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Small-Screen Jabber 21-27 March

Posted by Louise Bolotin | Sat, 21/03/2015 - 13:52

By Louise Bolotin

Event of the week
The discovery of King Richard III’s body in a Leicester cark park three years was significant and poignant, and led to some first-class documentaries on the search, the excavation, the autopsy and facial reconstruction. Now he’s being reburied. Richard III: the Princes in the Tower (Sat, C4, 9pm) explores the truth behind the accepted version that the king imprisoned his nephews in the Tower of London then had them killed. David Starkey and Philippa Gregory are among a panel of luminaries trying to sift fact from myth. Richard III: the Return of the King (Sun, C4, 5.10pm) covers the live procession of his remains from Leicester University to first Bosworth Field, where he died in battle, then to lie in state at Leicester Cathedral. Coverage by Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Richard III: the Burial of the King (Thurs, C4, 10am) is also live. The Archbishop of Canterbury conducts the service, with members of the royal family present and Jon Snow again heading the commentary, in what is sure to be a moving ceremony. You can catch highlights on C4 at 8pm.

Drama
Mafioso Italy is the setting for 1992 (Tues, Sky Arts, 10pm), the period when the so-called Clean Hands investigation began rooting out the corruption that is rife in Italy’s institutions and politics. A compelling 10-part series based on actual events, it packs a pretty classy punch as it follows the lives of six ordinary people who are caught up in the unfolding investigations, which led to the collapse of Italy First Republic, the dissolution of many political parties and the arrest and conviction of high-profile politicians. Starring Stefano Accorsi and Guido Caprino, in Italian with English subtitles. Politics is also the subject of Coalition (Thurs, C4, 9pm), a feature-length play about the 2010 election outcome. Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) is the focus figure as he is catapulted to king-maker after voters produce a hung parliament. It’s been well-researched and hinges neatly on how personality clinched who Clegg was to partner with after talks with both Cameron and Gordon Brown. The scriptwriting is tight and the acting is top-notch – watch out particularly for Mark Gatiss as the scene-stealing Peter Mandelson (above).

Another chance to see: Shirley (Sat, Drama, 9pm) – classy feature-length dramatisation of the life of the young Shirley Bassey. Then-unknown Ruth Negga inhabits the title role perfectly. First shown on BBC4 in 2011.

Factual
The physical beauty of the islands is not much on the radar in Caribbean with Simon Reeve (Sun, BBC2, 8pm) – rather, the travel journalist prefers to look beneath the surface. The poverty of Haiti and Dominican Republic, trafficking, environmental threats and US military activity in Puerto Rico and Vieques are explored in the first of three documentaries. Louis Theroux’s latest film, By Reason of Insanity (Sun, BBC2, 9pm) goes behind the closed doors of Ohio’s state-run psychiatric institutions. He meets patients who are too mentally ill to have stood trial for the horrific crimes they committed. Theroux handles a difficult subject with great sensitivity in this thought-provoking two-parter. The Storyville strand’s Masterspy of Moscow – George Blake (Mon, BBC4, 9pm) is a feature-length film that traces the life of the double agent in almost obsessive detail. Sentenced to 42 years after his capture, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs and defected to Russia permanently. Now in his 90s, the interview he gives here is fascinating more for what he doesn’t say – his body language and eyes giving away his real thoughts.

She’s almost certainly going to run for office so Hillary Clinton: the Power of Women (Wed, BBC2, 9pm) is an interesting retrospective on her 1995 speech at the UN Conference on Women in which she called for equality to be a human right. Some of her equally powerful contemporaries, such as Madeleine Albright and Condoleeza Rice, reflect on the contents of Clinton’s predictions and comments 20 years ago to assess how far women have come since then.

Comedy
The League of Gentlemen’s Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are the writers behind Inside No. 9 (Thurs, BBC2, 10pm), delivering a new season of six 30-minute standalone vignettes, based in a location numbered nine. In the first episode, a bunch of motley characters share a couchette compartment on a French TGV night train. The fart jokes are slightly over-egged (pardon the pun) but it’s bum-clenchingly (sorry!) funny and there are some unexpected twists. The cast includes Julie Hesmondhalgh, Mark Benton and Jack Whitehall.

Entertainment
Harry Potter obsessives come under scrutiny in Tom Felton Meets the Superfans (Sun, BBC3, 9pm). Felton played evil blond schoolboy Draco Malfoy in the film franchise and here he tries to understand why the same fans turn up at every film premiere and comic convention asking for endless autographs and selfies. Felton out of role is delightful, handling his hardcore groupies with aplomb and kindness as he asks them what drives their obsession. In Dara and Ed’s Great Big Adventure (Tues, BBC2, 9pm) standups O’Briain and Byrne head off on a delightful road trip from Arizona to Argentina. Crammed into a small camper van, their 4,000-mile trajectory takes them down a route first used in 1940 – the Pan-American Highway. It’s blokey, jokey and also awash with interesting facts and experiences.

| Small-Screen Jabber 21-27 March | | delicious | digg | reddit | newsvine | google | technorati- | Louise Bolotin's blog | login to post comments |
 
  

Win a copy of Silicon Valley on Blu-ray

Posted by Competitions | Mon, 16/03/2015 - 09:16

The socially challenged underdogs of the lucrative world of tech start-ups are finally uncovered in the painfully funny SILICON VALLEY: THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES released on Blu-ray and DVD from March 23. And thanks to HBO, we have THREE copies on Blu-ray to give away.

From the offbeat mind of Mike Judge (Office Space, Idiocracy), this critically-acclaimed HBO comedy takes viewers inside the high-tech gold rush of modern Silicon Valley. Inspired by Judge’s own experiences as a Silicon Valley engineer in the 80s, the show follows the trials and tribulations of awkward computer programmer Richard (Thomas Middleditch), who lives in a “Hacker Hostel” along with his friends Big Head (Josh Brener), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani).

Under the watchful eye of Erlich (T.J. Miller), a dotcom millionaire who lets them stay in his house for free (as long as he gets a 10% stake in their projects), the friends struggle to break into the elusive and lucrative market. Richard is stuck in a part-time job at tech company Hooli, and his obscure website, Pied Piper, is going nowhere fast. But when a colleague realises just how valuable the site’s compression algorithm is, Richard finds himself caught in the middle of an extreme bidding war between Hooli founder Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) and independent billionaire venture capitalist Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch).

Combining brilliant observational comedy with a fantastic cast and razor-sharp dialogue, SILICON VALLEY: THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES taps into the zeitgeist in a completely unique way and shows, in the funniest way possible, how often the people most qualified to succeed are really the least capable of handling success.

For a chance to win, just follow @Screenjabber on Twitter and tweet the following text:

Follow @Screenjabber and RT for a chance to win Silicon Valley on Blu-ray.

For an extra entry, just pop over and LIKE the official Screenjabber Facebook page.

The competition will close at NOON on Sunday April 5, 2015. The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

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Win an exclusive INSURGENT Bluetooth Wireless Activity Tracker

Posted by Competitions | Sun, 15/03/2015 - 22:12

To celebrate the release of THE DIVEREGNT SERIES: INSURGENT in cinemas on Thursday March 19, we have THREE amazing INSURGENT Bluetooth Wireless Activity Trackers for you to win!

INSURGENT, the next gripping action-adventure in the DIVERGENT SERIES franchise, stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort.

Water resistant soft touch TPU Bluetooth Activity band / watch worn around the wrist with OLED display. Allows the user to monitor activity levels and overall lifestyle. It includes time feature, tracking / monitoring goals for steps, activity, speed, and sleep patterns.

Synopsis: After being exposed as Divergents — people who don’t fit neatly into one of the five societal classifications or “factions” — Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) find themselves on the run from Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the power-hungry leader of the Erudite faction.

As the traitorous Dauntless troops under Jeanine’s command prowl the ruins of dystopian Chicago rounding up Divergents, Tris and Four traverse the city hoping to find allies among the Amity, Candor, Abnegation and Dauntless factions—as well as the rebellious and impoverished mass of Factionless. Although heartsick and guilt-ridden over the violent deaths of her family and friends, Tris tries to uncover the secret her parents sacrificed their lives to protect - the very secret that explains why Jeanine will stop at nothing to capture her. Desperate to avoid causing pain to any more of her loved ones, Tris faces her darkest fears in a series of near-impossible challenges as she seeks to unlock the truth about the past, and ultimately the future, of their world.

For a chance to win, just follow @Screenjabber on Twitter and tweet the following text:

Follow @Screenjabber and RT for a chance to win an INSURGENT Bluetooth Wireless Activity Tracker.

For an extra entry, just pop over and LIKE the official Screenjabber Facebook page.

The competition will close at NOON on Sunday March 29, 2014. The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

| Win an exclusive INSURGENT Bluetooth Wireless Activity Tracker | | delicious | digg | reddit | newsvine | google | technorati- | Competitions's blog | login to post comments |
 
  

US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 15/03/2015 - 18:06

The shoe fits for Disney as Cinderella gets $132m from the worldwide ball

By Rich Matthews

Disney's Kenneth Branagh live-action reboot of Cinderella did go the ball at the US box office this weekend, grossing $70.1m to take its global opening up to $132.5m, and that's with some major international territories like the UK still to come. Disney was also celebrating Big Hero 6 passing How To Train Your Dragon 2 as the biggest animated film released in 2014 after make a late haul in China.

Speaking of which, Cinderella broke records in China as the highest-ever March opener with $25m, and even past last year's similarly themed Sleeping Beauty reimagining, Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie's $69.4m opening. That's mighty beginning for the $95m movie (a lot cheaper than Maleficent for a start), but no one will know for sure if it's actually down its release mate, an animated short that just happens to be called Frozen Fever... Certainly, the demos suggest it may have helped with 77 per cent of the audience being female, 56 per cent under the age of 25 and a frankly huge 44 per cent being under 18. Either way, Cinderella's race ahead of the rest of the pack jumped a recent slow box office up 16 on the same frame last year.

The only other new runner turned out to be well off the pace, however, with Liam Neeson's latest ageing dude actioner Run All Night limping to a meagre $11m, but still coming second in an otherwise still lame field. It marks the lowest opening of Neeson's recent glut of actioners and comes off the heels of his announcement that he will be quitting action movies altogether in a couple of years. His last effort, Taken 3, the final part of the trilogy from Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, grossed $289.5m compared to the previous sequel's $376m.

The rest of the chart from three to 10 was more of the same – and probably the reason that Cinderella was so far in front – with Matthew Vaughn's stoically successful Kingsman: The Secret Service ($6.2m, $107.4m US, $257.7m global) at three, followed by Will Smith's fading Focus ($5.81m, $44.3m, $81m), then a Dev Patel one-two of Neill Blomkamp's problematic robot adventure Chappie ($5.8, $23.3m, $37m) and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($5.7m, $18.1m, $39.1m), both in the same bracket of box office success but one a hit and the other, er, not (guess which way round!), then The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water ($4.1m, $154.7m, $271m), Kev Costner keeping on running at eight with McFarland, USA ($3.7m, $35m), the inexplicably enormous blockbuster American Sniper ($2.93m, $341.5m, $504.5m) back in the top 10, and high school "comedy" The DUFF ($2.9m, $30.3m).

Next weekend, the Young Adults are back with Insurgent, the second part of the newly-labelled "Divergent Saga". Then, on 28 March, Kevin Hart works on Will Ferrell to Get Hard and Dreamworks tries yet again with Home, featuring the nasal tones of The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons as a little purple alien.

| US Box Office Report | | delicious | digg | reddit | newsvine | google | technorati- | Stuart OConnor's blog | login to post comments |
 
  

Small-Screen Jabber 14-20 March

Posted by Louise Bolotin | Sat, 14/03/2015 - 13:33

By Louise Bolotin

Drama
Workplace drama Ordinary Lies (Tues, BBC1, 9pm), set in a major car showroom, follows in the footsteps of such classics as Clocking Off – indeed writer Danny Brocklehurst wrote scripts for the latter. The staff have interwoven back stories and hide secrets from each other, each episode revealing how a simple lie by one of them can quickly send their life spiralling out of control. The star-studded cast includes Max Beesley (left), Michelle Keegan, Jason Manford, Mackenzie Crook, Jo Joyner and Shaun Dooley. Witty, warming and at times thrilling as people’s lives unravel.

Another chance to see: Gracie (Sat, Drama, 9pm) – Jane Horrocks stars as Gracie Fields in BBC4 2010 bio-pic of the Rochdale-born singer and actor. Tom Hollander shines as Gracie’s husband Monty.

Factual
The current exploitation of immigration for political ends is nothing new, as Britain’s Racist Election (Sun, C4, 10pm) shows. As Ukip whips up fears about a “Muslim fifth column”, Stephen Finnegan’s sobering film about the fight for the constituency of Smethwick in 1964 is a stark reminder of how tensions can be easily triggered.
The election there was so ugly that neighbours turned violently on each other and considered racial segregation, when Tory Peter Griffiths, who won the seat, did so on an explicitly racist slogan involving the n-word and remarks about Klansmen. The history of female coppers is explored in Fair Cop: a Century of British Policewomen (Mon, BBC4, 9pm). For decades after women were first allowed to join the force in 1914, they were treated as fragile eye candy, relegated to soft tasks and expected to make tea for the men. Some renowned senior female officers discuss how they had to fight their way to the top and why there’s still a glass ceiling.

The Billion Dollar Chicken Shop (Wed, BBC1, 9pm) is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about junk food empire KFC. In three parts, it’s part docu-soap and part serious eye-opener about the chicken giant’s practices. There’s a telling section in which residents of a Manchester neighbourhood oppose the opening of a new branch, for example, and it neatly displays the inner workings of corporate capitalism at its most ruthless yet also most fluffy. From fast food to health diets – Eat to Live Forever with Giles Coren (Wed, BBC2, 9pm) sees the restaurant critic occupying gonzo doctor Michael Mosley’s shoes as he tests diets that aim to promote longevity. Coren has particular interest in this, in his 40s, for the men in his family have a tendency to die youngish. Can science-based eating hold the key? More food comes under scrutiny in Fiona Phillips’ four-part examination of the white stuff in The Truth About… Sugar (Thurs, BBC1, 9pm). Sugar is the new fat, in terms of what’s bad for you so Phillips looks at how the recent claims stack up.

Clumsy yet to-the-point title aside, Things We Won’t Say about Race That Are True (Thurs, C4, 9pm) is a provocative examination by Trevor Phillips, deputy chair of the National Equality Standard, into whether some aspects of equality legislation have created unintended consequences. This programme has already attracted controversy over interviewee Nigel Farage’s comments about Muslim “fifth columnists”, but Phillips’ newsy examples of our national “race blindness” as we try to avoid being labelled racist show how far we have to go in reaching true equality for ethnic minorities.

Music
From a tumble at the Brits to a spot on the sofa – The Jonathan Ross Show Madonna Special (Sat, ITV, 9.20pm) is devoted entirely to Madge and her 30-year career. The global superstar discusses her latest album, that fall, her desire to do standup and fame. And she sings a bit too. Don’t expect frankness – Madonna is an expert at only saying what she wants to, and Ross is too much of a fan to push her. First given a cinema release, for one day only, in 2014, Dexys: Nowhere Is Home (Fri, BBC4, 10pm) is a feature-length film of Dexys’ 2013 end-of-tour residency at London's Duke of York theatre. On the tour, Dexys played their 2012 album, One Day I’m Going to Soar, in track order – in this film, concert footage is intercut with leader Kevin Rowland and long-term musical sidekick Jim Paterson talking about the history of the band.

Arts
One of our finest living artists, hugely influential in the Pop Art era, is profiled in Hockney (Sat, BBC2, 9pm). This inspiring film by Randall Wright leaves no stone unturned in the dissection of Hockney’s life, from his Bradford childhood to his later years in California, accompanied by unprecedented access to his personal archives. Wright interviews Hockney and a broad array of his friends and peers pay tribute.

Comedy
Raised by Wolves (Mon, C4, 10pm), a sitcom about semi-feral teenagers in Wolverhampton, was piloted in December 2013 and now has a full series of six episodes. Written by Times journalist Caitlin Moran and her sister Caroline, it’s semi-autobiographical. Helen Monks stars as street-smart, stroppy Germaine (based on Caitlin).

Entertainment
Esteemed chef Raymond Blanc spent a year growing heritage fruits and vegetables at the Royal Botanic Gardens – the results can be seen in Kew on a Plate (Mon, BBC2, 9pm). Blanc runs his own kitchen garden at his Michelin-starred restaurant and co-presenter Kate Humble has a small-holding so they bring their considerable hands-on experience to this four-part series. The pair explore why heritage varieties were first eschewed then made a comeback, plus there are recipes and social history. Stargazing Live (Wed-Fri, BBC2, 8pm) returns with Professor Brian Cox and comic/physicist Dara O’Briain reporting live from Jodrell Bank. We’re due a solar eclipse on Friday so this particular run will be focusing on that, while Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin drops in for a chat.

Best of the rest
It’s The Budget on Wednesday (BBC2, 11.30am and ITV, 12.15pm) and with the election peeping over the horizon, you might not want to miss this. We can expect chancellor George Osborne to pull various tricks out of his red suitcase in a bid to woo voters but it’s been hinted that he might do what Norman Lamont did in a pre-election budget in 1992 with giveaways for the working poor.

| Small-Screen Jabber 14-20 March | | delicious | digg | reddit | newsvine | google | technorati- | Louise Bolotin's blog | login to post comments |
 
  

FURY: Logan Lerman interview

Posted by luke | Mon, 09/03/2015 - 21:10

Working on the World War II film Fury has proved the most challenging and the most rewarding experience in Logan Lerman’s career. The film casts the 22-year-old actor as a rookie solider who is thrown onto the front lines to help crew a US Army tank, and Lerman found himself immersed in a tough and ferocious world.

“This is definitely the most challenging thing I have done in my movie career,” begins Lerman, who has risen to international prominence with a string of high profile and varied films, including Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Lightning Thief, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Noah.

 “Fury was the toughest movie I’ve ever made, in every aspect, but it was so rewarding. The script was unreal. It was such an incredible read and the characters were incredible.

“It was the one time since I did The Perks of Being a Wallflower that I felt that I had to do this right away. I committed myself to the process after that. As I get older the parts get better and this was definitely one of the really good ones.”

The film is written and directed by David Ayer and unfolds over a 24-hour period during the latter stages of WWII, following a day in the life of a Sherman tank crew. Don ‘Wardday’ Collier — played by Brad Pitt — is the tank commander while Lerman features as Norman Ellison, a youngster with no combat experience who is sent to replace the assistant driver in Wardaddy’s tank.

Ellison arrives as an innocent and it is up to Wardaddy to transform him into a killer. If he fails, Ellison’s naiveté will likely ensure not only his own death but also that of the entire tank crew. Wardaddy knows that for him and his men to survive, they must operate as cold-eyed killers.

“The journey was difficult,” Lerman says. “Norman starts off in a horrible situation and then it just gets worse for him. There is a state of fear and stress for him and maintaining that was difficult. Mapping out the arc — having a clear arc in one day — was difficult as well. He was a challenging character.

“It’s the story of a young guy being thrust into a situation of such responsibility,” he adds. “And having such moral conflict is a tough perspective to understand and to do justice to. It was also the most intense preparation I’ve ever done. David Ayer has a reputation for putting his actors through intense training processes.”

Ayer, who also wrote and directed End of Watch, demands a high level of realism in the worlds he puts on screen, and he wanted his tank crew to look and feel like a family, like a group of men who’d shared incredible hardship and peril. To foster that intensity, he put all his actors through a gruelling pre-production schedule.

“We did a lot of tank work, which was very physical — putting a tank together and taking it apart the way they would’ve done back then,” Lerman explains.

Alongside Brad Pitt’s Wardaddy and Lerman’s Norman Ellison, the tank crew comprises the gunner Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf); Grady Travis, the loader (Jon Bernthal); and the driver, Trini Garcia (Michael Pena).

All the actors, including Pitt, were subjected to the same rigours during the training camp, which included periods of sleep deprivation. “The whole thing was extreme,” concedes Lerman. “The sleep deprivation was really difficult to manage. We’d get a couple of hours a day and then we were getting up and doing all this physical work as well.

“Also, there was this [obstacle] course that they had us do a couple of times a day and that was really difficult. One time they made me do it with a backpack on and it had a lot of weight inside of it. It was tough. I have never been that guy who’s in great shape.”

The training camp was especially difficult for Lerman because he was recovering from a broken arm at the time. “I auditioned for this film with a cast on my arm and then I got the movie,” he says. “And when we went into training it was really intimidating.

“The other actors are all a bit older than me and are much more experienced, and they were in better shape because I had that broken arm. I got my ass kicked every day with these guys!”

The actor goes on to note that the dedication from all the actors was immense and Lerman valued very much the time he spent with Pitt.  “The bulk of my major scenes are with Brad and we had a lot of work to do together,” he says.

“But we’re not supposed to like each other on screen. And for the purpose of the movie it was better that there was always a level of distance between him and me; we deliberately kept that distance and a level of respect.

“He is a great actor, though, and he is extremely generous as a person,” continues Lerman. “He gives a lot of himself to the process. He is committed and dedicated. He doesn’t ask for much. He was knee-deep in the mud like we were.”

Lerman also appreciated the time he spent with WWII veterans. “A lot of the veterans’ stories gave me insight into the psychological aspects of being a soldier and the truth about what happens,” he says.

“I learned so much about the war, so much that I didn’t know. I wasn’t very well educated about WWII. I had some knowledge but I got a very detailed education on the war in Europe and in Africa. It was a really interesting process.”

Ultimately, Lerman feels as though his experience on Fury has improved his craft. “In many ways it was David’s process and the way he works with actors that was the most important thing. He has changed me as an actor, in terms of the way that I approach roles and scripts and research and rehearsal. Working on this film has really reshaped that part of me. It was an unbelievable experience.”

Logan Lerman Q+A

Why did you want to make this movie?
The script was unreal. It was such an incredible read and the characters were incredible. And Norman was one hell of a role. It was the one time since I did The Perks of Being a Wallflower that I felt that I had to do this right away. I committed myself to the process after that. As I get older the parts get better and this was definitely one of the really good ones.

Was Norman a complicated role to play?
The journey was difficult. He starts off in a horrible situation and then it just gets worse for him. There is a state of fear and stress, and maintaining that was difficult. Mapping out the arc — having a clear arc in one day — was also difficult. He was a challenging character. The situation and circumstance were tough. It’s a young guy being thrust into a situation of such responsibility and having such moral conflict is a tough perspective to understand and to do justice to.

How much did you enjoy working with Brad Pitt?
It was great. He is a great actor and he is extremely generous as a person. He gives a lot of himself to the process. He is committed and dedicated. He doesn’t ask for much. He’s knee-deep in the mud like we were. There were a lot of tips I got from him and a lot of validation, and advice about choosing filmmakers. You can see from the films that he’s made that he is always choosing great filmmakers. That was something that was validating to hear from his mouth.

Did you become close?
I probably spent less time with Brad. He’s a little bit older and has got his family and kids and so I socialised with the younger guys a little bit more. And for the purpose of the movie it was better that there was always a level of distance between him and me; we deliberately kept that distance and a level of respect. The bulk of my major scenes are with Brad and we had a lot of work to do together. But we’re not supposed to like each other on screen. Really, as the leader of the group and the man who set the tone for everything we did, that was Shia [LaBeouf] more than anybody. He has got that personality.

Was this the most challenging film you’ve ever made?
This is definitely the most challenging thing I have done in my movie career. This was the toughest movie I’ve ever made, in every aspect, but it was so rewarding. It was the most intense preparation I’ve ever done, but David Ayer [the writer-director] has a reputation for putting his actors through intense training processes.

What kind of things did you do during that training process?
We did a lot of tank work, which was very physical — putting a tank together and taking it apart the way they would’ve done back then. It was tough because I broke my arm a while back. I auditioned for this film with a cast on my arm and then I got the movie and then I was letting my arm recover. But then we went into the training and it was really intimidating. They are all a bit older than me and are much more experienced, and in better shape because I had a broken arm. I got my ass kicked every day with these guys.

What was the toughest part?
The whole thing was extreme. The sleep deprivation was really difficult to manage. We’d get a couple of hours a day. We were getting up and doing all this physical work as well. They had this course that they had us do a couple of times a day and that was really difficult. And one time they made me do it with a backpack on and it had a lot of weight inside of it. It was tough, man. I have never been that guy who’s in great shape. It was really difficult.

How much do you now know about operating a Sherman tank?
I can do my position very well; or at least I can do my job. We know how to operate it. There’s a long list of inspections that my character has to do and I can do those. I’m the assistant driver; I do what the driver wants me to do. I’m everyone’s assistant. I’m like the intern!

Did making the film change your thoughts about the war?
I learned so much about the war, so much that I didn’t know. I wasn’t very well educated about WWII. I had some knowledge but I got a very detailed education on the war in Europe and in Africa. It was a really interesting process.

How helpful was the time you spent with veterans before making the movie?
A lot of the veterans’ stories gave me a lot of insight into the psychological aspects of being a soldier and the truth about what happens. There weren’t that many repercussions for people’s actions back then. My character is the new guy and it is a very similar perspective to one that I would have, in a way.

Did you talk to David Ayer about his own experiences in the military?
He occasionally talked about his experiences on submarines. I’m sure a lot of the hazing aspects were there as parallels but we didn’t talk specifically about the comparisons between this movie and his experiences.

What did you admire most about David as a director?
The way that he controls the set, so there are no distractions. There are no breaks. We are working constantly. He gets inside your head and gets you to discover different sides of yourself and different sides of your character. He is a unique director in that way. He wanted us to always be slightly confused and thrown off and unsure. I just knew from his reputation that it’d be difficult. I’d heard from all of his films that he demands a lot and that he has a difficult process. I made it very clear to him that I was very committed to his process, that I was passionate about the role and that I would do anything that he wanted me to do. I was 100 per cent committed and was willing to explore every side of myself and of Norman. In many ways it was David’s process and the way he works with actors that was the most important thing. He has changed me as an actor, in terms of the way that I approach roles and scripts and research and rehearsal. Working on this film has really reshaped that part of me as an actor. It was an unbelievable experience.

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 09/03/2015 - 15:33

Chappie is a soft top while Unfinished Business is, well, already finished

By Rich Matthews

March may be here with spring just around the corner, but the US box office hasn't sprung yet, with North American revenue down an alarming 40 per cent year on year with the same weekend in 2014. This is in part because two of the three new releases have been lambasted by critics prior to opening and the third being a niche piece of counterprogramming for fans of a film about old people.

So, District 9 "wunderkind" Neill Blomkamp now has a second dud in the row following the disappointing Matt Damon dystopian sci-fi Elysium. Even with the internet abuzz with his plans for a new Alien film starring Sigourney Weaver, Chappie – about an artificially intelligent robot with feelings - couldn't withstand a critical battering and could only manage $13.3m ($27m total worldwide). That was enough to pip Will Smith's Focus ($10m, $34.6m US, $71.6m global) to the top spot, but hardly bodes well for its overall long-term chances. Chappie cost Sony $50m, so should make that money back, but any actual profit will likely be limited.

Meanwhile, the other wide release saw Vince Vaughn also getting a drubbing from critics and seeing the lowest comedy opening of his career, with Unfinished Business netting only $4.8m to come in 10th. Directed by Ken Scott, the man behind Vaughn's last comic flop Delivery Man, it's unlikely to even recoup its meagre $35m production costs at this rate. Vaughn is lucky that he's been cast in the second season of True Detective or his Hollywood goose may well have been cooked by this latest epic flop.

The height of his fall is illustrated by the success, at number three of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($8.6m, $29.6m worldwide), which opened on more than 1,200 fewer screens than Unfinished Business. The geriatric comedy stars Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, and marks a pleasing one-two for Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, who also stars in Chappie. Between Hotel and Business, in spots four to nine, were Colin Firth kicking ass (at the box office) in Kingsman: The Secret Service ($8.3m, $98m, $248.3m), The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water ($7m, $149m, $259.4m, BDSM sensation and World Book Day school outfit-inspiring Fifty Shades of Grey ($5.6m, $156.5m, $527.7m), Kevin Costner running drama McFarland, USA ($5.3m, $29.4m), Olivia Wilde horror flick The Lazarus Effect ($5.1m, $17.4m) and high school comedy The DUFF ($4.9m, $26.1m).

Just outside the top 10, American Sniper ($4.5m, $337.2m, $500.2m) became the biggest film released in 2014 (it had a limited opening at the very end of the year), passing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and crossed the $500m mark worldwide.

Next weekend, Disney lets Kenneth Branagh take them to the ball with the latest live-action rendition of Cinderella, which will likely massively outperform thanks to a little animated short running on the front called Frozen Fever ...

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Small-Screen Jabber 7-13 March

Posted by Louise Bolotin | Sat, 07/03/2015 - 09:47

By Louise Bolotin

Drama
Robin Ellis made a very sexy fist of playing Cornish aristocrat Ross Poldark in the 1970s, so Aidan Turner (left) has a lot to live up to in this remake of Poldark (Sun, BBC1, 9pm). He certainly looks the part, with his brooding matinee idol looks. Poldark has been in America fighting in the war of independence and returns, in 1783, to find his father dead, his fiancée engaged to someone else and his estate in ruins. He begins an affair with peasant lass Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) while trying to rebuild his life. The stunning Cornish scenery also stars in this slab of romantic escapism and the late Warren Clarke appears in his last role as Poldark’s uncle.

Another chance to see: Hattie (Sat, Drama, 9pm) – biopic of actor Hattie Jacques and her complicated love life. Ruth Jones stars as Hattie, with a fine performance from Robert Bathurst as her cuckold husband John Le Mesurier. First shown on BBC4, two hours of quality viewing.

Factual
A year ago, Flight MH370 vanished off the radar with hundreds of people on board and the mystery of its disappearance has never been explained. Conspiracy theories abound, naturally, but Malaysia 370: What Happened? (Sun, National Geographic, 8pm) attempts to sift through the possibilities, ruling out most of them. This year’s RTS Huw Weldon Memorial Lecture (Sun, BBC4, 8pm) coincides neatly with the run-up to the May general election. Tory peer Michael Dobbs’s discourse is titled “Public service broadcasting: a House of Cards?” – he comes out in support of the BBC while arguing for major reform and questioning how public service broadcasting can fight its corner in a changing world.

Sex, Lies and Love Bites (Tues, BBC4, 9pm) explores the history of the agony aunt. Therapist, and agony aunt herself, Philippa Perry rustles through the back issues of assorted newspapers and magazines to look at how they used to dish out advice to the lovelorn, the anxious and messed-up. There are some great interviews – food critic Jay Rayner describes how as a young teen he’d stuff envelopes with leaflets about the menopause for his mother Claire Rayner, and Fleet Street stalwarts Virginia Ironside and Deidre Sanders. Best of all, broadcaster Graham Norton, who is forging a second career as a really good agony uncle on his radio show. Meanwhile Underage and Gay (Wed, C4, 11pm) looks at how young teens come out – while society has generally become very tolerant of gay people, it’s not so for young people, who often face school bullying, homelessness and mental health problems. Five LGBT teenagers talk about their lives and loves.

What would happen if the EU broke apart? Quelle Catastrophe! France with Robert Peston (Fri, BBC2, 9pm) attempts to answer that question, by looking through the prism of the French social model that has underpinned its high standard of living, excellent healthcare and public transport, and decent benefits. But with the euro under strain and the UK threatening to leave, Peston investigates how one more political upheaval in the member states could destroy the European dream.

Music
Friday night is Irish night, with a fine documentary kicking things off – The Irish Rock Story: a Tale of Two Cities (Fri, BBC4, 9pm) looks at the different styles of music that began emerging in Northern Ireland and Dublin 40 years ago, from the angry punk and sweet pop of Stiff Little Fingers and the Undertones to the bombast of U2. It’s a piece of social history, too, as the new sounds in the north at least helped to shift young people away from the sectarian divides towards a unity of sorts. It’s followed by Irish Rock at the BBC (10pm), a whistlestop compilation of archive clips that includes Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, the Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Sinead O'Connor, the Pogues and Imelda May, among others. (For more on the 70s Irish scene and its place in social history, pedal back to Saturday, BBC2, at 10.30pm for the film Good Vibrations.)

Comedy
Certain professions – the police, paramedics, firefighters – share their own brand of black humour to cope with the grim bits, and this is true for the army too. Bluestone 42 (Mon, BBC3, 10pm) is back for a third series – set in a bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan, the gallows humour runs thick and deep alongside well-drawn characters and some brilliantly executed stunts. It paints a wittily accurate picture of life in hostile territory and to my mind is the funniest sitcom on TV right now.

Entertainment
Everyone knows the internet is made of cats and Cats Make You Laugh Out Loud (Mon, Channel 5, 8pm) is a bit of fluff celebrating just that. Utterly mindless entertainment, but feline fans (like me) will find it hilarious and warming. MasterChef (Tues, BBC1, 9pm) is back for the umpteenth series. The shouty duo of Gregg Wallace and John Torode are in charge, with the same old gags and clichés – it’s time they binned “cooking doesn’t get tougher than this”. There are some slight tweaks to the format to stop it being totally predictable, and it’s still as compelling a food programme as it always has been. Friday night is dominated by Comic Relief (BBC1, from 7pm), with usual array of pop stars, skits and fundraising.

Sport
It’s Davis Cup weekend (Sat/Sun, BBC1, from 1pm), live from Glasgow. It’s doubles day on the Saturday, with Great Britain playing the USA. It’s the second batch of singles matches on Sunday and a chance to see Andy Murray. Britain were two matches up (it’s best of five) on Friday (day one) – can we win this rubber, even if our doubles team doesn’t beat the Bryan brothers?

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 01/03/2015 - 17:53

Focus gets Will Smith to number one – just

By Rich Matthews

Getting to number one counts, no matter how much you gross to get there, but $19.1m for the slick Will Smith comedy crime caper Focus is a little underwhelming. Even megaflop After Earth (costarring Smith's son Jaden) opened to $27.5m.

Easily one of the lowest openings of his blockbuster career (we're ignoring the likes of Ali, The Legend Of Baggar Vance and Six Degrees Of Separation, for instance) the Warner Bros heist flick co-starring Margot Robbie does at least have the distinction of knocking softcore hit Fifty Shades Of Grey ($10.9m) off the pole, but even that is more muted by the fact that Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman: The Secret Service ($11.8m, $85.7m, $185.1m) actually pulled ahead of the sexathon for the first since both flicks opened head-to-head three weekends ago. It even fell behind the SpongeBob sequel ($11.2m, $140.3m, $215.3m) to come fourth.

Focus, though, did only cost $50m to produce thanks to Warners' clever use of tax breaks around the globe, so it looks likely to make money once international grosses are factored in. Warner Bros bigwigs blamed bad weather.

Meanwhile, Fifty Shades kept its end up better internationally, where it's still rock solid with a tally of $338.4m and a global gross of $486.2m. Relativity was behind the other new release to hit the chart – at five – with micro-budget horror flick The Lazarus Effect, starring Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass, which opened behind predictions with $10.6m. It's still a win seeing as Relativity only paid $3.3m for it in the first place.

The rest of the chart, six to 10, was constituted of McFarland USA ($7.8m, $22m), Clint Eastwood's jingoistic army blockbuster American Sniper starring Bradley Cooper ($7.7m, $331.1m, $440.7m) closing in on Guardians Of The Galaxy as the 2nd most successful 2014 release, Lionsgate high school comedy The DUFF ($7.2m, $20.1m), Julianne Moore's Still Alice ($2.7m, $12m) climbing 24 per cent following her Oscar win, and the continued U-bend progress of dire sequel Hot Tub Time Machine 2 ($2.4m, $10.3m).

Next weekend, Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson hope their Unfinished Business antics will laugh their way to the top, although they have to get past Neill Blomkamp's highly anticipated AI action drama Chappie, starring a be-mulleted Hugh Jackman.

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Screenjabber Podcast: We Focus on It Follows

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sat, 28/02/2015 - 16:30

Join Katie Wong, Mark Searby, Amon Warmann, David Watson and host Stuart O'Connor as they pay tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy, then review a few of the new releases on offer in UK cinemas this week: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Boy Next Door, Catch Me Daddy, Focus and It Follows.

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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