Saturday, 5 June 2010

Moving Site

This will be my last blog post.

On this site.

Any new posts I write will be at The new site will also contain all my old posts and any comments people made on this blogspot site, so it should just be a case of updating your bookmarks and RSS Feeds appropriately.

Speaking of RSS Feeds the new one is . If you don't use an RSS Feed, then the easiest way to keep up with me is to follow me on Twitter ( where any new posts I publish are always tweeted about. If you don't use Feeds or Twitter then you'll just have to keep checking the new site manually to see if there's any updates.

For those of you wondering why I'm making this change, it's for two fairly simple reasons:

1) I like the new simplified design I've chosen on wordpress better.

2) I now have a URL that fits the title of the site, since "Those who are dumber" was a relic of an even older blog I never really got round to taking off the ground.

So thanks very much for joining me on this site, and I very much look forward to writing for you over at:

Friday, 4 June 2010

Films of Shame: Taxi Driver

Films of Shame has seen me watch and review five movies I should have seen but had not. So far, I've managed to cross off Citizen Kane, The Shining, The Godfather Part II, and Annie Hall. Taxi Driver's the last on my list.

21C00487-D64F-4B11-B4CF-9CBCAF59C7B7.jpgTaxi Driver is the film which cemented both de Niro and Scorcese in mainstream cinema: a place neither have strayed far from in the 35 years since its release.

It's a film most famous for de Niro's performance, as he plays the introverted Travis, a young man unsure of his place in a world he sees largely through the windows and mirrors of his taxi.

The film does a remarkable job of showing both the internal and external facets of one's nature. The person we choose to show other people versus the person we are on our own.

We see our young protagonist in a city he feels is falling apart, but with no clue how to respond to it. He makes decisions in the movie that are at times noble, at times naive, and at times morally questionable.

For me the most heartbreaking scene in the movie is when he asks one of his older colleagues advice about how to get by, and his colleague is unable to offer anything other that 'just get on with it'. It's obvious that for Travis that is not enough, and the decisions that follow show that he is someone determined not to just transport people here and there, but actually change the world he inhabits.

All of this makes Travis one of the most brilliantly drawn characters put on screen. There is an incredible depth to every action and line in the movie, and you can't help but join the lead character in solving the mystery of who he is and how he fits into everything that goes on around him.

Finally, the film's depiction of New York is incredibly rich in detail and scope. Parts of the movie simply focus in on Travis as he drives through the city, the camera picking up on small details, as relaxing but seedy jazz music accompanies each trip.

At various points through out the film, the camera shows us water gushing out of hydrants clearing all the dirt on the road away. It reminds us of Travis' words early in the story "Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." As Taxi Driver reaches its climax it's obvious Travis sees himself as the one to do the washing. And the way he goes about that, makes the film's ending brilliantly engaging, exciting and emotional.

Taxi Driver has aged beautifully. The issues Travis sees in the 70s, prostitution; drugs; and politicians we find difficult to trust; never seem to go away. Most of all, however, it's a masterclass in the creation of a character: someone who can be viewed in so many different ways, both by himself and the viewer.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Edinburgh International Film Festival - My Top Five Picks

Yesterday the schedule for The Edinburgh International Film Festival was announced. We already knew The Illusionist, from the creators of Belleville Rendez-vous, was going to open the event and that Toy Story 3 would play in Edinburgh the day after its world premiere on 18th June.

However, yesterday was the day we found out about the other 131 movies that will feature at this year's festival. Tickets go on sale on 3rd June at 12 noon. I've picked out five I think you should look out for:

Mr Nice
Directed by Bernard Rose

Based on Howard Marks' autobigraphy, Mr Nice tells the tale of the Oxford graduate turned drugs smuggler, played by Rhys Ifans. Along the way he gets involved with the IRA, Mafia and wanted by the DEA. Expect a mix of comedy and action as we see the enigmatic Marks talk his way in and out of perilous situations:

Mr Nice Trailer

The Secret in Their Eyes
Directed by Juan José Campanella

El Secreto de Sus Ojos 02.JPGFrom Argentina comes the winner of this year's "Best Foreign Language Film" at the oscars. It's set in 1999, but features flashbacks to 25 years earlier, as our protagonist tries to piece together a case that has haunted him for decades: the rape and murder of a young woman in 1974. Pitched as part murder-mystery, part romance, this one is definitely a must see for any film aficionado.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Directed by Werner Herzog

"Produced by David Lynch and Directed by Werner Herzog" should be enough to convince most film fans to go and see this one. Marketed as "Inspired by a true story" (the most misleading statement known to man BTW - what film is not inspired by at least one true story?), Herzog describes it as "a horror film without the blood, chainsaws and gore". Although certainly from the trailer, it looks more like a psychological thriller than a fright-fest....

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done Trailer

The Extra Man
Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini

extra man 04.jpgPossibly the most star-studded of this year's films, The Extra Man sees Paul Dano, John C. Reilly, Katie Holmes and Kevin Kline join directors Berman and Pulicini (American Splendour) for a film that sees Kline take young playwright Dano under his wing. It seems this has the type of indie sense of humour one might associate with Wes Anderson, and its unsurprising that this made its debut at Sundance: a festival renowned for such quirky indie hits. I for one am a huge fan of movies of this ilk, and can't wait to see Dano in a role supposedly markedly different from both There Will Be Blood and Little Miss Sunshine.

Third Star
Directed by Hattie Dalton

THIRD STAR.jpgRounding off this year's fest comes Third Star, a British bromance/road-trip movie. Combining the type of comedy and emotion of something like Cemetery Junction, it features four friends going on what they hope will be a relaxing trip away, but practical difficulties and emotional revelations inevitably get in the way of such notions. The festival has put a lot of confidence in the movie by putting putting it in as the closing night gala, here's hoping its World Premiere doesn't disappoint.

The Edinburgh Film Festival runs from 16th until 27th June. Tickets can be booked in advance on the website:

Sunday, 30 May 2010

What I've Been Watching: Lost - Final Thoughts

88063A59-6A1A-43E7-99DC-A6A9C96BB8F7.jpg"The longest single story ever told on television" Whatever else Lost was, it was surely that. Perhaps only Battlestar Galactica has come close to telling such a long, extraordinary tale. Unlike most television, which tells a new story each episode (CSI, House, etc.) or each season (The Wire, Buffy, and so on...), Lost's story lasted six seasons, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

As such, it frustrated and engaged fans in equal measure; as they debated the meaning of numbers, four-toed statues, smoke monsters and polar bears. Of course, the reality is most of these questions were answered in the final season. And even the most hardcore of fan cannot have expected every single thread to be tied up in its final episode.

However, this was the show that took its fans and its mythology incredibly seriously. The final season showed just how much the writers had invested in the show. Time and again we saw things that had happened 5+ years ago being referenced, and it's a testament to the show's ability to create memorable moments and mysteries that we were able to remember precisely what it is they were referring to.

Season 6 Review

The final season was based around Jacob and NotLocke: the two brothers who had been bringing and testing people on the island for at least 150 years. After Jacob's death at the end of season 5, the island needed a new protector, and so 'the candidates' emerged.

The battle between the brothers provided the backdrop to the season, as we saw how they're differing opinions on humanity influenced their relationships with those who were washed ashore.

Jacob's final revelation that the reason for them being there was because their lives needed direction made surprisingly perfect sense of the events of the last six seasons. This was underlined by the reunions of all the characters in the FlashSideways (or perhaps more accurately, FlashUpwards) which were by far the highlight of the finale. More than once I had tears in my eyes as Charlie and Claire, Sawyer and Juliette, and so on were reunited. Hurley's understated remark to Ben that 'he was a good number two' likewise provided a surprisingly poignant moment.

If Lost's finale said anything, it was that the show was not primarily about the island and its mythology but rather the relationships the Losties made there. Relationships that allowed each individual to put all their worries and concerns to one side in the alternate reality and enjoy life again.

My only 'theory' about the ending is that when each Lostie died, instead of being reborn again, they went straight to boarding Oceanic Flight 815 - any memories they had being false ones based on memories of their real lives.

The reason I think this, is because it is clear the flight was supposed to be the most significant event in their lives, and it makes perfect sense their brain would go straight there to relive it. So as soon as they die, they go straight onto the flight in order to reach their final destination with the people who were most important to them.

CAC4E4A4-0F21-48EF-8070-B8AC9289359E.jpgAlthough Christian Shepherd's revelation in the final fifteen minutes kind of came of the blue, upon reflection I think it makes perfect sense. At my most cynical I could say limbo was just an excuse to bring all the old cast members back, and their reasoning behind not having Shannon on the plane makes zero sense.

However, the season certainly set-up these religious themes: the epic battle between good and evil; finding one's destiny; and earning one's redemption. In the context of these themes, introducing limbo or heaven into the equation I have no real problem with.

Fan Reaction

Finally, it's interesting to consider fans reaction to the finale. A reaction which it seems has been somewhat mixed. Perhaps the weakness of doing one story over six seasons is that fans have so much invested in the show, and have come up with so many theories about the island and the overall story the show is trying to tell, that they'll inevitably be disappointed when the show diverges from their own interpretation.

However, as I mentioned in my television review of the decade, the appeal of Lost to me has always be always been it's ability to surprise, and as such I should give the show credit for continuing to bring me with it for six years without ever really feeling cheated when new concepts like buttons, time travel, or alternate realities were introduced. Normally, shows would only introduce these type of things for one episode, with any plot holes, being easily ignored for the sake of that week's story. Lost meticulously established such grand concepts into the show's mythology, and for this it should be given a lot of credit.

I think when fans reflect back over the six seasons, they'll see a truly unique story that was unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Unlike Battlestar Galactica which 'Jumped The Starbuck', I don't think Lost has such a singular moment where fans gave up on the show. As such I think those disappointed by the finale will soon forgive the show as they reflect and re-watch the story in its entirety in years to come.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Edinburgh Film Festival - Here I Come

EIFF logo black mono.jpgI recently received an email confirming that I've been accepted as a member of the press for the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

This is great news since it'll mean I'm able to see and review lots of fantastic films before they get their national release, as well as attending some press conferences, and potentially getting exclusive interviews with the cast and crew of this year's most exciting movies.

Obviously, you'll hear about exactly what I've seen or who I've met on this very site. As such, expect updates on a daily basis during the festival which runs from the 16th-27th June.

The programme is released on the 1st June, so I'll do my best to pick out the highlights before the box office for the festival opens on the 3rd June.

In the meantime, you can check out the trailer for the festival at