The Watchers

The Watchers

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Review: About Time (UK cert 12A)

What would you do if you could time travel? Win the lottery? Sleep with some ridiculously good looking person from the history books? In Richard Curtis’s latest, About Time, he focuses on the smaller, but no less important things: re-living a favourite day all over again, or telling someone you love them when you should have said it first time round.

Richard Curtis is a writer and filmmaker who has had a lot of stick thrown his way over the years. “His work is sickly sweet, lovey-dovey, and a pop song gets played every five minutes!” Personally, while I don’t worship at the altar of Working Title films, even his downright average work has the odd well-timed laugh and funny-because-it’s-true observation.

About Time is one of Curtis’s best films, maybe even his best, and another lesson for Hollywood on how comedies today should be done.

One of the many reasons the film works so well is down to its cast. In the two series of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, the stand-out episode for me is Be Right Back, primarily because of Domhnall Gleeson’s childlike and chilling performance. In About Time, Gleeson is given so much to do, and he does everything absolutely right; he makes comic expressions and the delivery of Curtis’s Stephen Hawking-smart script look barely-lift-a-finger easy.

Rachel McAdams is the Andie MacDowell/Julia Roberts role, but she has so much more to do than previous Curtis female leads. She’s quirky, but believable; sweet, but not annoying. Like Gleeson, she also has her fair share of one-liners and moments of embarrassing physical comedy, which she handles with ease. McAdams is an underrated actress, having sleepwalked through far too many average rom-coms and weepies in her career. In About Time she proves that, when given a script that allows her to do something other than smile and look pretty, she deserves to be near the top of the list for leading actresses.

Special mention has to go to Bill Nighy. There are films where you can’t imagine anyone else playing a certain role, and in About Time, the film would definitely not have worked if someone other than Nighy played Gleeson’s father. Here, Nighy is given free reign; he is quietly eccentric, delivering his occasionally barking dialogue in an understated way, with a glint in his eye that Nighy does so well.  Here he is everyone’s favourite memory of a father, grandfather or uncle. Nighy and Gleeson provide the majority of the film’s funniest and upsetting moments. The scene where Nighy explains to Gleeson that he can time travel is a faultless mix of uncomfortable silence and odd looks. Later, when Gleeson realises, due to time travel jiggery pokery, that he can no longer see his father is, honest to God, heart-breaking.

One final mention acting-wise has to go to Rev’s Tom Hollander as Gleeson’s miserable as sin uncle with an acid tongued answer to everything. He may not appear in the film much, but there are plenty of belly laughs when he does.

All the finest acting in the world isn’t much use if the script doesn’t even make decent toilet paper. The problem I have with Love, Actually is that Curtis turned the sweetness and lovey-dovey shtick all the way up to eleven. It was the film equivalent of a Starbucks Frappuccino; so sugary sweet it will rot your teeth. All the dialogue and touching moments drowned in the sickliness of it all.

About Time’s sickly-sweet scenes are few and far between. The film isn’t about action packed time travel adventures in a police phone box or a DeLorean, and it avoids the big questions around time travel, but what it does is highlight the more human things we would do if we were able to travel back in time: spend more time with our children, get to know our loved ones better, and have the most amazing sex possible.

Richard Curtis can’t completely avoid the sunshine candyfloss sweetness. A scene involving Gleeson and McAdams running around the Underground, all touchy feely and big wide smiles, could have been cut. Also, where the couple’s wedding reception in a marquee gets ruined due to the rubbish British weather, but they’re not bothered as they stare into each other’s eyes, felt more like an advert for some chocolates.

This is a minor niggle. About Time is another British comedy great. Expect to be thinking a lot during its two hours; not how you would change the world or use and abuse your time travelling powers, but how would you use your gift on the people that really matter to you. Make sure you bring a hanky or some tissues along, not only will you be laughing, but you’ll be pretending your hay fever’s playing up again.

4 out of 5 stars


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Cinematic Memories (Part One)

Cinemas these days, eh? We've never had it so good. Multiple screens showing all different films from morning to night, 3D, IMAX, crystal-clear surround sound.

At the risk of getting a bit Four Yorkshiremen on you, we don't know we're born nowadays. When I were a lad, it was a very different story. Most cinemas only had one screen which showed one film (two if you were lucky) and 3D was just a pipe dream. Your feet used to stick to the floors and the seats were uncomfortable. A world away from the multiplex gloss and shine.

Truth be told, there were slim pickings for cinemas in Pembrokeshire when I was growing up. You basically had three choices: the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven (which had a cinema screen that was lowered across the main house stage like a safety curtain), the Palace Cinema in Haverfordwest, and the Tenby Playhouse Cinema.

Most of the time (because it was easier to get to and you didn't have to pay to cross the Cleddau Bridge), we would go to Tenby to watch a film.

And that's where it happened.

That's where I first fell in love with the cinema. 

I can't actually remember the first film I ever saw in Tenby. I've a feeling it was probably something slightly embarrassing like Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves or (more likely) a childrens' film. But that was where we went to see our films. Being a smalll local place, it wasn't exactly red-hot on getting the latest movies on the weekend they were released but we'd get them eventually. It also had a balcony as well as stalls and your tickets were the proper old-fashioned 'Admit One' tickets. 

Some of the more memorable cinematic experiences I had at Tenby include:

- Going on a date (with my girlfriend at the time) to see Mrs. Doubtfire- it might have been our first proper date actually.

- sneaking in to my first film when I was underage - I went to Se7en on its release in 1995 and I wasn't 18 (naughty me, eh?)


- a trip with a group of friends (which included fellow Watcher Rhys) in the summer of 1997 to go and see Batman & Robin, which ended with Rhys exiting the cinema and saying the following words to the assembled group: 'I am so sorry'.

Of the three cinemas I mentioned earlier, the Palace in Haverfordwest is still going, as is the Torch Theatre who now have two cinema venues (showing in the Main House and the Studio). However, the Tenby Playhouse Cinema is sadly no more. It closed for good in January 2011 and was finally demolished earlier in 2013. A small chunk of my childhood and adolescence has gone with it. 


Monday, 2 September 2013

The Watchers Visit Cardiff Film & Comic Con 2013: Photo Preview

The Watchers had a day out! BUT without Tez :(
We met legends of the big and small screen, shopped like girls at the merchandise stalls, went to mind bending Q & A sessions with the stars and met the General Lee!

To wet your appetite for our Special Show at the Event, which will be online 3rd September! Take a look at our Photo Gallery of the day!

Rhys :)