The Casting Couch – Nick Whitfield

August 31, 2010

The Casting Couch Director Interview with Nick Whitfield (right click and “Save as” for download)

Hello friends; as I’m sure you all know, Chris of the Wakeman is currently without internet, but that doesn’t mean no new audio Casta content for you, oh no! Chris recently had a sit down interview with Nick Whitfield, the director of British film Skeletons – which I reviewed at the EIFF here.

I urge you all again to track this film down on its official website (which is .com, not as I mistankenly stated in the audio above. I’m fired)

Special thanks go out to Derby Quad who originally organised the interview and let us steal it appropriate it. Cheers guys!


Project 365: Weeks 27 – 34

August 30, 2010

Well obviously I dropped the ball on this one didn’t I? Not actually on watching the movies, but keeping you informed about them. From now on I’ll try to update more regularly but no promises! I’m still on target albeit with a smaller buffer than before but I’m feeling confident that I’ll still be able to get through 365 by December 31st.

Okay so here are the sixty films I’ve watched in the eight weeks mentioned above:

206. Get him to the Greek
207. Twilight
208. New Moon
209. Eclipse
210. Capote
211. Youth in Revolt
212. Cop Out
213. Shrek Forever After
214. Predators
215. The Pianist
216. Go
217. The Breakfast Club
218. Titanic
219. Alien Resurrection
220. It
221. Inception
222. A Few Good Men
223. Singin’ in the Rain
224. Duck Soup
225. Raw Deal
226. FIT
227. Dirty Harry
228. Splice
229. Synecdoche, New York
230. I Love You Phillip Morris
231. The Bounty Hunter
232. The A Team
233. Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque)
234. The Karate Kid (2010)
235. Commando
236. Resevoir Dogs
237. The Happening
238. Predator
239. Lars and the Real Girl
240. She’s out of My League
241. Collteral Damage
242. The Rebound
243. Conan the Barbarian
244. Predator 2
245. Knight and Day
246. Night at the Museum
247. Magnum Force
248. The Enforcer
249. Evil Dead
250. 3:10 to Yuma
251. Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events
252. The Sorceror’s Apprecntice
253. Mad Max
254. Midnight Meat Train
255. Evil Dead II
256. Salt
257. The Expendables
258. Sudden Impact
259. Rambo III
260. Night at the Museum 2
261. The Dead Pool
262. Full Metal Jacket
263. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
264. Gattaca
265. Mulholland Drive

Highlights: Singin’ in the Rain, Dirty Harry, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Lowlights: Get Him to the Greek, Duck Soup, The Happening

If I had kids…

August 29, 2010

I recently found myself in a conversation regarding the task of taking a child to the cinema. The person I was speaking to said they had found themselves arguing with their child over which film to watch – Shrek Forever After or Toy Story 3. Now this particular film goer knew he wanted to see Toy Story 3 because it was Pixar and he had heard nothing but great things, and he knew his kids would love it once they saw it. But the children wanted to see Shrek, because the Donkey is silly, Shrek looks funny and talking animals are hilarious. Needless to say tantrums were had, dummies were spat out and that very next afternoon the family went to see, you guessed it, Shrek Forever After. And then came the punch line to the story. Preceding the film were the trailers for Cats and Dogs and Marmaduke, and now the kids are pulling their hair out to see both of those.

Now I’m sure readers who take children to the cinema regularly will recognise the frustrations of this particular anecdote. Chris and I can go on until our tongues fall out about how Toy Story 3 trumps everything else this year, and how every live action talking animal effort is ultimately an excuse for a few cute sight gags, and I’m sure parents will already be aware of these facts, but at the end of the day they don’t make the decisions when it comes to which CG ‘toon the kids prefer most. Children don’t care if there are any film references or innuendos for mummy and daddy to enjoy, and why should they?

In a perfect world adults would win every argument and call the shots on which film they were all going to see, but instead I’m sure Saturday morning screenings are being filled each and every weekend by parents forced to endure another turgid offering from a Hollywood studio that knows when in doubt…throw in a fart gag.

All this got me thinking; what if we could be a little more prepared? What if we went into each film knowing what to expect, with an iPod or book in tow to pass the time away if the offering is particularly hard to stomach? At least if we know what’s coming we can psyche ourselves up a bit.

And so I present to you dear reader my whistle stop tour of a smattering of offerings currently on show in most multiplexes in the UK, and my expectations of those films. This time last year Casta La Vista may have dragged itself to see these films in all their glory and offer proper reviews, but the summer season is so busy, and the trailers make these films look so familiar, that I’m hopeful these expectations BASED SOLELY ON THE TRAILERS AND POSTERS AVAILABLE will be accurate enough.

It starts…

CATS & DOGS 2: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE: Instant reaction here was “why are they making a sequel to a film that came out nearly ten years ago?” Surely the young audience for the first film will have grown up by now and be in that teenager-who’s-too-old-for-this-shit phase to want to see any follow up. Plus, the best thing about C&D 1 was Jeff Goldblum and I haven’t seen him in any trailers, so have to assume he isn’t in it. The trailer has a ridiculous gag of a dancing robot-squirrel, and cats getting dressed up cute AGAIN, so I don’t think there’ll be much in the way of adult humour, despite the espionage parody setup.

RECOMMENDATION: Screams AVOID to me. And if you haven’t got the balls to make the PUSSY GALORE pun work properly then why bother almost referencing it?

MARMADUKE: Owen Wilson clearly got this gig for two reasons; one he is the king of the West Coast Stoner routine and B he already did the dog themed film thing so well in Marley & Me last year why not just keep the trend alive? Oh and also it’s best to keep him in work in case he starts getting all depressed again! Marmaduke is an iconic figure to a certain generation – the comic strips and cartoons were popular for years. But those years have gone by now, and so the name Marmaduke will mean little to the youth of today, which means the title and character serves purely as a means of placating the parents. Much like Garfield, the adults will strap in and soon realise that they’ve been tricked into watching another generic cute animals flick.

RECOMMENDATION: Take some old Marmaduke strips into the screening with you to read whilst the film is on, because I guarantee the film will be nothing like them.

THE LAST AIRBENDER: I know what you’re thinking; M Night Shyamalan; big event movie; we should review this one properly right? Well, no. Casta La Vista has decided to make an executive decision and avoid this one entirely because neither of us has read a single good word about it and we can’t find the energy to try and prove otherwise. What happened to you M Night? Where did it all go wrong? Children might like the images from the trailer of the young hero, and a few may know the TV show it’s based on, but for the most part I bet they won’t.

RECOMMENDATION: Visually this one looks like it might get a bit dark so expect to do some hand holding for large parts of the film, and you’ll probably get tapped on the shoulder every five minutes to being asked what’s going on, what that means, and who that guy is. Is it really worth it just to say you’ve seen all of Shyamalan’s work?

TINKERBELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE: First thought on this was that it’s a genuine surprise to see it getting a theatrical release as the title has Straight to DVD written all over it. There are no star names attached for the voices, visually it looks very basic, the premise doesn’t really seem overly complicated, and too be honest it looks more cute and cuddly that exciting and funny. Definitely one for the very young, and in that sense probably a film unlikely to have anything for adults to latch on to. Would be very surprised if it references the Peter Pan mythology much at all.
RECOMMENDATION: Could be painful. Under fives only for this one if you ask me – and probably only girls too. It will probably be the best film they’ll have ever seen ever ever and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to sit them in front of Peter Pan when you get home and show them where the magic really started.

THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: This one looks like it might be a lot of fun. Once you get past the clearly annoying kid performances there are a few recognisable faces playing teachers and parents and the jokes of growing up at school look as current for kids today as they look familiar for parents who probably went through the same sorts of things growing up. It’s a book adaptation too, so it should be fairly well put together. I’m thinking it’ll be like Holes from a few years ago; fun, clever and just cheesy enough.

RECOMMENDATION: Sit back and laugh along with the kids, you should all be fine with this one. If the kids don’t have them already you’ll be buying the books on the way home and reading them yourself before they can take them to bed!

THE KARATE KID (sorry Chris): You’re seriously telling me you think your kids can sit through a two hour twenty minute film without getting bored or distracted? Your funeral.

RECOMMENDATION: Wait for the DVD, at least you can pause it when they start to lose interest.

You have been warned. END RANT.

Five more movies the critics got completely wrong…

August 28, 2010

I enjoyed taking apart the critics’ views so much last time that I figured I’d do the same again; so here are five more films that don’t quite have the reputation they deserve and you should consider checking out.

1.Push (2009)
Starring: Chris Evans
Tomatometer rating: 23%

Of the many films I’ve seen this year, this is by far one of the ones that I enjoyed the most and is the film that solidified for me that telekinesis is the only super power you’d ever really need. Set in Hong Kong and concerning a secret government agency hunting down people with various types of super human powers, Push is stylish and well shot with plenty of good action and above par special effects.

Chris Evans (fast becoming one of my favourite “new faces” in Hollywood) is on his usual form here and leads the cast well in what serves as an interesting introduction to a wider universe which, due to poor box office performance, will likely never be fully explored – although I did hear rumours of a TV series being made as way of a follow up. If it ever airs I’m going to be sure to watch it.

DVD – £4.47

2. Walking Tall (2004)

Starring: Dwayne Johnson The Rock
Tomatometer rating: 25%

Weighing in at a colossal seventy seven minutes, Walking Tall is probably one of the most non-committal films you’re ever going to see; you could honestly turn it on five minutes before the end and still understand pretty much everything that’s going on.

The Rock is a guy who is mad at another guy because the other guy has made his hometown a bit of a scum pit. Rather than write an angry letter, the Rock takes a more pragmatic approach; making himself the town’s sheriff before going round and either punching people in the face or thumping them with a big piece of wood. That’s my kind of law enforcement!

There’s plenty of flexing and pouting on show here but as mentioned before the Rock is just so bloody charismatic and interesting to watch that you kind of don’t care that what you’re watching amounts to little more than a couple of back to back episodes of a rubbish TV show that would only air at about three in the morning. Brilliant.

DVD – £3.87

3. Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Starring: Kate Beckinsale
Tomatometer rating: 15%

I can’t really remember what it was that made me watch this earlier in the year but I’m sure glad I did. Underworld Evolution is easily one of the best rubbish action movies of the last decade.

Kate Beckinsale is obviously terrible and has one of the worst genuine English accents I’ve ever heard. Then again on the few occasions where she isn’t strutting around in tight leather suits shooting stuff, she’s got all her kit off. Who needs talent?

Having derided it quite enough, there is something quite charming about this film and the universe it exists within. All the vampire history can get a little tiresome in places, but the moment you start to feel yourself nodding off someone gets their face chopped off and somehow this makes it all better.

There’s plenty of over the top fighting action going on between vampires, werewolves and crosses of the two, and this film serves as a nice reminder that prior to all the tween stuff around at the moment, Vampires liked nothing more than dressing stupid, biting stuff and living in big fuck off castles.

And good news! They’re making a fourth one! Hooray!

DVD – £3.97

4. Man on Fire (2004)
Starring: Denzel Washington
Tomatometer rating: 38%

It’s no secret that here at Casta La Vista we’re big fans of both Denzel Washington and Tony Scott, and that we’re usually giddy with excitement when the two do something together (which is seemingly all the time to be quite honest) – in my opinion Man on Fire signifies the best of their work together and possibly some of their best work individually too.

Denzel plays Creasy, a retired CIA agent who is tasked with protecting the daughter of a wealthy Mexican businessman; sounds simple enough but notorious bad guys of some sort are intent on kidnapping her – oh and did I mention that Creasy is a suicidal alcoholic? Possibly not the best person to charge with minding your child in my opinion…

As much as Scott is on his usual directorial form, the real thing that makes this film stand out to me is the very real relationship that develops between Creasy and protectee Lupita (played by Dakota Fanning) throughout the course of events. If you don’t have a lump in your throat by the end of this film, you probably don’t have a heart.

DVD – £2.99

5. Eraser (1996)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Tomatometer rating: 34%

Well obviously there’s another Arnie film in here! Eraser stands out to me as one of Arnie’s last “true” action movies and is fun, fast paced and explosive enough without all the pretense that we’ve somehow come to expect from movies of its ilk nowadays.

Arnie is a US Marshall who needs to protect some woman from some bad guys so they don’t get some big guns which Arnie ends up using on the bad guys themselves. Who cares about the plot line really though? Stuff explodes, dialogue is forced and everyone has a great time.

It also features one of the most cringeworthy one liners you’re ever likely to hear in an action movie after Arnie slays a crocodile. Pure cheesy brilliance.

DVD £3.97

And there you have it – five more amazing films for you to get your teeth into. Are there any of the above you strongly agree or disagree with? Or any other movies you’d like to shout up about? Use the comments below!

My Friends and I – 2

August 27, 2010

Welcome to part two of My Friends and I, getting you up to speed with mini reviews of all the films I’ve been watching as part of Cinefriends group that I host at QUAD cinema and art gallery in Derby. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about the first three films that we watched, now sit back and read up on what I thought about the next three. Starting with…

The Fourth Meeting: London River

London River is a simple story of an unlikely couple as they struggle to find their son and daughter in the aftermath of the London bombings of July 7. Two strangers, a terrified and lost mother (Brenda Blethyn) and a frail and alone French Moroccan (Sotigui Kouyate) are thrust into one another’s business as they learn that their children were dating one another and may have been together on the morning of the attacks. As the story unravels, it becomes clear that their children had ties with the Muslim community and prejudices and fear begin to cloud people’s judgement.
What a synopsis eh? I bet it makes you want to see the film. Well good, because you should do. It’s brilliant.

London River manages to fully realise every element of the British psyche immediately after 7/7, and puts paid to the fact that it was all mostly for show and did nothing but make the situation much worse. The central performances of this film are unbelievable, and there is no way I will even attempt to suggest which is better because that would do a disservice to the other one.

As with the best cinematic efforts, London River’s strength comes from what goes unsaid, from what is conveyed through mood and performance rather than rammed down an audience’s throat. Yes, perhaps the visual and coded meaning of the film is a little over the top (single mother, disconnected from her child and the big city, ignorant to other cultures and religions – LIVES ON AN ISLAND…whoops, too far!) but honestly it just doesn’t matter when the pacing is this good and the structure this elegant.

The obligatory Wakeman criticism; there’s about ten minutes towards the end that the film just doesn’t need. It purposefully establishes one scenario before turning it on its head in a twist-stylee, but to be perfectly honest it’s pointless because the emotional intensity of the final revelation would’ve worked just as well without the misdirect.
See it.

Final bit of advice. Film set in London. Established British actress. Got London in the title. About 80% of the film is spoken in French and so subtitled. Not that it matters, I just wanted to prepare you.

Meeting number 5: Gainsbourg

Another Cinefriends screening, another Casta La Vista Subjected. Here’s what we thought; CLICK ME (thirty eight minutes in)

The Meeting after 5 but before 7: The Secret in Their Eyes

If you’re going to see an Argentinean film, you might as well see one that has won an Oscar. The Secret in Their Eyes won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s awards and my first reaction to this was that it must be REALLY good to have beaten A Prophet. In my humble opinion I think Oscy got it wrong because in the simplest terms there is nothing about A Prophet that I would change, whereas The Secret in Their Eyes does have a few missteps. But nothing too major.

Overall the movie is fantastic. Our hero is a retired Federal Justice Agent who is attempting to turn an open case from twenty years ago into a novel and by doing so hopes to exorcise a few internal demons of his own, including the one about the girl who got away.

Told mostly through flashback, the film’s biggest triumph is that it keeps things moving along nicely, and is very rarely dull. The floating between two eras works as it adds layers to the dialogue and relationships of the characters, and helps keep the tension high for a case that might have lulled a bit in the middle were it told chronologically.

Boxes can be ticked in the categories of Great Performances, Great Direction, Superb Score and Excellent Cinematography and the film can pride itself on being not only thrilling and dramatic, but also emotional and in many places hilarious. Ricardo Darin’s relationship with his co-worker, a charming alcoholic, generates some of the most entertaining moments of the film.

As a whole The Secret in Their Eyes feels a lot like a book adaptation might do, with twists and turns throughout and very episodic sequences. Perhaps one of the films downfalls is that at times it is a bit generic; here is the obligatory chase sequence; here is the moment of melancholy; let’s slow things down for a nice chat. I suppose the counter argument then is that these moments, whilst familiar, are handled so much better in this film than in others, but all the same, they’re still there.

My main criticism however concerns one of the main rules of storytelling; that being that the filmmaker should always be about two minutes ahead of the viewer. If things are too confusing, an audience gets restless. If things are too obvious, we feel pandered to.

The ‘reveal’ of The Secret in Their Eyes is so glaringly obvious from about twenty minutes into the film (based on one line of dialogue too I might add) that its unveiling as a twist is frankly insulting. Maybe I’ve seen too many thrillers and know the conventions. Maybe the end will surprise other viewers. For me, I could see it a mile off, and the fact that, much like in London River, it spent ten minutes going down another route before coming back to the obvious conclusion served as a huge waste of my time and made the film seem suddenly much slower.

I know it sounds like a big criticism, and in some ways it is, however I would still urge people to check the film out, because the rest of it is top drawer. Not quite A Prophet, but certainly worth a watch.

And with that, we are bang up to date. Thanks for reading. I’ll post another piece like this in about a month or so (the group meets every two weeks and I’ll do these updates in threes) and in the meantime make sure to keep those eyes of yours peeled for all the movies reviewed above and as usual let us know what you thought of them!

Big kiss!

My Friends and I – 1

August 26, 2010


Whilst Casta La Vista takes another one its famous unscheduled breaks (this time it’s my fault) the better Chris and I thought it would be a good idea to keep you, our most devoted of listeners, updated with the things that are going on in our lives vis-a-vis the world of the movie.

This time around it’s my turn, and so I thought it might be quaint to give you a few quick written efforts on movies I have seen recently that probably won’t get a shout on the pod (and a few that have as well).

Regular listeners will know that during this year I have built a good relationship with an art house cinema/ gallery in Derby called QUAD; part of my current work there involves me leading a fortnightly movie club named Cinefriends which is designed to encourage people who regularly go to the cinema to hang out for a bit afterwards, talk about the movie and get to know one another a bit better. It’s a social group, aimed at people who want to see a variety of films and meet people at the same time. The group itself is thriving, and if I do say so myself I make an awesome host!

Every couple of months I’ll post up one of these editions to let you know the flicks I’ve been seeing as part of the group, and what my thoughts have been on each one too.

Why don’t we start at the beginning?

Meeting 1: Lebanon

This was a really heavy flick to start off a group like this with – however the other option for Meeting one was The Killer Inside Me (Episode 18 – about twelve minutes in) so maybe it could’ve been worse? Set during the Lebanese war of the early 19-hmmm-ner-herr’s the film is based almost entirely inside a tank, as a group of four soldiers make their way through a city under the increasingly confused instruction of their battalion leader outside.

As war movies go, this is a must see, up there with The Hurt Locker and Waltz with Bashir. Much like in Kathryn Bigelow’s effort the key to its success is the focus on the characters and not the war itself; the realisation that individual soldiers can be confused, scared, powerless and vulnerable. Added to this, by placing all of the action inside such a confined and dirty space, showing the outside world only from the perspective of the periscope, we get a completely isolated view on war. Potential threat is only ever as far away as the edges of the crosshairs, and the clunky mechanics of the turret add to the tension as it scans the tank’s vicinity.

Ironically my biggest criticism of the film would have to be that the characters do have a tendency to fall into stereotype and caricature – the nervous one; the flawed leader; the new guy; the brash rule breaker – and the film is definitely at its best when the story allows these characters to buck from those traditions.

All in all though Lebanon is well acted, well made (no expense spared on production value – despite its minimalist internal setting the action through the crosshairs looks amazing) and definitely moving. It’s also bloody violent, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

2nd Meeting: Whatever Works

The first of these meetings that I coincided with a Subjected. Check out mine and Chris’ thoughts here (thirty two minutes in).

Meeting III: Good Hair

Would you like to know my unshakeable perspective on documentaries? Good, I’ll tell you;

Why do they all have to be fifteen minutes too long?

I believe that a good documentary requires one thing; an interesting topic. A GREAT documentary requires two things; an interesting topic and someone who can tell you about that topic in an entertaining way. An AMAZING documentary requires those two things PLUS some sort of conflict/ debate; something that provokes and allows we, the viewer, to generate an opinion.

Good Hair falls into the category of a GREAT documentary. Chris Rock takes us on a journey through the African-American hair industry, from styling conventions to Harlem salons, via Indian weave manufacturers and pharmaceutical laboratories.

Whilst definitely niche, Good Hair worked for me because it was focused on a topic I knew very little about, and was unlikely to learn about from anywhere else. The added bonus is that Chris Rock is a very charming man, and his manner throughout the film is inquisitive and naive, reflective of how the audience should be at each point. This is a technique made more famous by the likes of Michael Moore, however Rock is able to pull it off without looking obnoxious. Likewise, the obviously staged and scripted elements of the film do not rub half as much as in a Moore film, because Good Hair does not try as hard to suggest that they are genuine.

Good Hair succeeds because it is a light-hearted representation of a culture from a perspective foreign to most audiences. My group responded well to the film as they came out feeling they had learnt something they otherwise wouldn’t have known. And as far as subject matters go, the hair industry is probably one that doesn’t need to be addressed in an overly dramatic way.

That said there is still the issue of why Good Hair misses out on being an AMAZING documentary. Despite the general light-hearted tone, at several points the story strays towards more complex issues to do with race, identity, the economy, and celebrity culture. At these points you can almost feel the filmmakers putting the brakes on and returning to less provocative concerns. This is a shame, because the topic of Good Hair is clearly connected to a larger conversation about American society and politics. Perhaps for the film itself it is better that it avoids these subjects so to not change the tone of the film completely, but for this audience member’s money…I wanted more.

Oh, and it feels about fifteen minutes too long. I can’t remember the last time I watched a documentary and didn’t think that same thing. They have a tendency to ramble on. But then again, so do I.


So there you have it. The first three films I’ve seen through Cinefriends and my opinions therein. Thanks for reading this far if you’ve made it to the end. I salute your tenacity and officially owe you a high-5. Thanks too to Derby QUAD for letting me get involved with the group in the first place and sorting me out with tickets for each screening!

I’ll try to update with posts like this a bit more frequently (the second one should come next week!), but in the meantime make sure to keep an eye out for all these films (some may be hitting the DVD shelves soon) and let us know via the usual contact details if you agree or disagree with anything written above.


Where the Hell are we? AGAIN?!

August 25, 2010

So you may have noticed that there’s no new episode of Casta this week. “Whyever not?” you cry, well stop crying stupid; I’ll tell you! Chris of the Wakeman variety has just moved house and for the time being has no internet. Poor sod. He should be up and running by next week though so expect a bumper episode of Casta to get you up to date on all the stuff we’ve missed.

In the meantime keep an eye on the site for lots of updates from both of us on other things we won’t be covering in the show including; a new bluffer’s guide to Casta, a new regular article from brother Wakeman on his Cinefriends venture, a long overdue update on Project 365 as well as a very special interview with an actual real director. Yowser!

Thanks as always for sticking with us, we appreciate your continued support (and donations *wink*)

Oh and if the above picture looks familiar, just bear in mind that it was a fantastic piece of art by good friend of the show  Mr Stephen Hitchen and I want to get our money’s worth out of it