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Farewell Rik Mayall, you genius bastard

Posted by Neil Davey | Mon, 09/06/2014 - 19:50

By Mark Searby

There are just some people who you never expect to die. Some people who should be immortal. Some people who know no bounds. These people are the ones you grew up with. Normally they are family, but they can also be the ones who formed a lasting impression on you during your teenage years.

Rik Mayall was just such a man to me. Never has a man I’ve never met been such a huge part of my life. Yet it’s not just me; there are millions of people out there who were transfixed by Rik’s work. Some of them older than I am and some of them are younger. That’s the thing with Rik – no matter how old he was, he always appealed to the angsty teenager. The spotty dork we had all grown out of by our mid-20s (possibly). But when Rik was on screen, we all reverted back to that age of when we first came across this brilliant English comic.

Mayall was a massive ball of energy. The guy seemed to operate on a different power cycle to everyone else. His constant one-upmanship against everyone was the ultimate way to see Rik at work. He wouldn’t be beaten by anyone ... and it was pure comedy gold to witness. A man so entrenched in being an obnoxious that you couldn’t help but love him, or at least love to hate him.

Everybody knows his hits – The Young Ones, Bottom, The Comic Strip, Blackadder, The Dangerous Brothers, Drop Dead Fred, The New Statesman, Kevin Turvey ... the list speaks for itself. Yet Rik also did straight roles as well. Some of his finest work came in his own Rik Mayall Presents. It was a show that didn’t do well for ITV at the time, but has aged very well – the dark, gross-out humour of Briefest Encounter. Or the all too real TV show host that loses it in Micky Love. Or the wonderfully written and acted rom-com Dancing Queen, starring Helena Bonham Carter.

His constant war with best mate Ade Edmondson is what Rik will be remembered for by most people. Their slapstick antics never failed to raise a laugh. Even when the rest of the comedy world was going against what they were doing, their live shows would still be huge successes around the country. Nobody bashed a face in with a frying pan quite like Mayall and Edmondson. And when they fucked up and went off script, well those were extra magical moments for thsoe who were lucky enough to be there. Only last year was there talk of Bottom: Hooligan’s Island the TV show. The BBC asked the two of them to write a couple of episodes and they loved what they saw. Yet both of them felt they needed to be older and had put it back on the shelf ready for 2023. On that shelf sits comedy gold never to appear.

Mayall had balls as well; he was one of the most confident comedians ever. His no-shits-given attitude was what set him apart on screen. Even down to calling his autobiography Bigger Than Hitler – Better Than Christ. The first paragraph in that books starts: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was Rik Mayall." He had the guts to joke about his near-death experience on a quad bike during Easter 1998, saying he was dead longer than Christ but still managed to rise up. So that must make him better than Christ. The fucking balls on the man to keep repeating it. But that was Rik through and through, everything was a joke.

For the past year I have been in regular contact with his manager requesting an interview. Each time I would be turned down because he was busy. His agent was always super nice and would always check with Rik first. Granted I’d be disappointed not to get an interview with one of my heroes. But on the flip side I was excited to hear he was working full-time again. It meant the world wouldn’t be deprived of Mayall as it so was for many years after his accident. Only last year were we treated to Mayall back to his best during his turn as Greg Davis's father in the TV show Man Down – a role that was so gleefully repulsive that he was the main reason people tuned in, and he only appeared on screen for a few minutes each episode. But it would be glorious minutes of unadulterated anarchy that really he should have been too old to do but he never was and never looked like being.

That interview will now never happen. On a personal level, it makes me sad that I never got to meet one of my all-time heroes. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I think we all know that if we had met Rik then it would have far exceeded our expectations. On a professional level, it’s a massive disappointment that we never got to see Rik talk about his entire career. He wasn’t much for interviews anyway (preferring the quiet family life), but hearing him wax lyrical about his years on stage and screen would have been a riot of comedic proportions. It seems the big red book of This Is Your Life eluded him as well.

As I stare at my book shelf that holds a signed copy of his autobiography (found at the back of a Waterstone’s store years ago) I wonder where UK comedy be without him? What would life have been like? Where would the anarchy have come from? Would he have flicked the V-sign at me or give me a quick feel-up?

The final line in his autobiography reads:

My work here is done. The rest is silence, all that remains is dust

The End

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 09/06/2014 - 06:52

The Fault In Our Stars shines while Cruise teeters on the Edge Of Tomorrow

By Rich Matthews

Just when you thought that Young Adult fiction adaptations would be limited to Hunger Games sequels and the odd mini-hit such as Divergent, that film's star – Shailene Woodley – pops up in the film version of runaway romantic bestseller The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green.

The story of two lovers who meet at a cancer help group has grossed a runaway $48.2m to top the US weekend box office. How big a hit it ends up being may be signposted by the large dropoff day-by-day after its mammoth Friday opening day, but if you consider that Fox only spent $12m on it, whatever happens now is just more gravy. It's even started a decent international rollout, so it's overall global is a healthy $65m.

Things certainly weren't so rosy for Tom Cruise in Doug Liman's Edge Of Tomorrow, which was beaten into third by Disney revisionist holdover Maleficent. With its $29.1m opening, Tomorrow even lags behind the $37m opening of Cruise's recent similar sci-fi actioner, Oblivion, which went on to take $89m in the US but $286m worldwide. Tomorrow has already opened to $111m abroad, to take its opening tally to $140, which makes its result likely to be close to Oblivion overall. That's only really a problem for Warner Bros when you consider the film's reported $170m-plus budget – the studio is putting all its money on the Cruiser's still-strong international star power.

Holding strong at two, Angelina Jolie's long-gestating Maleficent took a fairly magical $33.5m to take Disney's latest neo-feminist take on one of its classics to $127.4m domestic and a more-than enchanted $335.5m. Suddenly that Disney gamble seems much more like a safe bet. How it holds up against more upcoming family fare – How To Train Your Dragon 2 flies in on June 13 – remains to be seen.

The top five was finished off by two films with very different fortunes. At number four, X-Men: Days Of Future Past continued to cruise towards the $200m line, taking $14.7m to raise its domestic total to $189.1m and worldwide to $609.6m (now easily the most successful entry in the franchise), while Seth Macfarlane's Ted follow-up A Million Ways To Die In The West could only corral a further $7.2m to take its herd up to a meagre $30.1m domestic and $50.1m global.

Also running out of steam at number six, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla update took just shy of $6m to raise its homegrown tally to $185m, so it will be lucky if it will get to $200m at this point. Globally, the mega-monster is nearing $400m with $393.7m. For a bit of perspective, now the initial hype has died down, the 1998 version (considered a flop) took $230m in adjusted money in the US alone, and last year's robots vs monsters Pacific Rim managed to take in $411m in its run. Coming at seven, the Seth Rogen/Rose Byrne/Zac Efron R-rated comedy Neighbors kept its cool with $5.2m ($137.8m US, $223.4m worldwide), while Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore rom-com Blended limped to another $4.1m ($36.5m) and Jon Favreau's indie cooking comedy Chef rustled up an extra $2.6m for a slowly growing domestic gross of $10.4m. Topping everything off at 10 was Disney's Jon Hamm baseball sports drama Million Dollar Arm with $1.8m ($31.3m).

Next weekend, alongside Dreamworks' returning Dragon, Sony serves up action comedy sequel 22 Jump Street starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.

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That's Showbiz! With Jenny

Posted by Jenny Priestley | Sun, 08/06/2014 - 13:38

By Jenny Priestley 

★ Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams (left), who plays Arya Stark, has been named among this year's crop of Screen International's Stars of Tomorrow. The young actress, who's just 17, appears in the list alongside the likes of Olivia Cooke from Bates Motel, Taron Egerton, who we'll see alongside Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Eleanor Tomlinson, currently filming the BBC's new version of Poldark. The annual list is out together by industry experts and has previously included the likes of James McAvoy, Tom Hiddleston and Emilia Clarke.

The line-up for the second We Love the 90s Film Fest in London has been announced with the event taking place next month. Among the films being shown are Boyz in the Hood, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas and Muriel's Wedding. The outdoor screenings take place at the Portobello pop-up cinema from July 25 to August 3.

★ God's Pocket, directed by Mad Men star John Slattery, will arrive in UK cinemas on August 8. The dark comedy stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Christina Hendricks and Eddie Marsan. The film is Slattery's directorial debut and follows Mickey, whose stepson is killed by an industrial accident and Mickey tries to bury the news alongside the body.

So it looks as though we finally have a new Ant-Man director, with Peyton Reed replacing Edgar Wright. Adam McKay – who some of the trades were saying was the favourite to get the gig – has come on board to work on the script. I'm not at all sure about Reed. His previous films include Yes Man, The Break Up and Bring It On. It feels as though the end product could be more of a broad comedy than a traditional comic book movie. We shall have to wait and see....

Meanwhile, Marvel is said to be eyeing up Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hardy for the new Doctor Strange movie. Sinister director Scott Derrickson will be in charge of the film.

★ Hellboy star Ron Perlman will be at the opening night of this year's East End Film Festival on June 13th. The actor stars in the festival's opening film, Dermaphoria, and will take part in a Q&A after the screening. This year's festival runs until June 25th.

★ Game of Thrones actor Pedro Pascal has been signed up to star in Narcos, a new drama for Netflix. Pascal played Prince Oberyn Martell in the HBO drama and if you watch the show you'll know he has a bit of free time now... Anyway, the new show is about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the DEA agent who tracked him down.

★ Naomi Watts and Daniel Dae Kim have joined the cast of Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent. Watts will be playing the pivotal role of Evelyn, leader of the factionless. They joins Shailene Woodley and Theo James, who will be back as Tris and Four. New members of the cast also include Octavia Spencer and Suki Waterhouse.

Could Denzel Washington be set to star in a remake of The Magnificent Seven? Apparently MGM wants the Oscar winner to reteam with director Antoine Fuqua on the project. Nothing's official yet though.

★ Al Pacino will take part in a Q&A event at BFI Southbank later this year. The Oscar-winning actor will discuss his two films, Salome and Wilde Salome, at the screening on September 21. The films and talk we be broadcast in cinemas around the UK and hosted by Stephen Fry.

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Terrestrial TV Highlights 7—13 June

Posted by Louise Bolotin | Sat, 07/06/2014 - 07:35

By Louise Bolotin

The world’s largest art show offers a chance to see up-and-coming artists alongside the famous. Kirsty Wark, Alastair Sooke and Morgan Quaintance show us round some of the 1,000 exhibits on show at The Summer Exhibition: BBC Arts at the Royal Academy (Saturday, BBC2, 7pm). BBC2 is also dipping into its comedy archives again from 8pm, starting with a classic episode of Yes, Prime Minister, plus sketches from French and Saunders, and Victoria Wood. If you’ve not seen it before, catch Minette Walters’ gripping psychological thriller from 1997 The Ice House (Drama, 9pm), which stars a very young Daniel Craig and Frances Barber. Three women come under suspicion when a body turns up in the grounds of their rambling country pile.

The French Open finals are on this weekend. On Saturday, Maria Sharapova will be battling it out against Simona Halep (ITV, 1.30pm). On the Sunday, the men’s final will see Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal go head to head (ITV, 1.30pm). Djoko will be hoping for his first French win, to complete all the slams, while Rafa will be after a record-breaking ninth title.

Tennis aside, Sunday’s best pick is Wildfires 2014: Inside the Inferno (BBC2, 9pm), in which Kate Humble and Simon Reeve investigate Australia’s bush fires. They can break out up to a 100 times a day, putting huge strain on the volunteer fire service that battles to protect people and contain the devastation. On the eve of the World Cup in Rio, Soccer Aid (ITV, 6pm) will see celebrities and A-list celebrities kicking the ball across the grass at Old Trafford to raise cash for Unicef. Among the stars are Damien Lewis, Robbie Williams, James McAvoy and Olly Murs. There’s film fun to be had in The Greatest 80s Movies (Channel 5, 10pm) as Judd Nelson, Corey Feldman and other stars count down through the decade’s top celluloid outings.

The Culture Show profiles one of the UK’s top conceptual artists in Ryan Gander – the Art of Everything (Monday, BBC2, 10pm). With three shows opening this summer in London and Manchester, Gander’s eye-popping creations are designed to challenge preconceptions. Miranda Sawyer presents. Yet more pre-World Cup teasers as David Beckham (above) goes in search of an Amazon adventure by motorbike in David Beckham: Into the Unknown (BBC1, 8.30pm). He and three pals head into remote jungle, where he quickly discovers a fear of snakes while seriously roughing it. This is Becks as you’ve never seen him before and it’s rather good, though not groundbreaking. Watch out for wife Victoria fretting about his hair gel – priceless.

From footy to food. Celebrity Masterchef (Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm) is back for a ninth series. You know the form. Contestants include singer Kiki Dee, actors Todd Carty and Sophie Thompson, dancer Wayne Sleep, model Jodie Kidd and the ubiquitous Christopher Biggins. Meanwhile, in Nigel Slater’s Great British Biscuit (BBC4, 8pm) the popular cook explores our love affair with biscuits. A repeat but a worthy one. And back to footy, but now the women finally get a look in. Street Kid World Cup (BBC3, 9pm) sees a team of teenage girls from London head to Brazil to play against the local youngsters there. The Brazilian kids come from very challenging backgrounds and this is a surprisingly touching culture clash.

Eight years on from film-maker Chris Terrill’s searing documentary on the war in Afghanistan, he’s back with his sidekick, former marine Bertie Kerr, in Commando: Return to the Frontline (Wednesday, ITV, 10.35pm). Kerr now works in the City but the brutality of his tour in Helmand province has left its scars. And as the British army begins its exit, he and Terrill reflect on the conflict and the changes in Afghanistan.

And now, the curtain’s up – the first World Cup match is underway. Brazil v Croatia (Thursday, ITV, 7pm) launch the contest, with Adrian Chiles leading the team of presenters and pundits over the next month. Kick-off is at 9pm, but before then Rio puts on a spectacular opening ceremony – if anyone knows how to throw a party it’s Brazil, which draws on its carnival traditions to open the proceedings. (Matches will also be on the BBC over the next four weeks and schedules on both channels will be liable to disruption, with regular shows shifting times and channels.)

Divine soul singer Roberta Flack is profiled in Killing Me Softly: the Roberta Flack Story (Friday, BBC4, 9pm). She rose to fame at the late age of 35 with her cover of Ewan McColl’s haunting The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in 1972 and went on to have smash hits with Killing Me Softly with His Song  and Band of Gold. Her background – middle-class, classical background, married to a white bass player – was atypical for many black American musicians and she had plenty of flak (pardon the pun) for it. Her arrival as a serious artist shook up preconceptions of how a soul artist should sound in this revealing documentary. Flack discusses her lengthy career, with contributions from Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mathis and Cissy Houston.

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Screenjabber Podcast: Sun's out, 'cast out

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Fri, 06/06/2014 - 20:04

They're back! Again!! Join Amon Warmann, Doug Cooper, Mark Searby, Peter Johnson and host Stuart O'Connor for a quick trawl through last week's releases, before they tackle the new entries in UK cinemas this week: Grace of Monaco, Cheap Thrills, 22 Jump Street, Fruitvale Station and The Sacrament. PLUS a sneak peek at the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

You can listen to and download the podcast – or subscribe to it on iTunes ... plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

WriterQuest: We're seeking some more writers, particularly those who want to cover video games for us. Please get in touch if you're keen.

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INTERVIEW | Florian Habicht on Pulp

Posted by Sarah Sharp | Thu, 05/06/2014 - 16:12

Ahead of its gala screening this weekend, Florian Habicht – the director of Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarketschats with Sarah Sharp about Sheffield, filming on the fly and singing in kayaks.

Are you excited that PULP: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets is opening the Sheffield DocFest?
Oh yeah totally – I think my eyeballs will drop out!

Are you a long-term fan of the band?
Musically my heart is British – I like it a lot more than American music. When I was going to art school in Auckland [Habicht is German-born but grew up in New Zealand], that's when I first heard Pulp. My flatmate was dancing to Bar Italia and she gave me her album. They came to New Zealand as part of the This Is Hardcore tour and that's the first time I saw them live.

Is Jarvis one of your music icons?
He's definitely one of them. Freddy Mercury is also "one of my brothers". I also really like the Human League, also from Sheffield.

How did you get Pulp involved?
I invited Jarvis (via Rough Trade) to see my film Love Story, which was screening at London Film Festival. It wasn't a business idea – I just thought excitedly who could I invite – oh, I'd love Pulp to see my film, I think they'd really get into it. Jarvis saw it first, then the whole band saw it. I was at the end of a long period trying to get distributors interested – it's not a conventional film, so for festivals it's amazing, but distributors don't want to take it on – and then I just did this thing without even thinking, and that's the one thing that really paid off.

What was your game plan going in?
Pretend I know what I'm doing!

Works every time. And Pulp are advocates of this working method?
Pulp have their creative process where they make last minute decisions and make them really intuitively. They didn't interview any other filmmakers for this project: we just met, got on, OK let's do it – and that's kind of my process as well. When we showed them the first rough edit [on Florian's laptop, in a micro-mini-screening at Rough Trade], they felt that I really understood what Pulp was about – which was just like "phew!"

You had to turn things around pretty quick to get ready to film in time for that final concert. Was that a challenge?
I've been used to in the past, so I felt well prepared – I once made a feature film in 7 days. And with Love Story in New York there was time pressure too - the whole film was made in a year, from not having a script to the finished thing. For Pulp we were editing while we were shooting.

Your filmography is very diverse – did you have any idea you would wind up making a music documentary?
I wanted to be a musician when I was young, so making a music film is quite cool. Doing the sound part of the film is often my most favourite part of the process – choosing the music and doing the sound mixing and all that. I got a kayak for my birthday once and I used to go out really really far out at sea – almost where it's dangerous – to practise singing. I was that serious that's what I wanted.

What's your process for developing ideas?
What usually happens is I spend a year writing – or trying to write – a film; I'll get frustrated by the process, and I'll just pick up a camera and make something. That's kind of what happened with Love Story: I spent a year developing some projects and then the funding didn't come through – so I thought I'm in New York right now, why don't I just make a film? I had my camera, just started making something – and the concept, the idea that I didn't have an idea, kind of became the start of the film. I started by asking people on the street what I should make a film about
and then I asked them for love advice I meet a Russian girl - and then I ask them what could happen next in the story.

The place you're in seems to be very important to your films Sheffield is as much a character in the film as the band.
It's a great way to get to know a place, to make a film about it. I made this film about this small New Zealand town called Kaikohe (Kaiokohe Demolition), which is this economically poor town that became famous once when their children attacked Santa in the Christmas parade: it made world news, got a bad reputation. I made this loving portrait of the town where I'm working with people on the hot pools and demolition derbies. I kind of like it that I've made a film about Kaikohe and now Sheffield.

You found some interesting places and people in Sheffield, where was the oddest place you ended up?
We did some filming at the Chambre, which is the swingers club in Sheffield
I don't think I would have ended up in the swingers club if I wasn't a filmmaker! We also interviewed a Sheffield porn star, Bambi Black, but she didn't make it to the final cut. About life and about love she said some really moving beautiful things; but for the film, there wasn't that connection [with Pulp]. 

What's next for you?
I always tell myself after a film that life is going to be next, not filmmaking but it doesn't last too long. I'm writing a fictional film at the moment, set in New Zealand and Japan it's been bubbling for a few years.

What would you do if you weren't making films?
...Run a karaoke bar in the Austrian mountains somewhere

And you would do the opening and closing set, right?
Exactly.

• Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets is released on June 6 and is the opening film for Sheffield DocFest 2014. The Q&A that follows with the band will also be beamed out live to selected cinemas across the country.

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Sheffield DocFest: a look ahead at the highlights

Posted by Sarah Sharp | Thu, 05/06/2014 - 15:49

By Sarah Sharp

This weekend the Sheffield DocFest kicks off with five days of screenings, workshops, industry pow wows and exclusive events from the world of documentary filmmaking. Probably the most famous film festival you've never heard of, Sheffield DocFest is the largest festival in the world for aficionados and practitioners of the documentary format.

While many may turn their nose up at films that aren't fictive and festivals that aren't Cannes, DocFest provides a global platform that displays the versatility and power of this often overlooked art form. It also offers more than its fair share of fun – with screenings in caves, at stately homes, and parties hosted by Vice.

Here are some special selections to look forward to:

Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets
The festival kicks off in style with a film about one of the best loved – and arguably best – bands from the Britpop era, who will also be in attendance for a Q & A afterwards. (This is being screened live across the country in a number of cinemas, in case you want to share in t'experience). The film focuses on the final concert of their 2012 reunion tour, in their native Sheffield, and is as much a portrait of the city as it is of the band.

Read our exclusive Q&A with director Florian Habicht

Agnes Varda retrospective
The festival offers a brilliant retrospective of this innovative and dynamic filmmaker and artist whose career spans more than 60 years, including films such as Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond and The Beaches of Agnes. Varda's work, a distinctive, vastly ambitious, and immensely progressive oeuvre, is probably not as well known as it should be, and the festival gives the chance to explore some of the highlights of a prodigious career.

The subject matter explored by documentaries is immense, and there are sorts of films to look forward to, from Miners Shot Down, a grim expose of the police massacre of South African miners following a wildcat strike in 2012, to Peter De Rome Grandfather of Gay Porn, about – well, you can probably guess.

The festival is also a place for filmmakers and funders to meet, and as usual is hosting a number of  exclusive sessions, workshops and network events to bring practitioners from across the industry together.

Sheffield DocFest is also a place for gongs – in addition to their regular Inspiration Award, this year will also see the first presentation of their new award exclusively for audio: In the Dark Sheffield International Audio Award.

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PREVIEW | Grid Autosport

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Wed, 04/06/2014 - 08:22

Grid Autosport: set adrift on racing bliss

By Steve Boxer

Grid Autosport might be the last major current-gen racing game, and it’s certainly the most impressive. We got hands-on with it, and delved beneath its great-looking surface with the help of its developers.

Can you have too much of a good thing? That’s the question that sprang to mind when we heard that Codemasters is preparing to release Grid Autosport, the latest iteration of its much-loved multi-disciplinary racing franchise, just a year after Grid 2. And, like Grid 2, it will run on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, so it isn’t as if, thank the Lord, it’s some quick-and-dirty console-crossover next-gen port.

Keen to ascertain what Grid Autosport is all about, we hot-footed it to Stratford’s Olympic Park, where a car-park had been converted into a track to host an event called Drift All-Stars and, we were told, we’d be initiated into the mysteries of drift by professional drift-racers. Sure enough, there they were, with their odd anonymous Japanese hatchbacks with garish paint-jobs. But alas, they weren’t allowed to take to the track with us as passengers, thanks to what would fall somewhere into the spectrum between negligence and sharp practice on behalf of the event organisers.

But never mind, as we could drift away happily in the game itself, without running any risk of injury. Producer Toby Evan-Jones was on hand to explain that Grid Autosport contains no fewer than five distinct forms of motor-racing: “There are touring cars, with packed grids, where you’ll be trading paint; open-wheel features precision racing, standard specs and slipstreaming; street racing involves aspirational cars, tight circuits and aggressive racing; tuner competitions feature drift-racing and a time attack mode which is all about tuning; and endurance racing often takes place at night, and features much longer races and tyre wear.”

Hands-on

The first three racing disciplines are pretty familiar from Grid games of the past (and Toca Race Driver games before them), but even minimal hands-on time with them suggested that Grid Autosport will turn out to be a worthwhile exercise.

The first thing you notice is that it looks appreciably better than Grid 2 – indecently good for a current-gen game, in fact. Textures are convincing, track detail is stunning and particle effects utterly convincing. The legendary grid levels of car-feel were abundantly evident, too, with huge-engined, rear-drive street-racers feeling completely different to light, pointy open-wheelers and front-drive touring cars.

And the outlandish drift-racers, which would get sideways with the merest steering input and had to be turned in way before any corner you approached, were both utterly unlike anything else and enormous fun to pilot. We found the endurance racers – a new addition for the franchise – pretty tricky. They had vast amounts of power going through the rear wheels, so tiptoeing around corners to avoid race-wrecking spins was de rigueur. And the endurance races had an interesting accelerated-tyre-wear mechanism which meant that it often paid to take things gently at first, before waiting for your rivals’ grip-levels to fall off a cliff.

As any Grid fan would expect, some of the world’s top circuits are in the game, rendered in impressive detail – we drove around Jarama, Yas Marina and Hockenheim, plus the familiar San Francisco street circuit from Grid 2, the detail of which had made a noticeable leap forward since Grid 2, with its trademark jumps proving particularly spectacular. There will be 80 to 90 cars in the game, all with full damage engines – we drove a Formula 3 open-wheeler, a pumped-up street-racing Audi and a specialist drifting machine. Expect a drip-feed of details on tracks and cars as Grid Autosport nears its launch date.

Structure: online and single-player

Evan-Jones explained that, in the single-player Career mode, “You can choose your path, specialising in one or two disciplines, if you like.” You’ll be racing for specific teams so, at the start of each season, you’ll get a number of offers, and can choose the one which meshes with your favoured disciplines and comes with season-goals that you feel able to achieve. Then you race for that team – which provides the cars and sponsors -- for a season. Evan-Jones says that team-mates feature: “You can issue commands to your team-mate: if, say, you’re both supposed to finish in the top five and you’re ahead, you can tell him to get a move on.”

Another unusual mechanic in the multiplayer game sees persistent damage being applied to your cars, along with a limited number of garage slots. Evan-Jones said: “You can buy cars new or second-hand, but you need to pay to repair them. As you accumulate XP, you’ll unlock tuning options and customisable liveries. But the more you run a car, the more it costs to repair it, so at some point, you’ll have to decide whether you want to sell it to free up its garage slot.”

As with Grid 2, the single-player and online sides of the game are kept separate. Racenet, Codemasters’ equivalent of Criterion’s Autolog, which generates online challenges on the fly, looms large as ever and, in Grid Autosport, has one major new feature: Clubs. Evan-Jones said: “You can create a Racing Club or join one. If you make a Club livery, using the livery editor, you can distribute it to everyone in your Club, and in that livery, they will contribute to the Club’s overall performance and standing.”

The way Evan-Jones tells it, his development team felt there was unfinished business when Grid 2 came out, and there were requests for features from the sizeable Racenet community (over a million-strong, according to Codemasters), including the return of Cockpit Cam, which is indeed back for Grid Autosport. So it just drove on with the development and made big strides early on, hence the swift arrival of Grid Autosport. And the fruits of his team’s labours are indeed impressive: there’s just no way that we’ll see a better-looking, more state-of-the-art or more intelligently structured racing game for the outgoing generation of consoles. Which bodes well for the first next-gen take on the Grid franchise – even though, Evan-Jones says, Codemasters won’t be rushing onto the PS4 and Xbox One until it can deliver something truly stunning. But as last hurrahs of a console generation go, Grid Autosport is hard to beat.

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Wed, 04/06/2014 - 07:59

Maleficent is magical while A Million Ways To Die In The West is DOA

By Rich Matthews

Disney did it again, with Angelina Jolie scoring the biggest opening of her career after four years away from the screen as Sleeping Beauty reboot Maleficent took $70m this weekend.

Internationally, the recast fairytale grossed $100.6m from 47 territories, including more than $10m in the UK. With Frozen edging up the all-time grossers chart – it's now number five – Disney looks to have another non-romantic true love hit on its hands, with its target female audience historically more loyal and prone to repeat visits than the the male-dominated fan groups who propel superhero and action movies to the top of the box office, only to drop away on the second weekend – which is evident in X-Men: Days Of Future Past dropping 64.1 per cent in its sophomore bow, taking $32.6m for a US tally of $162.1m.

The latest X-Men did set a new franchise record thanks to a far superior international gross than the rest of the series, crossing the $500m benchmark. Increasingly, geek movie are more dependent on strong legs internationally.

Godzilla also continued the US box office pattern at number four, losing a further 60.5 per cent to take $12.2m for a total of $174.7m – undoubtedly a hit, the Warner Bros monster movie will have to show real stamina if it's to hold on in the face of the rest of the summer tentpoles. It's global gross stands at $374.7m.

Just ahead of Godzilla (barely) at three was Seth MacFarlane's Ted follow-up, Western comedy A Million Ways To Die In The West – also from Universal. Showing that even the seeming Midas touch of Family Guy MacFarlane can't withstand the modern audience's apparent distaste for the oater, it only managed to lasso $17.1m, compared to the $54m-plus grabbed by the profane talking teddy bear in its debut bow. It also managed to bag $10.3m internationally, but it looks very unlikely to get anywhere near Ted's $549m "highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time" status. MacFarlane's next flick? Ted 2 is a sure bet.

The top five was rounded out by the underperforming Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore reunion relationship comedy Blended, with an $8.4m gross for a meagre $29.6m domestic total.

There were no other new entries into the top 10, with Neighbors continuing to do outstanding business by taking $7.7m ($128.6m US, $207.9m global), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still lagging behind the first reboot with $3.8m ($192.7m, $690m) and will be lucky to scrape much past $200m, Disney Jon Hamm baseball vehicle Million Dollar Arm at 8 with $3.7m ($28.1m), Jon Favreau's return to his indie roots Chef cooking up $2m ($7m), and Cameron Diaz/Leslie Mann/Kate Upton revenge comedy The Other Woman taking $1.4m ($81.1m, $172.4m).

Next weekend Tom Cruise looks likely to be staring at Oblivion and Jack Reacher numbers with sci-fi actioner Edge Of Tomorrow from Bourne launcher Doug Liman and Shailene Woodley gets a star test with The Fault In Our Stars.

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That's Showbiz! With Jenny

Posted by Jenny Priestley | Sun, 01/06/2014 - 15:03

By Jenny Priestley

★ Josh Brolin looks set for a couple if busy months. First up, he's been confirmed as the voice of über villain Thanos in both The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The purple-skinned baddie is expected to appear in both films and Guardians director James Gunn has previously said they're "tied in with Avengers 3" so we may well see Thanos in yet more films.

We'll get to see all of Brolin in thhe new film Sicario. He'll be appearing alongside Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro in the thriller, which follows a police officer from Tucson, Arizona, who travels to Mexico to track down a drug lord. The film's being directed by Denis Villeneuve.

★ A Most Wanted Man, one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final films, has had its UK release date confirmed. The spy thriller also stars Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright and Willem Defoe, is directed by Anton Corbijn and is based on the novel by John Le Carre. Hoffman plays rogue German counter-terrorism expert Gunter Bachmann, trying to track down half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant Issa Karpov who is thought to be part of a militant jihadist group in post-9/11 Hamburg. A Most Wanted Man will be out in the UK on September 5.

★ The Edinburgh International Film Festival has now revealed its full line-up. Included in the premieres section are A Most Wanted Man, James Franco's latest Palo Alto and Welcome to New York starring Gerard Depardieu. As always, Edinburgh will be hosting a number of special talks with the likes of Don Johnson, Elijah Wood, Noel Clarke and Simon Helberg (aka The Big Bang Theory's Howard).

★ Peter Fonda is coming to the UK for a special event at the BFI Southbank next month. He'll be discussing his career as part of the BFI's Dennis Hopper season. Of course he'll be talking about Easy Rider as part of the event, which takes place on July 2.

★ Alan Cumming is to release a memoir later this year. The actor, currently wowing the crowds in Cabaret on Broadway, will publish Not My Father's Son in November. The book is expected to deal with the actor's difficult relationship with his dad as well as experiences from his childhood in Scotland and his attempts to uncover the truth about his grandfather's death in Malaysia.

★ Rachel Weisz is in talks to join Robert De Niro and Robert Pattinson in thee new crime drama Idol's Eye. The film tells the story of a group of thieves who rob a man without realising he's a Chicago mafia boss. It's being directed by Olivier Assayas and is due to begin filming this autumn.

★ Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel and Alan Cumming will be among the performers at next weekend's Tony Awards in New York. The show, which celebrates the best of Broadway, will also feature performances from the likes of Sting, Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight. The show is being hosted by Hugh Jackman with presenters including Zach Braff, Kenneth Branagh, Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Kate Mara and Zachary Quinto.

I'm not sure how, but Katie Holmes has landed a role in a new film starring Helen Mirren. Woman in Gold is the true story of a Jewish refugee who fights to win back the art stolen from her family by the Nazis. The film has an all-star cast with Ryan Reynolds, Max Irons, Charles Dance, Elizabeth McGovern, Daniel Bruhl and Holmes all involved. Simon Curtis directs.

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