The Watchers

The Watchers

Friday, 26 October 2012

Bondathon 2012 this weekend!!

Hello! If you have found us The Watchers, but your looking for our Bondathon?
Or you didn't know what were doing - well 23 films in 3 days all blogged and podcasts.
All for Cancer Research Wales

Please follow this link to the Bondathon Blog Page & thanks for the support

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Watchers' Pre-Bondathon Special

With less than a week to go before the Bondathon, we thought we'd showcase some of the stuff we've done in the run-up to the event and give you a taster of what to expect over this coming weekend.

We have to say a huge thank you to for their support.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review: The Imposter (UK cert 15)

Have you ever been told a story and thought 'you couldn't make it up?' There are some stories that, had then been invented and not happened in real life, you just would not believe. Well, in the case of The Imposter, truth is most definitely stranger than fiction.

In 1994 Nicholas Barclay, a thirteen year old boy from San Antonio, Texas, disappeared. Three years and four months later, his family are contacted to say that Nicholas has been found alive in Spain. Nicholas' sister travels to Spain to pick him up and takes him back home. But is the young man who he says he is? Well, sadly, the title kind of gives the game away. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that this is an impeccable piece of documentary film-making.

Whilst knowing that 'Nicholas' is really a twenty-three-year-old French conman named Frederic Bourdin does take away some of the drama of the story, it really is only just the tip of the iceberg. Bourdin's audacious scam spider-webs out to impact the lives of a grieving family and the resulting story is told in an admirably even-handed and non-sensational manner. It would have been so easy to have turned this into a lurid Jerry Springer-esque freakshow, but director Bart Layton eschews the tabloid shock-value ethos for something a little more quiet and ultimately more devastating. 

A mixture of dramatic reconstruction and talking-head testimony, Layton seems content to let the story almost tell itself. The end result is a heady mix and has left me with several unanswered questions. That could be considered a failing but I don't see it like that. It's left me with food for thought. I felt several conflicting emotions during the film: sympathy, anger, confusion, bewilderment, frustration, suspicion and disbelief all in the space of ninety-nine minutes. There aren't many films that can do that to you.

Engrossing, absorbing and unbelievable, this is one of the strongest documentaries I have seen in years.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

LGBT Movies

The Iris Prize Festival starts today in Cardiff. Now in its sixth year, the festival is a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) film, with feature film screenings, panel sessions and it also awards the Iris Prize- a package valued at £25,000- to the best short film, allowing the winner to make their next film. I attended events for the first two Iris Prize Festivals and can heartily say they are a very worthwhile event to attend. 

To coincide with this festival, I thought I would share some of my favourite LGBT films. The first issue really is to define what an LGBT film is. One could do worse than this following definition from Wikipedia: 'films that deal with or feature significant LGBT characters or issues, and may have same-sex romance or relationships as an important plot device.'

One could argue that film is film and that is that, and that there isn't a need to ghettoise a film by labelling it 'a gay film'. Film is a universal medium that encompasses all life and lifestyles, telling stories that resonate and touch us all, whether black or white, gay or straight, young or old. Cinema is a great leveller; it brings people together to share an experience. It would be great if society to get to a point where every faction of it is so integrated and the bigotry and hatred of what's different is a distant memory and maybe then everyone can see 'a gay film' as just 'a film'. But until that happens, festivals like The Iris Prize Festival and the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival are important to showcase and celebrate the LGBT experience.

The British film Victim (1961)- starring Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Sims and Dennis Price- is the first film to use the word 'homosexual' but there have been representations of gay and lesbian people prior to this, even if they haven't always been positive: for instance, it is hinted that the killers in Rope (1948) are a homosexual couple, while there are definite hints that the obsessive Mrs Danvers' feelings for her late mistress in Rebecca (1940) are more than just those of a faithful servant. However, as the years have passed and things have improved, so have the representations. For more information about the history of LGBT cinema, I'd advise the superlative documentary The Celluloid Closet (1995).

This list is by no means exhaustive; there are plenty of other movies with LGBT characters and themes that I like and enjoy, but if I wrote about them all, we'd be here til Bonfire Night. 

Love! Valor! Compassion! (1997) is a film adaptation of Terrence McNally's play of the same name which sees a group of eight gay men spend three successive weekends together. They bicker, bond, fall in love and face some uncomfortable truths. All but one of the original Broadway cast return for the adaptation, with Jason Alexander replacing Nathan Lane as the Broadway-loving HIV-positive Buzz. Whilst all performances are universally brilliant, special mention must go to John Glover who plays dual roles as twin brothers James and John.

Beautiful Thing (1996) tells the story of two young lads- Ste (Scott Neal) and Jamie (Glen Berry)- who find love on a council estate in London. There's able support from Linda Henry as Jamie's fearless mum Sandra and Tameka Empson as their Mama Cass-loving friend Leah. The finale- where the two boys dance together to 'Dream A Little Dream Of Me'- will lift even the hardest of hearts.

Dismissed in some quarters as just 'that film about the gay cowboys', Brokeback Mountain (2005) is a moving, beautiful and thoughtful film about the relationship between two men that spans decades. A quartet of amazing performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as the star-crossed lovers, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway as their respective wives, with strong direction by Ang Lee and a haunting score by Gustavo Santaolalla make this a brilliant film. It is an absolute travesty that it didn't win Best Picture at the 2006 Oscars.

The Birdcage (1996), an American remake of La Cage Aux Folles (1978), is probably the only film I've ever seen Robin Williams upstaged in. The hysterically funny Nathan Lane steals the show as Albert, the neurotic boyfriend of Williams' Armand who has to conceal the truth of his domestic arrangements when his son's fiancee Barbara brings her ultra-conservative parents to dinner. Performances are excellent all round, especially from Hank Azaria as Armand and Albert's houseboy and Dianne Wiest and Gene Hackman as Barbara's parents. 

The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (1994) is a technicolour extravaganza which sees three drag queens crossing the Australian desert in a beat-up old camper van. The fact that the drag queens are played by those paragons of manliness Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce adds another dimension to Stephan Elliott's fantastic debut film, full of eminently quotable dialogue and a tender heart behind the cattiness. Kudos too to Stamp who, as transsexual Bernadette, remains entirely in female attire throughout. 

It would be remiss not to mention The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). This gloriously camp confection about a strait-laced all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) who get their eyes opened and horizons expanded at the secluded castle of Dr. Frank N Furter (the incredible Tim Curry), a hedonistic cross-dressing alien, is the subject of deep adulation and is a firm cult favourite. Famous for the Time Warp and the message 'don't dream it, be it', it's a whole lot of fun (even with the slightly downbeat ending).

Imagine Me & You (2005) is a bright and breezy British rom-com which features a young bride called Rachel (Piper Perabo) who falls in love with Luce, a female florist (Lena Headey)... on her wedding day. Moments of laugh-out-loud comedy sit alongside moments of great emotion- none more so that when Rachel's husband (Matthew Goode) decides to step away so that Rachel and Luce can be together.

Bound (1996) is a clever and stylish noir-ish thriller by the Wachowskis which sees Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as lovers Corky and Violet who conspire to steal millions from the Mob and pin the blame on Violet's boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). A sensual, gritty and powerful movie.

John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus (2006) gained some column inches on its premiere for its use of unsimulated sex. But this is far from a pornographer's wet dream; it's also a sensitive, moving and screamingly funny film which follows a dominatrix, a gay couple and a frustrated therapist as they negotiate matters of the heart and body.

In & Out (1997) is a frothy fun comedy based on a true story- when Tom Hanks inadvertently outed one of his former teachers when accepting his Oscar for Philadelphia. Here, Kevin Kline is the happily engaged teacher whose life collapses when a former student (Matt Dillon) outs him. Ambitious news-reporter Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck) goes to the town to discover the truth. There's no prizes for guessing where this story leads, but warm and sympathetic performances from Kline, Selleck and Joan Cusack as Howard's confused fiancee.

The Opposite Of Sex (1998) is a wickedly black comedy starring Christina Ricci as trailer-trash Dede Truitt who causes havoc in her gay half-brother's life by seducing his boyfriend and ending up pregnant. There are sterling performances throughout by Ricci, Martin Donovan as Dede's half-brother Bill and Lisa Kudrow as a bitter friend of Bill's, a million miles from her hippy-dippy Phoebe schtick.

Sean Penn picked up his second Best Actor Oscar for his nuanced and powerful performance in Milk (2008) as titular gay activist and politician Harvey Milk who campaigned for gay rights in California in the 1970s. A lesson in recent history and essential viewing for anyone who wants to see where the gay rights movement was and where it is now.

The murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 shocked the world and saw the phrase 'hate crime' come to the fore. The Laramie Project (2002) originally started life as a play by the Tectonic Theater Project based on interviews with the townsfolk of Laramie, Wyoming. A powerful, sometimes uncomfortable, film with an amazing ensemble cast among them Laura Linney, Peter Fonda, Clea DuVall, Steve Buscemi and Amy Madigan.

Boys Don't Cry (1999) is a hardhitting drama starring Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny and Peter Sarsgaard. Based on the life and death of Teena Brandon, a transgendered girl who lived as a male and was murdered when the truth came to light, it's rarely an easy film to watch but the performances are superb throughout (especially Swank, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her role)

Transamerica (2005) sees a bravura performance by Felicity Huffman as Bree, a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual about to have the final operation to make her biologically female. Out of the blue, Bree gets a call. When Bree was Stanley, she fathered a son- a son who need help. Masquerading as a social worker, Bree goes to New York to pick up her son Toby (Kevin Zegers), determined not to tell him the truth. But the subsequent road trip throws up a few interesting home truths...

Finally, Touch Of Pink (2004), a culture-clash, coming-out comedy-drama starring Jimi Mistry and Kristen Holden-Ried as the lovers whose relationship is tested when Mistry's devoutly Muslim mother comes to visit and who doesn't know her son is gay. It also features a stunning supporting role by Kyle MacLachlan... as the spirit of Cary Grant who acts as Mistry's confidante and advisor.

Are there any you think are worth a mention? Let me know in the comments below.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Review: Looper (UK Cert 15)

Looper’s premise is this: in the not-too-distant future (how many times have we heard that?) time travel is invented, but it’s outlawed almost immediately. Getting rid of a body in the future is near to impossible – so organised crime sets up the Loopers. Loopers are hit-men  but they are 30 years in the past, before time travel is invented- the future mafia send the victims back in time and the Looper takes care of them and their body in the past. But what happens when your next victim is your future self?

Now this premise intrigued me when I saw the trailer- I asked myself, how are they going to pull that off well, especially when you’re jumping around timelines and raising questions like, the future me will know everything I’m doing… or have done? It’s a great idea, great concept and a new twist on a sci-fi great – time travel. I thought. Unfortunately what you get is a mess of a film. It flitters along at a dull pace, taking far too long to set up a world to only then fail to deliver an exciting story and resolution.

The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. Levitt does his best with what he’s got, basically having to imitate a young Willis – under some freaky make up that augments his face to make him look like a young Bruce Willis. Unfortunately, Mr Levitt, relying on the make-up for the role doesn't work. Bruce Willis has never been so clearly taking the paycheck than here – he emotes his feelings of anguish by touching his forehead and looking longingly at his past self – but it just is such a lazy performance. Emily Blunt gives a great performance in a terrible film, her dialogue as a mother who was estranged from her son is just unbelievable – who talks like this? I know – no one does.

I could happily dissect just why this film is so bad – but to do so without spoilers is a nightmare! So to just simply say that this film’s style pallet is eclectic, its grasp of human behaviour is a joke, its plot has more holes than a sieve and the ending of this film is so ridiculous that it actually creates more issues than I can count!


Rating: 1 out of 5


Sunday, 7 October 2012

This Week On The Bond Blog: 07/10/2012

This week on The Watchers Charity Bondathon 2012 Blog...

Also a quick round-up of some interesting BBC articles about Bond this week:

An interview with Eunice Gayson (who played Sylvia in Dr. No and From Russia With Love

And finally, in case you haven't heard it, here's 'Skyfall', the stunning new Bond theme by Adele:

It's just 18 days before we embark upon the Bondathon - please consider sponsoring us at JustGiving.

Thank you!

Review: Taken 2 (UK Cert: 12A)

Every now and then, a film comes along and grabs movie fans by the throat and we all take attention. These films are, in the most, original or more than often take something and make it their own. Taken was a great example of the latter: a backpacking young American girl is taken by a group of men in Europe; what they didn’t expect was her father- Bryan Mills- is a man with a ‘certain set of skills’. Those skills are from years as a CIA operative. The original was a breath of fresh air – it wasn’t original in any way (for example, this story was made in the 1980s with Schwarzenegger in Commando) but what made the film amazing was Liam Neeson’s performance as Mills- a man who would do anything to get his daughter back: kill, torture and maim – nothing got in his way.

The first film was what we like to call a “surprise hit” and rumours of a sequel ran for some time – then it happened and now it’s on release. The trouble with following up such a story is: what do you do?  Do you follow up that story with all the characters or do you follow up on the character? Taken 2 does a brave move and not only follows up on where all the characters are from the first film – what it does is the very wise thing. Taken 2 should be called Taken: Part 2.

The film picks up a little after the last film. The people Mills killed- the ones who kidnapped his daughter- well, their families are seeking revenge. They’ve been waiting for an opportunity and they track down the family on a holiday in Istanbul, where Mills has been working. They take Mills and his ex-wife hostage while the daughter helps them from afar – via phone calls with Mills.

Does it live up to the first film? No. But, as a follow up, as a part 2 – this film delivers. What it fails on is at no point did I feel jeopardy for the characters or did I get the same gut feeling I did when I watched the first – when I watched the first film, I was cheering Neeson on - here, it lacks some punch.  Neeson gives a great performance of Mills – he delivers just what you want: a tough but very intelligent hero, always one step ahead and prepared. Famke Janssen makes a larger role here as Mrs Mills and Maggie Grace is great again as their daughter.

The events of the film unfold and we’re taken along for the ride. Unfortunately the film doesn’t have the edge that the original had – the original had a dark tone (maybe because of the sex slave trade subject matter?) All in all, if you loved the first you will enjoy this – as long as you go in knowing it isn’t the first film, but it is a fun filled part 2.  However, it is up there with some of the best sequels

Rating: 3 out 5


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Double Feature #1 - American Politics And The Media


Today, we start a new series on The Watchers Film Show Blog - Double Feature. We'll pick two films that share something in common (for instance, theme, style, cast or crew) and that compliment each other.

The first Double Feature contains two films about American politics and the media. Both films are also based on real-life events.

Directed by: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney & Grant Heslov
Starring: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Frank Langella, Ray Wise

In the early 1950's, the threat of Communism created an air of paranoia in the United States and exploiting those fears was Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Wisconsin politician's paranoid assertion that Reds had infiltrated the US fomented panic and, coupled with the House Un-American Activities Committee, lives were ruined by rumour and innuendo. However, CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly decided to take a stand against McCarthy. They broadcast several exposes on their show 'See It Now' which highlighted McCarthy's fearmongering tactics. In a time when few would speak out, Murrow and Friendly did.

The film's title comes from the way Murrow would sign off his broadcasts. Released in black-and-white (although filmed on colour film stock and corrected during post-production), with an outstanding jazz soundtrack, the film is a glorious evocation of the 1950s. This is Clooney's second time in the director's chair and the direction is clean and assured.

The acting is superb- led from the front by a strong and dignified central performance by David Strathairn as Murrow, but ably supported by the rest of the ensemble cast; Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr are a great pairing as the newly-married Shirley and Joe Wershba who must keep their marriage a secret to continue working together and Clooney is as dependable as ever as Murrow's producer Fred. Ray Wise also deserves a mention for his turn as journalist Don Hollenbeck, driven to suicide by accusations of being a leftist. Interestingly, they chose not to cast an actor to play McCarthy and relied on actual archive footage of the Senator instead.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director for Clooney, Best Actor for Strathairn and Best Original Screenplay) but didn't win any. Nonetheless, it's a powerful piece of film-making and an absorbing drama to boot.


Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Peter Morgan
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Matthew Macfadyen, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones

The Watergate scandal shook America to its core in the 1970's. In June 1972, there was a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington. It transpired that the Nixon administration not only knew about the break-in but attempted to cover up their involvement. Facing impeachment in the House of Representatives, Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974. Three years after, Nixon agreed to be interviewed by British talk-show host David Frost. These interviews formed the basis of Peter Morgan's stage play Frost/Nixon, which was adapted for film in 2008, with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen reprising their roles from the original London stage production.

The acting is impeccable throughout: Frank Langella is a total revelation as Nixon, a complex character- slick and charming yet utterly determined; Michael Sheen adds another uncanny impersonation to his already impressive repertoire (following Tony Blair in The Queen and Brian Clough in The Damned United) and it is a shame that his performance as Frost was not recognised more during awards season. Macfadyen is great as BBC producer John Birt, who helped bring the interviews together; Platt and Rockwell are a fantastic double-act as Frost's research team Bob Zelnick and James Reston, Jr  with Rockwell a ball of righteous anger, determined to get Nixon to admit culpability.

The final interview has all the tension and anticipation of a prize fight. Considering it shows nothing more physical than two men sat opposite one another, the scene absolutely crackles with the same energy of the final fight in Rocky. The battle of wits that ensues is one of the most powerful seen in a film for ages. The film has been criticised for taking certain liberties (or dramatic license, if you prefer) with the truth- it is indeed highly unlikely that Nixon would have called Frost whilst drunk; similarly the climactic final interview was not interrupted when Nixon made a particularly incriminating remark- but the drama is nonetheless absorbing.

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor for Langella, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director for Howard and Best Editing) but sadly didn't win any. This would also work as a Double Feature with the rather brilliant All The President's Men (1976) about the investigation into Watergate by journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

The next Double Feature will focus on two films about the life of writer Truman Capote and the writing of his bestseller In Cold Blood: Bennett Miller's Capote and Douglas McGrath's Infamous.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Programme 22 - The Sweeney, Lawless and The Watchers At Home

Programme 22 is here to view!

We review The Sweeney, Lawless and discuss Avengers Assemble and the Indiana Jones saga DVDs in The Watchers At Home

In the news, we take a look at the results at the Toronto International Film Festival, the title of the X-Men: First Class sequel is announced and casting news for Red 2.