensuous and flirty performance- and Dusan Brown as Ma's nephew Sylvester whose stutter causes issues with the recording of the titular "Black Bottom". 

Brandford Marsalis' incidental music and arrangements of 1920s blues songs is absolutely sublime, as are the fantastic costumes by Ann Roth, whose attention to detail- from Ma's OTT dresses to Levee's yellow shoes- is unparalleled. Wolfe doesn't pull many directorial tricks, allowing the script to do the talking, and focuses on the action in an unobtrusive way. 

Ultimately, as with Fences, this feels like watching a theatre broadcast rather than a film. That said, it certainly doesn't take away from the raw power of the performances. Expect to see this getting some major awards love in the upcoming months. 

Rating: 4 out of 5


Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year from The Watchers!


Happy New Year!

Hopefully, 2021 has got off on the right foot with you all! It might have been a very different New Year's Eve than in other years, but we hope it was enjoyable however you spent it.  

It's safe to say that 2020 was a challenging year for many of us in many different ways, so we dearly hope that 2021 is a better year for everyone. 

Whilst the stroke of midnight didn't magically erase any of the issues that plagued 2020- with us all waking up like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard Of Oz and realising the past 12 months were a particularly virulent fever-dream- there are many reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the upcoming year. We might not be out of the woods just yet, but at least we've got more of an idea of which way we're heading. 

In terms of 2021's film releases, the ones that The Watchers are looking forward to are No Time To Die, Black Widow, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Death On The Nile, Halloween Kills, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Eternals, Justice League: The Snyder Cut, and A Quiet Place: Part II, although we are sure that there will be many others along the way. 

We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation as things are still liable to change (especially in the first quarter of the year). For the half-dozen or so awards enthusiasts among you, there will also be full coverage of the 2021 awards season when that rolls around. Tez is itching to get his spreadsheet started... 

All the very best for a precedented and stable 2021, with few surprises (unless they're good, of course)

The Watchers
(Rhys, Matt & Tez)

Thursday, 31 December 2020

In Memoriam 2020

As the raging dumpster-fire of the year that is 2020 finally comes to a close, our thoughts turn to the people who are no longer with us. The world of entertainment lost a lot of people this year. We paid tribute to Max Von Sydow, Ian Holm, Joel Schumacher, Ennio Morricone, Olivia de Havilland, Alan Parker, Chadwick Boseman, Diana Rigg, Sean Connery, David Prowse, and Barbara Windsor throughout the year, but there were many people whom we were unable to pay tribute to at the time of their deaths. So here we remember some of the stars- from both in front of and behind the camera- who sadly passed away this year.

Star of film, TV, and stage,
Honor Blackman forever cemented her place in cinema history by playing the fabulously-named Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964). Because of how strong and how independent the character is, it feels almost wrong to just relegate her to being a "Bond girl"- that said, Bond does get her in the end. Making her film debut in 1947, she also starred in A Night To Remember (1958), Jason And The Argonauts (1963), To The Devil A Daughter (1976), The Cat And The Canary (1978), Bridget Jones' Diary (2001), and Cockneys Vs Zombies (2012). On television, she is perhaps best known for playing Cathy Gale in The Avengers (1962-1964), Professor Lasky in the Doctor Who serial Terror Of The Vervoids (1986), and Laura West in The Upper Hand (1990-1996).

Character actor
Wilford Brimley usually played down-to-earth, no-nonsense, straight-talking fellas. His first credited film role came in 1979, playing Ted Wells- the plant foreman- in The China Syndrome. He excelled in these supporting roles, playing opposite Paul Newman in Absence Of Malice (1982) and Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies (1983). He reunited with Duvall for The Natural (1984) where he played the manager of the New York Knights. He also appeared as Dr. Blair in The Thing (1982), Ben Luckett in Cocoon (1985) and Cocoon: The Return (1988) and- much against type- the sinister security chief William Devasher in The Firm (1993). Other film roles include My Fellow Americans (1996), In & Out (1997), and Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009).

British actor
Jeremy Bulloch will be best remembered for playing bounty hunter Boba Fett in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi (1983). He also appeared in the prequel trilogy, playing Captain Colton in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith (2005). Bulloch appeared in three Bond films: as a HMS Ranger Crewman in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and as Smithers in For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Octopussy (1983). His other film roles include Summer Holiday (1963), Mary Queen Of Scots (1971), and The Lady Vanishes (1979).

Bermuda-born actor
Earl Cameron made his film debut in 1951 in crime drama Pool Of London, playing a West Indian merchant seaman who is in a relationship with a young white woman (played by Susan Shaw). It was the first British film to show a mixed-race romance, and Cameron was one of the first black actors to take a starring role in a British film. He worked extensively on TV, film and stage. On film, he appeared as Bond's contact Pinder in Thunderball (1965), President Zuwanie in The Interpreter (2004), as Queen Elizabeth II's portrait painter in the opening scene of The Queen (2006) and had a small role in Inception (2010). His TV roles include Doctor Who (in which he was one of the first black actors to play an astronaut), Neverwhere, and Babyfather

American actress
Lynn Cohen is best known for playing Mags in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) and Golda Meir in Munich (2005). Her other film roles include Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), The Station Agent (2003), Across The Universe (2007) Eagle Eye (2008), Synecdoche, New York (2008), and The Cobbler (2014). On television, Cohen is best known for her roles as Judge Elizabeth Mizener in Law & Order, and Magda (Miranda's cleaning lady) in Sex And The City. She also appeared in the two films based on the TV series. 

American character actor
Brian Dennehy made his film debut in 1977 playing a surgeon in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. He would go on to star in a wide and varied selection of films, including First Blood (1982), Cocoon (1985), F/X (1986), Presumed Innocent (1990), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Assault On Precinct 13 (2005), and Ratatouille (2007). On television, he won acclaim for his chilling performance as serial killer John Wayne Gacy in To Catch A Killer (1992), won a Golden Globe for his performance as Willy Loman in the 2000 TV movie of Death Of A Salesman, and made recurring appearances in Dynasty, Just Shoot Me, and The Blacklist. He won Tony Awards for his stage performances in Death Of A Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night. 

A three-time Best Actor Oscar nominee,
Kirk Douglas was nominated for his performances as boxer Midge Kelly in Champion (1949), unscrupulous movie producer Jonathan Shields in The Bad And The Beautiful (1952) and as Vincent Van Gogh in Lust For Life (1956). His other film roles include Mourning Becomes Electra (1947), The Glass Menagerie (1950), 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), Paths Of Glory (1957), Seven Days In May (1964) and Once Is Not Enough (1975). He also helped break down the Hollywood Blacklist when he insisted that Dalton Trumbo received a full screen credit for his work on Spartacus (1960). One of his last film roles saw him act opposite Michael and Cameron Douglas (his son and grandson respectively) in It Runs In The Family (2003). Douglas was 103 when he passed away in February. 

American character actress
Conchata Ferrell appeared as Barbara Schlesinger in Network (1976), Leona in Mystic Pizza (1988), Helen in Edward Scissorhands (1990), Mary Louise Ravencroft in True Romance (1993), Brenda in Erin Brockovich (2000), Betty McAllister in K-PAX (2001) and provided the voice of Bob's Mom in Frankenweenie (2012). She also had a successful career on television, appearing in L.A. Law, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Two And A Half Men (playing Berta the housekeeper, which got her two Primetime Emmy nominations for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series) 

Playwright and screenwriter
Ronald Harwood won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his script for The Pianist (2002). He was nominated for two other Adapted Screenplay Oscars, one for The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007) and the other for The Dresser (1983). The Dresser was adapted from his own play, based on his own experiences of working with the Shakespearean actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit in the 1950s. Harwood wrote the screenplays for A High Wind In Jamaica (1965), The Browning Version (1994), Cry The Beloved Country (1995), Taking Sides (2001), Being Julia (2004), Oliver Twist (2005), Australia (2008), and Quartet (2012).

Writer-director, producer, and actor Buck Henry was nominated for two Oscars during his career, in different categories: his first was for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Graduate (1967) (shared with Calder Willingham), and his second was a Best Director nod for co-directing Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty. As a writer, his other scripts included Catch-22 (1970), What's Up, Doc? (1972), The Day Of The Dolphin (1973), and To Die For (1995). As an actor, Henry appeared in many films and TV shows, including The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), Short Cuts (1993), Grumpy Old Men (1993), and Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (1993). He also created the spoof spy TV show Get Smart (1965-1970).

TV presenter and visual effects maestro, Grant Imahara worked at Industrial Light & Magic and worked as a model maker for the Star Wars prequel films (1999-2005), Galaxy Quest (1999), The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both 2003), Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) and xXx²: The Next Level (2005). Whilst at ILM, he was also on the team that rebuilt and operated the Energizer Bunny. He hosted and built for MythBusters and produced and hosted White Rabbit Project. He was also an actor, playing Lodge in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015) and Sulu in Star Trek Continues (2013-2017)

One of the founding members of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Terry Jones was an actor, writer, director, and producer. He directed three of the four Monty Python movies: Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975), Monty Python's Life Of Brian (1979) [where he also played Brian's mother and gave the iconic line "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"] and The Meaning Of Life (1983). He also directed Personal Services (1987), Erik The Viking (1989) and The Wind In The Willows (1996). He also wrote the TV series Ripping Yarns (1976-1979) and the screenplays for Labyrinth (1986) and Absolutely Anything (2015).

Born in India, Hugh Keays-Byrne moved to Australia in the early 1970s where he worked in television, film, and theatre. He played two major villains in the Mad Max franchise, playing Toecutter in the original Mad Max (1979) and Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) (which was also his last film role). He also appeared in The Man From Hong Kong (1975), The Trespassers (1976), Les Patterson Saves The World (1987) and Sleeping Beauty (2011). He also appeared on television, playing Mr Stubb in Moby Dick and Grunchlk in Farscape

Indian actor Irrfan Khan had extensive careers in both Bollywood and Western films, including the lead in Favorite [a.k.a. Maqbool] (2003)- a crime drama based on Macbeth and set in the Mumbai underworld-, Rog (2005), The Killer (2006), Billu (2009), The Lunchbox (2013) and Blackmail (2018). Khan's filmography in Hollywood films include Mira Nair's The Namesake (2006), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), the Police Inspector in Slumdog Millionaire (2008), the adult Pi in Life Of Pi (2012), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Simon Masrani in Jurassic World (2015), and Inferno (2016)

Shirley Knight
was nominated for two Best Supporting Actress Oscars during her career: the first was for playing the young daughter in The Dark At The Top Of The Stairs (1960), the second for Sweet Bird Of Youth (1962) where she played the girlfriend of Paul Newman's character. Knight's other films include Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979), Color Of Night (1994), Diabolique (1996), As Good As It Gets (1997), Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), Grandma's Boy (2006) and Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009). She also appeared on many US TV shows, including Murder, She Wrote, ER, and Desperate Housewives. 

Whilst Michael Lonsdale will be best known to many audiences for playing the suavely villainous Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1979), this was just one highlight in a career spanning over six decades. A stalwart of French cinema since the 1960s, he was directed by such luminaries as François Truffaut, Marguerite Duras, Alain Resnais, and Louis Malle. He also appeared in many other films, including The Day Of The Jackal (1973), The Name Of The Rose (1986), The Remains Of The Day (1993), Jefferson In Paris (1995), Ronin (1998), Munich (2005), Goya's Ghosts (2006) and Agora (2009). 

American playwright Terrence McNally won four Tony Awards throughout the course of his six-decade career. His first produced play was And Things That Go Bump In The Night (1964). Other plays include The Lisbon Traviata (1989), Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991), Master Class (1995), and Deuce (2007). Three of his plays were adapted for film: The Ritz (1976), Frankie And Johnny (1991). and Love! Valor! Compassion! (1997), for which he also wrote the screenplays. He also wrote the book for the musicals Kiss Of The Spider Woman, Ragtime, The Full Monty, Catch Me If You Can, and Anastasia. 

Clark Middleton
made his film debut in 1990 in Bail Jumper, and went on to appear in Serendipity (2001), Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004), Sin City (2004), Taking Woodstock (2009), Snowpiercer (2013), and Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014). He was mentored in acting by Oscar-winning actress Geraldine Page. Diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of four, he wrote and performed Miracle Mile off-Broadway, an autobiographical one-man play about dealing with the ailment. On television, he appeared in a variety of shows, including Law & Order, Fringe, Gotham, American Gods, Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Twin Peaks, and had a recurring role as DMV tracker Glen 'Jellybean' Carter in The Blacklist.

Geoffrey Palmer
is one of a small number of actors to appear in both the classic and revived series of Doctor Who, appearing in two Jon Pertwee serials and the 2007 Christmas special "Voyage Of The Damned". Palmer appeared in several well-regarded sitcoms, including The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin, Butterflies, and As Time Goes By. He also appeared in Clockwise (1986), A Fish Called Wanda (1988), The Madness Of King George (1994), Mrs Brown (1997), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Anna And The King (1999), Peter Pan (2003), W.E. (2011), and Paddington (2014)

Actor, raconteur and presenter, Nicholas Parsons was a consummate professional. Known for hosting the Radio 4 game show Just A Minute since its inception in 1967- where panellists must speak for a minute on a given subject without hesitation, repetition or deviation- and gameshow Sale Of The Century, he also appeared in Doctor In Love (1960), Carry On Regardless (1961), and Murder Ahoy (1964). On television, he played a heightened version of himself in The Comic Strip Presents... Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door (1988), a vicar struggling with his faith in the Doctor Who serial The Curse Of Fenric (1989) and as Reverend Green in the fourth series of Cluedo (1993). He was also known for his stage work, playing the Narrator in Into The Woods and The Rocky Horror Show.  

Kelly Preston
made her film debut in 1983 in crime thriller 10 To Midnight, and went on to appear in Christine (1983), SpaceCamp (1986), and as Arnold Schwarzenegger's girlfriend Marnie in Twins (1988). She made a strong impression in Jerry Maguire (1996) as the career-minded girlfriend to the main character, delivering a wonderful monologue proclaiming her lack of "sensitivity". Preston also appeared in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Citizen Ruth (1996), Jack Frost (1998), For Love Of The Game (1999), The Cat In The Hat (2003), and as the superheroine Jetstream in family comedy adventure Sky High (2005). She also appeared in several films alongside her husband John Travolta, including Battlefield Earth (2000), Old Dogs (2009), and Gotti (2019).

Writer, producer, actor, and director, Carl Reiner was a legend of American comedy. He created, produced, and wrote for The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), winning several Primetime Emmys for his writing. He wrote and directed the Steve Martin films The Man With Two Brains (1982) and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1983), and also directed Oh, God! (1978), The Jerk (1979), Sibling Rivalry (1990), and Fatal Instinct (1993). As an actor, he appeared as Walt Whittaker in The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966), Field Marshal VonKluck in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, Mickey in Slums Of Beverly Hills (1998) and Saul Bloom in Ocean's Eleven (2001), Ocean's Twelve (2004), and Ocean's Thirteen (2007).

American character actor John Saxon made uncredited appearances in A Star Is Born (1954) and It Should Happen To You (1954) and made his first credited film appearance in Running Wild (1955). He played Roper in Enter The Dragon (1973), Lieutenant Fuller in Black Christmas (1974), and Lieutenant Thompson in A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). He reprised the role in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and appeared as himself in Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994). Other film appearances include Maximum Force (1992), Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Old Dogs (2009).

Versatile Scottish comedian and actor John Sessions had successful careers on both film and television. On TV, he provided voices for satirical puppet show Spitting Image, appeared on improvisation comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? and made appearances in Stella Street, Gormenghast, Doctor Who, and Victoria. Sessions' filmography included The Bounty (1984), Henry V (1989), My Night With Reg (1997), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), Gangs Of New York (2002), The Merchant Of Venice (2004), The Good Shepherd (2006), Made In Dagenham (2010), The Iron Lady (2011), Filth (2013), Mr. Holmes (2015), Legend (2015), Florence Foster Jenkins (2016), Denial (2016), and Finding Your Feet (2017). 

American indie writer-director Lynn Shelton won two awards at the Film Independent Spirit Awards: she won the "Someone To Watch" Award for her second film My Effortless Brilliance (2008), and the John Cassavetes Award for Humpday (2009) which starred Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard as old friends who decide to have sex together. Her other films as director include Your Sister's Sister (2011), Outside In (2017) and Sword Of Trust (2019). She also directed for various TV shows, including New Girl, The Good Place, Fresh Off The Boat, and GLOW.

British character actor John Shrapnel made his film debut in Nicholas And Alexandra (1971), playing Petya. With a distinctive voice and great presence, Shrapnel had a career spanning six decades. Other film roles include Personal Services (1987), How To Get Ahead In Advertising (1989), 101 Dalmatians (1996), Notting Hill (1999), Gladiator (2000), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), Troy (2004), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) and The Awakening (2011). He also worked extensively in television- in a variety of shows including Apparitions, Merlin, and Midsomer Murders- and on stage (working with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company on many occasions). 

As part of a comedy double-act with his wife Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller appeared on throughout the 1960s on television, notably on The Ed Sullivan Show (on which they appeared over 30 times). Stiller started his film career as Lt. Rico Patrone in The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974), and appeared in Airport 1975 (1974), The Ritz (1976), Zoolander (2001), The Heartbreak Kid (2007) and Zoolander 2 (2016). He also appeared as Wilbur Turnblad in John Waters' 1988 musical Hairspray, and also appeared in the 2007 film version of the stage musical playing Mr. Pinky. Other television roles include Arthur Spooner in The King Of Queens and as Frank Costanza in Frasier

Stuart Whitman
received his only Oscar nomination- for Best Actor- for his performance as Jim Fuller, a young man looking to rebuild his life after serving a prison sentence for child molestation, in The Mark (1961). His other film roles included The Sound And The Fury (1959), Murder, Inc. (1960), The Longest Day (1962), Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (1965), The Treasure Seekers (1979) and Trial By Jury (1994). 

Over a six-decade career, American character actor Fred Willard appeared in a variety of different films including Silver Streak (1976), Fun With Dick And Jane (1977), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Roxanne (1987),  Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), American Pie: The Wedding (2003), Date Movie (2006), WALL-E (2008), and as harassed newsman Ed Harken in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and the 2013 sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. He appeared in several films directed by Christopher Guest including Waiting For Guffman (1996), Best In Show (2000), A Mighty Wind (2003), and For Your Consideration (2006). 

Other people who have passed away this year include:

- American actress Carol Arthur (Blazing Saddles, The Sunshine Boys, Robin Hood: Men In Tights)

- British writer Pip Baker (Doctor Who, The Pursuers)

- British comedian and actor Bobby Ball (Cannon And Ball, The Boys In Blue, Not Going Out)

- American actor Jay Benedict (Victor/Victoria, Aliens, The Dark Knight Rises)

- American actor Warren Berlinger (Accidental Hero, The Cannonball Run, That Thing You Do!)

- American actor Mark Blum (Desperately Seeing Susan, Crocodile Dundee, Shattered Glass)

- American actor Timothy Brown (M.A.S.H., Nashville, Frequency)

- Irish producer and Film4 head of commercial strategy Sue Bruce-Smith

- American writer and actor Jack Burns (The Muppet Movie, The Night They Raided Minsky's)

- American actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd (Clockers, Set It Off, Bulworth)

- Australian actress Zoe Caldwell (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, Lilo & Stitch)

- American cinematographer, director, and actor Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, The Fugitive, Taxi Driver)

- Indian actor Ranjit Chowdhry (Last Holiday, The Office, Bollywood/Hollywood)

- American writer Mary Higgins Clark

- American conceptual artist and production designer Ron Cobb (Star Wars, Back To The Fuiture, Conan The Barbarian)

- British actor Raphaël Coleman (Nanny McPhee, The Fourth Kind)

- British actor David Collings (Doctor Who, Sapphire & Steel, Monkey)

- British actor Ben Cross (Chariots Of Fire, A Bridge Too Far, First Knight)

- American playwright and screenwriter Mart Crowley (The Boys In The Band)

- Spanish director and producer José Luis Cuerda (The Others, Open Your Eyes)

- American writer Clive Cussler (Raise The Titanic, Sahara)

- American cinematographer Allen Daviau (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Empire Of The Sun, Bugsy)

- Libyan-born actor Mario Donatone (The Godfather Part III, King Of Kong Island, John Wick: Chapter 2)

- American actor James Drury (The Virginian, Forbidden Planet, Love Me Tender)

- American actress and singer Ja'net DuBois (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Diary Of A Mad Housewife)

- American actor Matthew Faber (Welcome To The Dollhouse, Natural Born Killers, Palindromes)

- American actress Rhonda Fleming (Spellbound, The Spiral Staircase, The Buster Keaton Story)

- British actor Derek Fowlds (Yes Minister, The Basil Brush Show, Heartbeat)

- American actor Allen Garfield (The Conversation, Nashville, Beverly Hills Cop II)

- British producer Tony Garnett (Kes, Earth Girls Are Easy, Beautiful Thing)

- British actress Jill Gascoine (C.A.T.S. Eyes, The Gentle Touch, Confessions Of A Pop Performer)

- American Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

- American writer and producer Charles Gordon (Die Hard, Rocketeer, Waterworld)

- American writer, producer, and director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Space Truckers)

- French actress and singer Juliette Gréco (The Sun Also Rises, Crack In The Mirror, Uncle Tom's Cabin)

- British theatre producer and director Terry Hands

- American actor Eddie Hassell (The Kids Are All Right, 2012, Jobs)

- American actor Richard Herd (Gleaming The Cube, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, Get Out)

- American actor Dan Hicks (Evil Dead II, Darkman, Spider-Man 2)

- American writer and producer Silvio Horta (Ugly Betty, Urban Legend)

- British actor and comedian Roy Hudd (Up Pompeii, Coronation Street, Broadchurch)

- Welsh writer and producer Emyr Humphries

- British actor and dialect coach Andrew Jack (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity War, RED)

- American actor Anthony James (High Plains Drifter, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, Unforgiven)

- British actress Barbara Jefford (Philomena, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Saint)

- American actor Jack Kehoe (Serpico, The Sting, Midnight Run)

- American actress Paula Kelly (Sweet Charity, The Andromeda Strain, Soylent Green)

- American cinematographer and director of photography Gary B. Kibbe (Halloween II, Sixteen Candles, Big Trouble In Little China)

- British actress Rosalind Knight (Carry On Teacher, Tom Jones, Gimme Gimme Gimme)

- American playwright and screenwriter Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart, Women In Love, Lost Horizon)

- American writer and director John Lafia (Child's Play, Repo Man)

- British production designer, art director and set director Peter Lamont (Titanic, The Spy Who Loved Me, Aliens)

- American actor David L. Lander (Laverne & Shirley, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, A Bug's Life)

- British actor Philip Latham (Doctor Who, Force 10 From Navarone, Dracula: Prince Of Darkness)

- British writer John le Carré (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Constant Gardener, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold)

- American actor and producer James Lipton (Inside The Actors Studio)

- American actor Tommy 'Tiny' Lister Jr. (Friday, Universal Soldier, The Fifth Element)

- American actor Sam Lloyd (Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, Galaxy Quest)

- American singer and actor Trini López (The Dirty Dozen, Antonio)

- American screenwriter Kurt Luedtke (Out Of Africa, Absence Of Malice, Random Hearts)

- British singer Dame Vera Lynn

- Gambian-British actor Louis Mahoney (Captain Phillips, Cry Freedom, Doctor Who)

- American actress Linda Manz (Days Of Heaven, The Game, Gummo

- American actor Vincent Marzello (The Witches, The Spy Who Loved Me, Superman)

- British actor Michael Medwin (Never Say Never Again, The Longest Day, Scrooge)

- British actress Andrée Melly (The Belles Of St. Trinian's, The Brides Of Dracula, The Horror Of It All)

- Czech director, writer and actor Jirí Menzel (Closely Observed Trains, I Served The King Of England, Larks On A String)

- Canadian actor and voice over artist Kirby Morrow (Stargate: Atlantis, Ninjago, Dragon Ball Z)

- American actress Kellye Nakahara (Clue, Doctor Dolittle, She's Having A Baby)

- American storyboard artist, character designer and writer Sue C. Nichols (Aladdin, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, The Princess And The Frog)

- Italian actress and writer Daria Nicolodi (Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Tenebrae)

- British actress Margaret Nolan (Goldfinger, Carry On Matron, No Sex Please- We're British)

- Australian writer and director George Ogilvie (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, The Crossing)

- American editor Jonathan Oppenheim (Paris Is Burning, How To Survive A Plague, The Muppets Take Manhattan

- American actor and stunt coordinator Ernie F. Orsatti (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Alien Resurrection)

- Czech director Ivan Passer (Ace Up My Sleeve, Cutter's Way)

- Canadian wrestler Pat Patterson

- Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (The Exorcist, The Shining, Children Of Men)

- American talk-show host Regis Philbin (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous, Little Nicky, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire)

- American producer and former chair of Universal Pictures Tom Pollock (Disturbia, Up In The Air, Hitchcock)

- American art director and set decorator Leslie A. Pope (Seabiscuit, Avengers: Infinity War, Django Unchained)

- American writer Charles Portis (True Grit)

- American actress, dancer and choreographer Ann Reinking (All That Jazz, Annie, Micki + Maude)

- American actor Allan Rich (Serpico, Quiz Show, Disclosure)

- American singer and actor Little Richard

- American actress Naya Rivera (Glee

- British actor Maurice Roëves (Judge Dredd, Doctor Who, Who Dares Wins

- American singer and actor Kenny Rogers

- British actress Annie Ross (Superman III, Throw Momma From The Train, Short Cuts)

- Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow Of The Wind)

- American publicist Nanci Ryder

- American producer, actor and director Ronald L. Schwary (Tootsie, *batteries not included, Scent Of A Woman)

- American actress Esther Scott (Boyz N The Hood, The Craft, Dreamgirls)

- American producer, writer, and executive Herbert F. Solow (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible)

- American actress Phyllis Somerville (Bringing Out The Dead, Little Children, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)

- Japanese actress Yûko Takeuchi (Ring, Flashforward, Miss Sherlock)

- American actress Ann E. Todd (Destry Rides Again, All This And Heaven Too, How Green Was My Valley)

- British art director Alan Tomkins (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Saving Private Ryan, Batman Begins)

- Canadian producer and game show host Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!)

- American actor Nicholas Tucci (You're Next, The Worst Year Of My Life)

- French writer and director Albert Uderzo (Asterix and Cleopatra, The Twelve Tasks Of Asterix)

- Turkish actor Birol Ünel (Enemy At The Gates, Soul Kitchen)

- British actor Philip Voss (Octopussy, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Vicious)

- American actor Lyle Waggoner (The Carol Burnett Show, Wonder Woman, Love Me Deadly)

- American cinematographer Kent L. Wakeford (Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore)

- Ugandan actress Nikita Waligwa (Queen Of Katwe)

- American actor Jack Wallace (Death Wish, Boogie Nights, American Pie 2)

- American actor Lee Wallace (The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, Private Benjamin, Batman)

- American writer Charles Webb (The Graduate, The Marriage Of A Young Stockbroker, Hope Springs)

- American stunt performer Cheryl Wheeler Duncan (Die Hard 2, Demolition Man, The Mask)

- Scottish actor Hamish Wilson (Doctor Who, Greyfriars Bobby, The Wicker Tree)

- British actor Frank Windsor (Z Cars, Doctor Who, Sunday Bloody Sunday)

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

The Watchers Review Of 2020


The Watchers Review of 2020 is now available! You can listen to it via iTunes or Podbean.

In an unprecedented year, our review of the year is also somewhat different - we still talk about our favourite films of the year but also take a look at how the world of cinema has been affected by world events and what we're now looking forward to in 2021 (circumstances permitting, of course!)

Have a listen and let us know what your films of 2020 are, or what you're looking forward to in the new year!

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Valiant Films, Dramatic Moose Productions, And Watchers Productions Presents... A Christmas Carol

Well, I think it's safe to say that 2020 hasn't gone exactly as we planned it. That said, this brave new world we find ourselves in does have a couple of nice little advantages: such as the ability to bring people from all over the UK together for a brand new audio adaptation of a Christmas classic. 

So it is with great pleasure that we announce, in association with Valiant Films and Dramatic Moose Productions...


Directed by Teddy Smith

Adapted for audio by Terrance Marshman-Edwards, Matthew Fisher, and Matthew Ford

Edited by Rhys Jones and Emily Lawrence

Original music by Andrew Gallego, with "Silent Night" performed by Liz Keech


Part One: Christmas Eve 

Starring: Jes Hynes (The Narrator), AJ King (Scrooge), Matthew Fisher (Bob Cratchit), Gavin Rand (Fred), Christopher Maxwell (Gentleman), Terrance Marshman-Edwards (The Ghost Of Jacob Marley)

Miserable old businessman Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas. But a surprise visitor on Christmas Eve is about to change that... 


 Part Two: Christmas Past, Christmas Present

Starring: Jes Hynes (The Narrator), AJ King (Scrooge), Lisa Grace (The Ghost of Christmas Past), Samuel Rush (Mr. Fezziwig), Amanda Parker (Belle), Shaz Lancaster (The Ghost Of Christmas Present), Jennifer Higgins (Mrs. Cratchit), Daniel Middleton (Peter Cratchit), Isabelle-Rose Burman (Belinda Cratchit), Matthew Fisher (Bob Cratchit), Josh Flynn (Tiny Tim),  Gavin Rand (Fred), Liz Keech (Abigail)

Scrooge looks to his past to discover the cause of his dislike of Christmas, and sees how others will spend the coming day.


Part Three: Christmas Yet To Come

Starring: Jes Hynes (The Narrator), AJ King (Ebenezer Scrooge), Rhys Jones, Matthew Ford, Teddy Smith (Businessmen), Linda Bailey (Charwoman), Ben Wilson (Old Joe), Alison Lenihan (Mrs. Dilber), Jennifer Higgins (Mrs. Cratchit), Daniel Middleton (Peter Cratchit), Isabelle-Rose Burman (Belinda Cratchit), Matthew Fisher (Bob Cratchit), Gavin Rand (Fred), Ben Percival (Boy), Christopher Maxwell (Gentleman), Liz Keech (Abigail), Josh Flynn (Tiny Tim)

As Scrooge's final spectral visitor looms, he sees a glimpse of a future Christmas. But will it be enough to make the miser change his ways?

We'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. Wherever you are and however you spend it, we hope you have a peaceful and brilliant time.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

The Watchers' Christmas Movie Quiz 2020 Answers

We hope you enjoyed our Christmas Movie Quiz and hope you found the questions interesting, and fun, and a bit of a workout for the little grey cells. Without more ado, here are the answers:

The Watchers' Christmas Movie Quiz 2020 Answers

1. Jim Broadbent has played Santa in Arthur Christmas and Get Santa

2. James Patterson wrote the original novel that Christmas With The Kranks is based on- the novel is titled Skipping Christmas.

3. In Love Actually, Emma Thompson has a cry to Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now", in one of the most heartbreaking moments in the film. 

4. In Elf, Buddy says the "four main food groups" are candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.

5. Mae Questel, who plays Aunt Bethany in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, provided the voice for Betty Boop.

6. Based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg, the 2004 Christmas movie- directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks- that made it into the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records as the "first all-digital capture" film is The Polar Express.

7. Jim Carrey, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Boris Karloff have all played The Grinch.

8. The full name of the angel (played by Henry Travers) in It's A Wonderful Life is Clarence Oddbody.

9. Kathy Bates plays Santa's mother in both Bad Santa 2 and Fred Claus.

10. In Surviving Christmas, Drew offers to pay Tom $250,000 to allow him to stay with them for the holidays

11. Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and the Plastics dance to "Jingle Bell Rock" during the Mean Girls Christmas show.

12. In Four Christmases, the parents are played by Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek, and Jon Voight.

13. Kenneth More, Edward Woodward, and Carol Kane all play The Ghost Of Christmas Present.

14. The First World War event on which Joyeux Noël is based is the 1914 unofficial Christmas Day truce.

15. Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" in Meet Me In St. Louis.

16. Ralphie's dream gift in A Christmas Story is a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun.

17. Kate Winslet plays Iris Simpkins in The Holiday

18. In Home Alone, Harry and Marv are also known as "the Wet Bandits"

19. The 1974 seasonal horror marketed with those taglines is Black Christmas.

20. The title song of White Christmas also featured in Holiday Inn.

21. It is true that Die Hard is based on a novel by Roderick Thorp; the novel is titled Nothing Lasts Forever and was published in 1979.

22. In Gremlins, Howie Mandel is the voice of Gizmo

23. In Batman Returns, Bruce and Selina talk about mistletoe - deadly if you eat it, but a kiss beneath it can be deadlier...

24. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Lock, Shock and Barrel firstly kidnap the Easter Bunny instead of Santa.

25. Richard Attenborough plays Kris Kringle in the 1994 version of Miracle On 34th Street.

26. Martin Short plays Jack Frost in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.

27. Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to get his son a Turbo Man action figure in Jingle All The Way.

28. In The Muppet Christmas Carol, the young Scrooge is apprenticed to Mr. Fozziwig (played by Fozzie Bear). 

29. John Lithgow plays villainous toy manufacturer B.Z. in Santa Claus: The Movie.

30. The 1994 comedy-drama- co-written and directed by Nora Ephron which is based on a 1982 French comedy is Mixed Nuts.

So how did you do? Let us know in the comments below!