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Martin Freeman in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

7 April 2014-04-07

Out in the UK This Week The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) One book, three films – there’s something almost Tolkienesque in that phrase, don’t you think? Against expectation I enjoyed the first instalment of The Hobbit, even though every fibre of my being had been rebelling against the idea of Peter Jackson turning a slim book into three long movies. I can’t say the same for part two, which follows Bilbo and the dwarves on their quest to reclaim Erebor, their kingdom beneath the mountain, which is an exercise in time-wasting until Smaug himself arrives. Every shot, every scene is padded, even the most inconsequential locale getting its … Read more
Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium, Mexico 1968

Salute

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 4 April Martin Luther King assassinated, 1968 On this day in 1968, the black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. He’d gone there to intervene in a strike of black sanitary public works employees, who were employed on zero-hours contracts, while their white counterparts were paid by the day, irrespective of hours worked. There had been a bomb threat against King’s plane en route and he was clearly expecting trouble. On 3 April, at Mason Temple, he delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech – “Like anybody, I would like to live a … Read more
Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 3 April Jesse James dies 1882 On this day in 1882, the outlaw Jesse Woodson James died. Born in Missouri, he had come to prominence as the leader of the James-Younger gang having served as a Confederate guerrilla in the American Civil with his brother Frank. Continuing in peacetime the activities that had been sanctioned during the war, he robbed banks, trains, stagecoaches. His gang was most prolific from the years immediately after the War, which had ended in 1865, and it continued successfully until 1876 when its raid on a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, failed, resulting in the death or … Read more
Stacy Martin in Nymphomaniac Vol 1

Nymphomaniac: Vol. I

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 2 April Serge Gainsbourg born, 1928 On this day in 1928 Lucien Ginsburg was born, to refugees from the Russian revolution who had fled in 1917. Later, he would change his name from Ginsburg to Gainsbourg to reflect his admiration for the British landscape painter Gainsborough, and from Lucien to Serge to honour his Russian heritage. Originally intending to be a painter, Gainsbourg wound up supporting himself by playing piano in bars and so entered the world of music more by accident than design. However, once he realised he had something of a knack for chansons in the Jacques Brel style, … Read more
Janet Montgomery and Paul Rudd in Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 1 April April Fool’s Day In many countries, today is April Fool’s Day. It’s unclear where this day – nowadays often dedicated to the playing of practical jokes – has its origin, though there was a medieval Feast of Fools (28 December) and a Roman festival of Hilaria (25 March).It is also possible that the old custom of celebrating the new year on 25 March (the weeklong holiday would end on 1 April) is involved somehow. Another theory sees Persia as the source of April Fool’s Day, the Sizdah Bedar tradition of going out and having fun on 1 April going … Read more
MPAA Not Rated Card

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 31 March Motion Picture Code introduced, 1930 On this day in 1930, the Hollywood studios introduced a new code which laid out what was and was not acceptable in movies. It was a system of self-regulation which a scared Hollywood adopted after a series of widely reported scandals and after a number of risqué movies had prompted numerous states to introduce censorship bills. Rather than navigate through all this restrictive detail – what was fine in Iowa might not be in Texas – Hollywood bought off the objectors by introducing a code that satisfied nearly everybody. Working from a list of … Read more
Zac Efron about to pronounce the president dead in Parkland

Parkland

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 30 March Ronald Reagan shot, 1981 On this day in 1981, after just over two months in office, President Ronald Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton. His would-be assassin was John Hinckley Jr, whose attempt on the president’s life seemed to be part of a plan to impress Jodie Foster, with whom he’d become obsessed after seeing her in the film Taxi Driver. Hinckley’s intention was not to kill Reagan but the President – he’d been focused on killing President Jimmy Carter when Carter was in office until being arrested on a firearms charge. Reagan just happened to be the … Read more
Slavoj Žižek in The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 29 March First batch of Coca Cola made, 1886 On this day in 1886, Colonel John Pemberton made his first batch of Coca-Cola. It was a non-alcoholic version of his popular Pemberton’s French Wine Coca and he introduced it because Atlanta, where he was based, had just announced the prohibition of alcohol. Pemberton’s French Wine Coca contained alcohol mixed with psychoactive coca, caffeine-containing kola nut and the aromatic aphrodisiac damiana. Pemberton had originally formulated it as a way of weaning himself off an addiction to morphine he’d picked up after being injured in the Civil War. Like the European Vin Mariani, … Read more
Errol Flynn in lancer's helmet in The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Charge of the Light Brigade

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 28 March Crimean War escalates, 1854 On this day in 1854, Britain and France declared war against Russia. Russia and the Ottoman Empire had been at war since October the previous year, when conflict had broken out ostensibly about the rights of Christians in the Holy Land – being restricted by Muslim Ottomans and being protected by Orthodox Russian if you accept the Russians’ diplomatic rhetoric. In fact the war was about territory, the Turks being on the decline after centuries of dominance in the region, the Russians keen to continue their expansion west into Europe and particularly south to the … Read more
Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale

James Bond’s Testicles

Have you ever noticed how James Bond is always getting his balls interfered with? The world’s most virile spy is bursting with so much testosterone that women want to get their hands on them and can’t help but fall into bed with him. Men, on the other hand, feel so threatened they want to crush him/them. Either that, or his heterosexual payload intimidates them so much that they come over all gay – again and again 007 is beset by the world’s elite effete, men with an exaggerated interest in long-haired cats and their own clothes, and who treat beautiful women with a casual disregard. Most notably there was the dual shape of … Read more
Donald Pleasence does the scary in Wake in Fright

31 March 2014-03-31

Out in the UK this week Klown (Arrow, cert 18, DVD) Spun off from a taboo-baiting Danish TV series of the same name, this comedy sends a couple of mismatched buddies on a road trip, bromance style, with a 12 year old boy in tow. What this dim bulb and his raging egomaniac friend get up to can best be described as shenanigans, with the jokes usually having a sexual focus – I think this has the most audacious and literal sight gag I’ve ever seen. Klown is full of the sort of stuff that you can imagine the writers room on a Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller movie coming up with and then deciding it … Read more
Mulberry Street zombie

Mulberry St

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 27 March Typhoid Mary quarantined, 1915 On this day in 1915, Mary Mallon was quarantined for the second and final time. A carrier of typhoid who remained healthy herself, Mallon’s career as an itinerant cook meant she was perfectly placed to spread the disease. As she moved from position to position after arriving in the US from Ireland, she spread typhoid at every kitchen she worked in. 49 people came down with typhoid; three died. She resolutely refused to give any samples to health researchers, claiming that since she was healthy herself, she couldn’t be spreading illness. She had been quarantined … Read more

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