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Cinephilia in West London

Cinephilia in West London

The ideal living room - Cinephilia

The ideal living room - Cinephilia

Ob. disclaimer – I was invited via Qype to a night at Cinephilia West, a film cafe/bar/screening room in Westbourne Grove. My review of the place follows:

If you like food, or cinema, this is DEFINITELY the place for you.

First off, it’s a learned cinema fan’s paradise. The basement is the ideal living room, stuffed full with cinematic books and DVDs for sale, and at the end a huge screen where they hold evening screenings. It’s a fantastically chilled out place from where to watch your favourite obscure film (Brazil). They hold screenings of curated films once a week, and it sounds like a fantastic way to broaden your film knowledge.

The ground floor holds film exhibitions, and a very very good selection of film magazines that you can just pick up and read. Plus there’s wi-fi if you want to work on your killer screenplay.

Alongside all this is a cafe, but not just any cafe. The sangria is gorgeous, and the cakes are oozing with seductive delights.

If I had one complaint about this place, it’s that it’s obviously not for your average-going Odeon mainstream person who prefers Doctor Doolittle to Doctor Parnassus. And the price for food heaven is a bit high …

But for years I have often lamented the lack of film-centric places in West London. Now there is one, and I can’t see how it could get better. (well, unless they held screenings of Doctor Who)

Check out my review of cinephilia – I am almostwitty – on Qype

Watch the Best British film EVAH – online

Watch the Best British film EVAH – online

Hell, it might well be the best film ever…

If you’re in the UK, you can now watch Terry Gilliam’s superlative Brazil online till Sunday.

It’s the film of a story that 1984 tried to tell, but adds a huge dollop of black humour, fantasy, and terrorism to the mix. Definitely a must see.

The rise of Chinese pop culture…

The rise of Chinese pop culture…

When my sisters and I were growing up (younger than ten), we were somewhat discouraged from consuming Western pop culture, ie music and films, by our parents. (Can’t you tell?) Thus, while my schoolfriends were (perhaps) reading Smash Hits et. al., we were listening to Cantopop and comedy films from Hong Kong, procured at great expense and effort from Chinese shops in Liverpool.

One of the tapes we used to constantly listen to on those long drives to Liverpool were albums by Sam Hui, who along with his brothers also used to make knock-about comedy capers like Security Unlimited. They were simple, but had catchy tunes and comedy routines – in the back of my head, I can probably still recall the Security Unlimited way of learning how to drive. Think of a working class Nolan Sisters branching into Carry On films, with no innuendo.

Then we got a radio, I discovered how to control the television set, and I threw myself into UK pop culture (Smash Hits! Neneh Cherry! Doctor Who!) while my parents wondered where exactly they had gone wrong.

Fast-forward 25 years, and a chance Googling reveals that American casinos are so keen to get Chinese gamblers coming in, they book Sam Hui to perform at Las Vegas, and casinos in Connecticut have Chinese-language websites where lots of Asian pop stars perform, for the cash. I’ve seen casinos put up Chinese-language signs in London and Manchester to compel Chinese gamblers to come in, but this takes it to a whole new level.

As for that Security Unlimited – the film my sisters and I must have watched hundreds of times on repeat on a dodgy VHS – is now on YouTube, and also available via Amazon.com video-on-demand. Technology, eh?

Now if only I could speak Chinese.

"Put the f'king lotion in the basket…"

"Put the f'king lotion in the basket…"

You may have seen a musical clip from the frankly genius idea of Silence of the Lambs: The Musical set to Lego:

Anyway, it turns out the musical is coming to London mid-January! Who’s with me? We can all wear night-vision goggles and adopt cod-Virginian accents! (or surgical masks and cod-posh-Welsh accents)…

If you're going to re-do something, do it differently…

If you're going to re-do something, do it differently…

I’ve often thought that if you’re going to go to the bother of remaking a film or a song, you should at least do it a bit differently. Like the Pet Shop Boys doing Always On My Mind, or … the Pet Shop Boys doing Where The Streets Have No Name.

Anyway, we now have the new trailer for The Karate Kid, starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith.

The Karate Kid – re-done…

The Karate Kid – re-done…

So… they’re trampling over my childhood by re-making The Karate Kid. Only this time, Jackie Chan gets to mentor Will Smith’s son. Which instinctively seems a bit odd for no apparent reason.

Fortunately, Jeff Yang’s fascinating article on how martial arts was popularised in the US by black people seems to actually make sense. Although I’m not sure Jackie Chan will be anywhere near as charming as Pat Morita.

Still, maybe its’ reappearance will finally mean that when I start muttering “You, beginner luck!” under my breath, people might actually get the reference. Certainly, references to The Karate Kid were aplenty during my time in that ill-fated British-Chinese comedy sketch group

You never forget your first crush…

You never forget your first crush…

Lucina Dickey (and Jean Claude van Damne) in a scene from Breakin'

Lucina Dickey (and Jean Claude van Damne) in a scene from Breakin'

Believe it or not, when I was a tender 10-year-old boy growing up in a small seaside resort in mid Wales, I developed a temporary crush for the purple-dressed lady who steps in from the right. A crush I am still at a loss to explain to this day.

The scene is from that seminal street movie Breakin’ (the first movie all about Breakdancing) and the actress is Lucinda Dickey. Lovely lady though I’m sure she is, I can’t figure out why I had a crush on her. There were/are a huge number of “glam American” movies extolling the delights of living in a fantasy street-savvy America, so why she turned my tender young head/heart, I have no idea. And she’s not my usual type. Although she is cute. Fortunately, she’s still retained her looks today.

Thanks to the futuristic technology of YouTube, you can also watch the entire film online – or just the trailer, which has enough Lucinda Dickey goodness.

Oh, America, what happened to you?

Oh, America, what happened to you?

BBC Films co-produces a film about the life of Charles Darwin. Starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connolly, it looks at how Darwin’s theory on the Origin of Species impacts on his personal life, and his relationship with his religious wife.

So, a scientist battling between religion and evolution. What’s so bad about that?

Well, the film can’t be released in the United States because it can’t find a distributor. Even though it’s found one everywhere else.

I’m fairly sure there’s a Biblical quote somewhere about looking at other viewpoints and having an open mind…

RIP Patrick Swayze

RIP Patrick Swayze

The 1990s were a confusing time if you were a bloke trying to figure out how to be a bloke. The choices seemed to boil down to being the waspy, sensitive “New Man” (aka today’s emo) “New Man” stereotype pastiche, or the “Lager Lout” (out all night in pubs, drinking strong beer and starting brawls in nightclubs) stereotype? (I’m sure the advertising industry has, as ever, much sexier phrases for these stereotypes).

Patrick Swayze, bless him, seemed to prove that you could dance, love, and even cry, while simultaneously being able to knock seven shades of crap out of bad people and even indulge in a spot of bromance with an FBI agent. Quite a huge range for an actor who never even went to acting school. He even looked alarmingly good for a man of 50 in Keeping Mum. And he even managed to stay married to the SAME WOMAN for 30+ years or so.

So the fact he’s succumbed to cancer, which is one of the most vile diseases sapping all life energy out of its sufferers in a long slow death, is, to say the least, quite sad.

He was a terrible singer though. Even if I do somehow love this song – and any song that can survive a wonderful mashup with the Pet Shop Boys’ Minimal has got to be a great song despite anything you can throw at it…

and it’s not just me. Particularly interesting thoughts come via the usually snarky The Onion AV Club and Overthinking It

Fandoms combining…

Fandoms combining…

In an era where fanfic writers think nothing of plonking the Red Dwarf crew on the Starship Enterprise, or the cast of Spaced in the TARDIS, it shouldn’t really come as that much of a surprise when professional media creators do the same thing.

Thus today, where we discover that Richard Curtis (famed romantic comedy writer behind Love Actually, Four Weddings, Blackadder and the superb and under-rated The Tall Guy) is writing a script for Doctor Who. This has met with a little consternation.

Of course, their fear comes from the possibility that romance might rear its ugly head in Doctor Who. It should, of course, be pointed out that:
– Richard Curtis, for all his faults, is a master at creating characters you like. Albeit middle-class English ones, of various hues and abilities.
– Pretty much all of Steven Moffat‘s celebrated scripts for Doctor Who have had huge dollops of romance in them. Doctor Who fans and Hugo Award adjudicators have lapped them up in their droves.

The news that the Pet Shop Boys have written a song for Shirley Bassey‘s new album also sent my geek fandom radar into overdrive. The Pet Shop Boys write fantastic songs – but let’s face it, Shirley Bassey‘s got a much more powerful voice that deserves to be used.

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