Archive for Alex Lagerwey

Podcast Ahoy!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 13, 2010 by babydylan

The slightly less productive and distracted half of babydylan has started up a podcast! After realising there was access to a recording studio and a whole plethora of filmnerds, CineCultania was born.

Check out the first episode over at:

Ben and Alex talk about our top 3 films for the year and the decade and a whole lot of other semi-useful facts. You want random tangents, you want a bit of swearing, you want us giggling at nothing in particular and revealing our embarrassing film loves? It’s all there. Tell us what you think.


The Living End: An Irresponsible Film

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 27, 2009 by babydylan

Imagine: It’s 1992, you are a gay man living in George Bush Sr.’s America, you’re a mildly successful film critic with a place of your own and a best friend who knows you better than you do yourself. And you have just found out you are HIV-positive. Do you sit back and let the sickness take you slowly as you struggle to keep up with normality, or do you give the world a giant ‘fuck you’ and live like you’re trying to die, not like you are dying?

Gregg Araki’s 1992 film The Living End aims to explore this in a fable that comes with a tell-tale warning before the opening credits: ‘An irresponsible film by Gregg Araki’. The then 31 year old was angry, full of ideas and the burning need to express both.

Director Gregg Araki

Arriving in the middle of the New Queer Cinema movement The Living End is without a doubt my favourite film of the then-fresh genre. Films such as Paris Is Burning (1990), Parting Glances (1986), Todd Haynes’ confronting Poison (1991) and subsequent Velvet Goldmine (1998) and Safe (1995), Bruce LaBruce’s No Skin Off My Ass (1991) along with Gus van Sant’s My Private Idaho (1991) were all made at relatively the same time which prompted film critic B. Ruby Rich to coin the phrase ‘New Queer Cinema’. She was able to draw attention to a group of filmmakers who were finally finding their voice to share their stories, uncensored, raw and downright in-your-face. And in my opinion, no one says it better, more beautifully or as memorably as Gregg Araki and his films Totally Fucked Up (1993), The Doom Generation (1995), Nowhere (1997), Mysterious Skin (2005) and of course my favourite, The Living End.

Sometimes called ‘the gay Thelma & Lousie’, the story centres around two gay men, both HIV-positive and approaching their sickness in completely different ways. Male hustler and a regular Adonis Luke is a drifter, if he ever had a hometown he forgot it, if he once had a trade he doesn’t remember, he has no purpose other than to keep moving, keep fighting, finding moments of bliss with different strangers the only constant is the promise to himself that he will end his life before he starts to wither from the disease. Jon meanwhile, has his planned and stable life thrown off course in a time when AIDS and HIV was a death sentence for all infected. Attracted to Luke’s carefree attitude and physical presence, the two set out on a road trip across America and begin a tumultuous, passionate and often violent relationship trying to grapple with their approaching deaths as best they can.

Luke and Jon fight for the best ways to live or to die

Made on a shoestring budget of $20,000 Araki captures the desperation and the helpless feelings HIV-positive men were struggling with at the time. A generation who felt they were paying the price for the freedom those before them fought for. Lengthy shots with wonderfully simplistic camera angles make for an elegant frame and create a stark contrast to the intimate scenes between Luke and Jon, their conversations as heated as their love-making. The soundtrack consisting of post-punk and shoegazing tunes reflects the doomed and desperate leads as Ian Curtis and The Jesus and Mary Chain forebode the future.

The final scenes are heart-breakingly desperate as both men resign themselves to inevitability, yet when the time comes for both to make the final decision, to continue to fight or to die in their youth, neither can fulfill their wishes. The film ends tenderly but without hope as both huddle in limbo, ultimately doomed with little chance of redemption.

If you are to see one film from this poignant and revealing genre, The Living End is the film to see. Reflecting the time and the attitude while creating real characters whose lives spiral out of their control, Araki is the master of making you feel and realising you really have so much to be thankful for.

My new friend crush

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on November 26, 2009 by babydylan
Many of you might know, but I have a bit of an obsession I like to call a ‘friend crush’.

It pretty much means when you see someone in your class at uni, at your workplace, on the train, in the coffee line, complaing about all those goddamn skateboarders and are amused or intrigued by something they say, you develop a bit of a crush. Not a romantic crush, but more of an intellectual one. It’s less of a ‘I-want-to-take-you-somewhere-and-devour-you-crush’ and more of a ‘you-seem-extremely-facinating-and-I-forsee-us-getting-on-famously-so-let’s-bypass-the-getting-to-know-you-awkward-bullshit-and-hang-every-day-crush’.

And if there is one filmmaker I am desperately friend crushing on at the moment, it has to be Rian Johnson.

My new best friend

It all started last year when I finally got my hands on a copy of Brick, Johnson’s 2005 film. Originally I was intrigued by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, definitely a crushcrush and known for his roles in tv show 3rd Rock From The Sun, teen masterpiece 10 Things I Hate About You, Greg Araki’s unsettling Mysterious Skin and most recently non-rom-com (500) Days Of Summer. Yet on viewing the film I realised that Levitt was only one aspect of its appeal.

Levitt plays Brendan Frye, student at a southern Californian high school who receives a call from his ex-girlfriend asking for help and then finds her two days later lying dead in a sewage tunnel. Set in the world of a teen flick but with the tone of film noir, Frye is a modern-day Bogart trying to decipher the mysterious death. Sucking the audience into a world where students speak their own language, vice principals are kept in the dark by their pupils while drug-lords and their customers sometimes share glasses of milk with unsuspecting parents.

My very favourite moment from 'Brick'

Inspired by the hard-boiled writing style of Dashiell Hammet and influenced by noir films from his youth such as The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key, Johnson wrote the script in 1997 pitching it around Hollywood for ten years before being greenlit. A deeply personal film whose visual style is reminiscent of spaghetti westerns while following a plot similar to Chinatown, the mix of genres and styles makes for a unique film going experience. Sometimes high school feels like you tackle issues that are so much bigger than adults give you credit for and it is personified in this piece. School politics, social groups and general hierarchy are all given the weight they deserves without mocking youth, while the shots are elegant and simple – inspiring for those getting into film and for those who feel awash with seemingly trivial responsibility.

Which brings me to Rian Johnson’s latest offering, and reason I ‘want to go to there’, The Brothers Bloom. If Brick gave the audience a snapshot into Johnson’s somewhat lonely but intriguing adolescence, The Brothers Bloom is a fascinating look at the quirky, unique and oh-so-fun man he has become.  

Rian tells the cast to buckle up

Centred around two brothers (Mark Ruffalo as the elder Stephen and Adrian Brody as the most likely unintentional but nevertheless extremely good-looking younger) who are shuffled around from different foster homes as children in an adorable montage of quick-witted humour and delightful child acting. The boys develop skills as con-artists and spend their lives living out the fantasies older Bloom writes. Younger Bloom however, wants an ‘unscripted life’ yet is roped into one last con on gazillionaire Penelope played by Rachel Weisz, in yet another role with an annoying fake accent.

The characters are wonderfully loveable; zany Penelope who collects hobbies, calm and controlled Stephen who is cocky but never annoying, hang-dog Bloom who can’t seem to find happiness even in the simplest of things and best of all Bang-Bang played by Rinko Kikuchi who manages to steal the show while only uttering three words throughout. The set of exotic locations, the swoon-worthy costumes, and the timeless setting make for an intoxicating romp. The plot has more twists than Agatha Cristie smashed at an open bar, but as the film winds up, the plot doesn’t really seem to matter as you genuinely like all the characters. There are no bad guys, there’s only misguided steps and the best intentions.

The Brothers looking mighty fine

Although The Brothers Bloom doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as Brick, it still thoroughly charmed me, making me fall for Rian Johnson even harder. Apparently his next film is about time travelling hitmen set in Kansas and I am putting it out there, I can feel it will be mind-blowingly awesome.

Sarah Watt on new film, ‘My Year Without Sex’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 12, 2009 by babydylan

Airing between 3pm-4pm on Sunday the 14th of June, Alex (the radio girl of Babydylan) had a speical interview with Sarah Watt for the release of her new film. Feeling very nervous to be interviewing one of her idols, they had an enthused chat and hopefully didn’t babble too much. Posted here just for Babydylan readers is the transcript of the interivew. Hope you enjoy, Alex & Eugene.

Sarah Watt

Sarah Watt

ALEX: Good afternoon, you’re listening to Arts Mitten on SYN. And today we’re talking to Australian writer and director Sarah Watt about her latest film, My Year Without Sex. How are you today, Sarah?

SARAH: Good, thank you.

ALEX: Good, great to have you on the show.

SARAH: Thanks for having me.

ALEX: For those who haven’t seen the film, could you give us a brief introduction or overview of what it’s all about.

SARAH: So hard to say, trying to cram so much in. In its wholeness it’s a portrait of where a very average family was in 2006 when I wrote it. Also about consumerism and how we get through our days and what meaning we can derive from them. It’s also a kind of love story, but about a whole family of four people and how they reassess their lives after a major event.

ALEX: It’s a really interesting film. Everyone I’ve spoken to has really related to the family and seen themselves in it either through the parents or the children. You’ve captured that really well.

SARAH: That’s great!

ALEX: I was wondering how you came up with the idea? Was it something from your own life or from something you’ve observed?

SARAH: In the beginning I was more interested in society and how it felt so wrong and unsustainable. Through what we consume and what we didn’t care about. I had a particular beef about how everyone wanted a swimming pool in their own back yard rather than caring about the community. So it came out of ideas like that. But then the actual story of a way of looking at society came out of my own life but also a friend of mine who had a medical shock. So I kind of used both; my thinking of ‘what are we here for?’

ALEX: Just taking bits from things you’ve heard in your own life and other people?

SARAH: Yeah, I’m a bit of a magpie like that. (laughs)

ALEX: I think that’s interesting, as it feels very real and it’s come across quite well.

SARAH: You know it’s quite hard to do that. I think some people have looked at the film and thought, ‘Oh it’s just like you’ve walked into a house and grabbed this documentary style.’ When it’s actually a really constructed film and very tight and it kind of feels like it’s too real for some people.

ALEX: I really liked how real the dialogue felt because it’s nice to see an Australian film that’s not all about drugs and death. This was really warm, especially the ending of the film how it ended with hope. Because there is so much going on that is quite sad but it ends on such a positive note

SARAH: That’s the thrust of the film. Just because all these bad things can happen in the world doesn’t mean they are going to happen. So in the meantime you might as well live with the glass half full. I’m a real stickler for that real dialogue. I can’t watch any film where one character you don’t believe and you can see the acting. I fall out of believing it.

ALEX: I was wondering about that, with the casting of the film. I know you’ve worked with Sacha Horler before on Look Both Ways. When you were writing the film, did you have her in mind for the casting or did she come about through the audition process?

SARAH: Just through auditions. I find it difficult to write with people in mind. I think the audition process is really good. Australia has so many great actors, it’s really good to explore that. It’s the beginning of giving away the characters from the writers head to the directors head and so it’s a nice process to have to go through.

ALEX: I thought the whole family was amazingly cast, especially Ruby.

SARAH: Isn’t she great!? Her parents are going to find it hard to keep her off the street.

ALEX: She’s fantastic. There is one scene I love when they are sitting in the service station and the kids are bickering and she uses the menu to tease her brother. That’s such a wonderful moment you captured. Was that your direction or her own?

Films charming family

Film's charming family

SARAH: A lot of it was her. She’s a real bright spark and one of the most pleasant kids I’ve ever met which you think wouldn’t go with her character.

ALEX: The whole film seemed to hinge on the family being real and I found myself looking at the children and thinking ‘That was me!’ I was so obnoxious and annoying. It really made me sympathise with my parents and I feel I owe them an apology.

SARAH: (laughs) That’s gorgeous of you.

ALEX: I was also curious about the location of the film. Because it’s a really Melbourne film and it was really nice seeing Melbourne as it is, not disguised as something else. There’s been a lot of films out recently that have used Melbourne as something else, such as The Knowing or Ghost Rider. It’s interesting to see Melbourne as it is.

SARAH: Yeah, well I didn’t particularity want to set it in the Western suburbs, just because I live there and it’s an eaiser commute. It could have been set in anyone of those ring suburbs. I love Melbourne, I think it’s a great city and I would have loved to have made something that celebrated other aspects of it.

ALEX: I was really interested in how you’ve taken things that aren’t sterotypcially Melbourne, but if you live here you would know them. Places such as the Russell Street cinema. There is one shot you have used framing the roof and how it curves up. It’s such an interesting place to put the camera. I would never have thought you could make this old cinema look so beautiful. Did you just go to the location and decided there to do that?

SARAH: We just always loved that location. With cinemas it’s virtually impossible to get. We couldn’t get a location that was a big suburban megaplex. So we used the Russell Street cinema.

ALEX: I think it’s really familiar for all the people in the city.

SARAH: It had the feel of the big suburban cinema and you just couldn’t not photograph that roof!

ALEX: I’ve been there so many times, I never thought it could be shot like that. I saw My Year Without Sex in a packed cinema and the guy beside me saying, ‘That’s beautiful!’ And there was another scene I thought captured that quite well. The scene where Matt Day is sitting outside the house at Christmas time. This comes back to before, where you were talking about capitalism and consumerism. All the celebrations are meant to be such a joyous time and yet, they can’t be happy unless they have the latest ipod. And the image of him sitting outside, with the lights behind going off slowly, eating the carrot with the dog on his lap. It seemed to sum up everything he was feeling.

SARAH: I don’t know whether you noticed, but in the background you can hear the neighbours further away having a party. It’s the whole thing of Christmas Eve in Australia as a time to get totally written off (laughs).

ALEX: And he is sitting there with his wife inside, chewing the carrots pretending to be the reindeer…

SARAH: I love that moment.

ALEX: I was wondering how you found the house as it is such a character as well.

SARAH: I was looking before Christmas, looking to see if we could get some shots before we were financed of the Christmas decorations, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford to do it. So I was driving around, with my kids in the car driving around trying to find houses with lights. And my daughter saw an elephant! Something completely ridiculous to see when driving around Altona North. We’d actually stumbled across a film shoot of ‘Elephant Princess’ which I think is a TV series. And next door to this elephant house there were these fantastic Christmas decorations. And when I went across the road to take photos, I stood in the yard of this house and turned around and thought, ‘This is it. This is a great house.’ And it just turned out that that house was empty and the owners were going to renovate it to rent it out. So we rented it out and it was all perfect. A nice bit of serendipity.

ALEX: That’s a great story!

SARAH: And I was so close to saying, (patronizing voice) ‘Yes, dear!’ and driving off!

ALEX: Getting back to your earlier films, in Look Both Ways and your short film you use a lot of stop motion animation which it was quite famous for. Yet in this one you didn’t use it as much, more for the transition scenes between the months and the use of stock footage.

SARAH: I liked the artificial structure around the realism. In Look Both Ways it was an organic part of the story, needing to know what those characters were thinking, projecting something different than what they were really thinking. And there just wasn’t room for it in this one.

ALEX: I think with Look Both Ways, I think it fit well with those characters – her being an artist it was organic. But as you said, it might not have worked as well for this film. I’m sure you’ve thought about it a lot more than I have.

SARAH: Sometimes it just starts being an indulgence or you start adding more to make it interesting, but I feel it has to come out of the characters and what the film is actually trying to say.

ALEX: And that is where the transitions between scenes worked really well.

SARAH: I liked that, as I think a lot of the film I about what happens off screen as well as on screen.

ALEX: A lot of people have liked the unique way of changing scenes, not just a subtitle on the bottom, just something different.

SARAH: And it was meant to be, it has a reason outside of it. You’re inside this little family, in this little suburb and then you get to see they are part of a huge world, then back to the little world. To try and tie the big and little world together.

ALEX: Sadly we are going to have to leave it there today, I would love to chat for a lot longer. Thank you for coming on the show.

SARAH: Thank You.

ALEX: You’re listening to Arts Mitten on SYN.

Thanks for your time Sarah.

Thanks for your time Sarah.

Sometimes a film is so bad it’s bad.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by babydylan

I am a very tolerant person. I like to think that when it comes to films, I try very hard to find at least one good point, a moment, a look, the lighting, the script, Christ anything! But even Christ himself could not help Ron Howard’s latest blockbuster, Angels and Demons.

What were you thinking Ron? Don’t make me hate you more than I already do! Frost/Nixon was pretty damn amazing and I felt I could perhaps stomach this latest ‘thrill-ride’, while the cheap tickets did sweeten the deal (it is rather helpful/brilliant to have one half of babydylan working at Hoyts. Eugene is tops, go stalk him there). And even after an exceptionally long two-and-a-bit hours I thought maybe I could see the good side. But on reflection, I really can’t. I doubt this will be anything particularly insightful, nor coherent but sometimes it just has to be said.  

Hanks: Running from one major plot hole to another

Hanks: Running from one major plot hole to the next

Tom Hanks, please, please stick to your comedies. That Thing You Do is a bit of my childhood genius, you made me love you in Sleepless in Seattle, your voice in Toy Story defined my youth, hell even Big and Turner & Hooch rocked my world. If not that, go all out and pluck at the ol’ heartstrings in Saving Private Ryan, Forest Gump or Philadelphia. But DO NOT pretend to be some action hero vying to be number one in the worlds worst hair competition. Because that space has already been filled by my old friend Nicolas Cage as I have mentioned before.

Nic Cage called, he wants his hair back.

Nic Cage called, he wants his hair back.

Secondly, I know the church didn’t allow you to shoot at the Vatican (can’t imagine why, perhaps God told them the film would be pox?) but the CGI is annoyingly obvious. It felt like you took a basic tour guide of Rome and made sure to tick all cliche boxes. And then the accents, it felt like the Amazing Race linguistic style, German, Swiss, Amercian Italian, Scottish…all speaking flawless English without once needing to whip out the phrase book, not to mention attractive physicist token-female lead who accidentally created the worlds most powerful bomb and happens to be fluent in Latin. That’s the type of girl you want around in a sticky situation.

Baaa, baaa! The budget for the extras was mighty large this day. No one knows what the hell is going on.

'Baaa, baaa!' The budget for the extras was mighty large this day. No one knows what the hell is going on.

Then there is Ewan McGregor (playing a priest who spent most of his life in Italy yet has a messed up Scottish/Irish hybrid accent and speaks not a word of Italian to his minions. Che cosa?). I will never stop loving you, but that crazy shit with the helicopter is wiggity-wack stupid town and you know it. Being somewhat lacking in the workings of Catholicism, or any ism, I had no idea what your function was, nor the purpose of the five million priests in various types of robes along with the eighty-five levels of police that seemed to be completely inept at anything, catching crooks, protecting priests, driving cars, staying alive. All epic fails.

The whole creation vs. faith, science vs. religion was handled pretty shoddily, sweeping statements were made and leaving the film you felt they were trying very hard not to step on anyones toes and offend as little as possible.

Fail cat tells it like it is

Fail cat tells it like it is

If judging from my cohorts and my reactions – one snickered the whole way through, one tried their hardest to remain interested (me), while two fell asleep, missing most of the plot while managing to drool and snore all over the theatre and STILL felt the film ran too long – this film is highly offensive. Offensive for all those who like to be entertained by a good, old-fashioned treasure hunt movie. Ron Howard, you disappoint me.

I’m sure there are some who will feel I am being too harsh, but you can’t deny the film is flawed. Perhaps I’m wrong. Got any films that no matter how you look at them, they completely suck? Let us know, we’d love to prove you right/wrong.

Gotta Get To The Previews!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by babydylan

Sometimes the greatest thing about the movies is the wait.

The apprehension, the excitement, the countdown. If you’re anything like me, which I fear a large portion of you are, you will rarely see a new film you know nothing about. Whether it be trawling through Internet sites, looking for the latest announcements (such as Chris Hemsworth – of Home and Away and recent Star Trek fame – to play Thor!) reading film mags, both trashy and intellectual, newspapers and of course my favourite, watching the trailers. What on earth did we do before YouTube?

Sometimes going to the film is more exciting due to the trailers that proceed it. I will get quite shirty if I miss them, any of them. I remember before the Lord of the Rings films came out, I could quote every line from the trailers, knew ever shot. And who could forget the jizz-in-your-pants inducing Watchmen trailer. There were two major ones, distinguished by many as the ‘one with the Smashing Pumpkins song’ and ‘the one with the Muse song’. Often showed before The Dark Knight, a comic book nerds wet dream.

Wikipeida tells me that one of the pioneers of film trailers was Stanley Kubrick. Are we at all surprised? Watching the trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey is a mini-movie moment in itself. And quite interesting to see how the previews have changed.

It’s a fine line to walk for the filmmakers, as I’m sure we have all seen one too many comedy trailers that make the film look hilarious, but actually reveal all the humorous parts thus making the actual viewing flat and predictable. Sometimes filmmakers choose a different path, where scenes are shot for the trailer alone, such as the second Terminator film or, one of the greatest trailers of all time, and my very favourite trailer,  Hitchcock’s Psycho, where he actually escorts the audience through the house and hotel of the film. All the iconic rooms that hold such chilling significance are made even more exciting by his lordly presence until the final reveal. Genius.

For now, I will leave you with the two trailers that have been making me salivate recently. Star Trek, making the worn out franchise look vibrant and sexy again, giving glimpses of the iconic cast members and making you desperate for the release date to be now, now, now (obviously this is how I felt before I saw it recently…on opening day). Along with Rob Marshall’s new venture, Nine. It doesn’t give much away but by God he has given me more than enough to know I will be all over it like a lampshade when it is eventually released. If The Internet Movie Database is to be trusted, and it usually is, we won’t be seeing it in Australia until January 2010. Looks like this will have to do for now.

All Together Now – The Boat That Rocked

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by babydylan

I have always been a sucker for ensemble casts. For many years my idea of movie perfection came in the form of Empire Records. My cousin described it to me once as ‘a story where nothing happens’ but the plot seems irrelevant as it meanders towards a conclusion of sorts. It’s not what’s happening that matters, it’s the characters that blow your mind.


Gina's choice is: 'Orange!'

And how could I possibly pick my favourite employee? Was it sensitive and sexy AJ (Johnny Whitworth) who is second only to Eugene (resident filthy grunge God) as self proclaimed creator and front-runner of the grunge movement and in love with Corey (Liv Tyler), destined for Harvard but resorts to secret pill-popping to cope with the pressures from Daddy. Or was is Mark (Ethan Embry), the goofy red-head whose infectious mannerisms make you want to hug him and slap him all at once. Then there’s Gina (Rene Zellweger) uber-slut with dreams of pop-stardom or Deb (Robin Tunney) suicidal skin-head who is desperate for some love and not necessarily from her boyfriend Berko (Coyote Shivers, who in some creepy trivia, was married to Bebe Buell at the time of filming making him Liv Tylers step-father). But the ultimate battle for characterisation supremacy must be played out between Lucas, the zen-like Yoda, dealing out nuggets of wisdom while throwing everyones life into chaos and Warren, rampant shoplifter whose name isn’t actually ‘FUCKING WARREN!’

As I left high school, my love for Empire Records was still as strong as ever but I discovered a slightly more mature ensemble love. This came in the form of Robert Altman’s masterpiece Gosford Park (2001), a sophisticated and classy whodunit/murder mystery (which incidentally is one of the perfect ways to fully utilise the ensemble cast. And if you’re after a laugh along with the severity of homicide, check out Tim Curry’s oft neglected but equally hilarious 1985 film Clue based on the board game with a cast to split your sides and three-endings to match).

What do you do?  Im the butler, sir. I buttle.

'What do you do?' 'I'm the butler, sir. I buttle."

But enough of that. In Gosford Park Altman has collected one of the finest casts that would cause any cinephile to salivate in their popcorn strewn seat. His goal was to show the acute difference between the ‘downstairs’ life of the servants, butlers, maids and footmen, to the snooty ‘upstairs’ aristocrats who depended on them. The audience never travels upstairs unless following one of the downstairs inhabitants, and what a staff to have.

Jennings the butler (Sir Alan Bates) who keeps the staff in check whilst guarding his own shameful past, Mrs. Wilson (Dame Helen Mirren) the housekeeper, backbone of the house, guarding everyones secrets including her own, Mrs. Croft the ill tempered cook with a particular loathing for Mrs. Wilson, Elsie (Emily Watson) head housemaid and one of Lord McCordles many lovers, George the footman (Richard E. Grant), sleazy and calculating with a love of the ladies, Robert Parks (Clive Owen), a valet with a special motive, newly appointed Mary Maceachran (Kelly Macdonald) learning the ropes and barely staying out of trouble along with ring-in Henry Denton (Ryan Phillipee) pretend servant and all round cad.

This would be impresive enough but the upstairs folk more than match their minders. Squee inducing actors such as Sir Michael Gambon as Sir William McCordle, a more unpleasant man I have yet to see, Dame Maggie Smith as his sister Constence who loves a bit of servant gossip, only if she isn’t involved, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Sylvia McCordle, her icy tone matching her husbands lack of charm perfectly, and when you think it can’t get any better, Stephen Fry decides to pop in for a bit as the incompitent Inspector Thomas. The joy of the film is seeing these huge stars interact with each other brilliantly. You hardly care if the mystery is solved, you just want to see what they will do next.

The jaw-dropping cast

The jaw-dropping cast

Thus, with my love of all things ensemble, there was no way I would leave The Boat That Rocked without a spring in my step. I can unasamedly admit that I am quite a sucker for Richard Curtis films, as I know secretly everyone is. Only a heart of stone could despise all his films, between Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Love Actually (2003) there is some aspect for everyone. Every female anyhow.

In The Boat That Rocked Curtis has moved away from the traditonal romance story plotlineto a story about an ecclectic bunch of men and their love of rock, and in so doing, highlighting Curtis zealous love for the music and the time period. The fictional story, as several critics seem to have forgotton, explores the hey-day of pirate radio between 1966 and 1967 where the BBC broadcast only two hours of pop music a day. Not content to take that kind of treatment, the pirates anchor themselves in the North Sea and broadcast 24 hours a day. As the pop/rock scene was exploding in the UK at the time, Radio Rock’s popularity is particularily high. The film thus tells the story of the many DJ’s packed onto the boat and general hilarity ensues.

Dancing to a bit of Bowie. Not exactly circa 1967, but do we care?

Dancing to a bit of Bowie. Not exactly circa 1967, but do we care?

The film appears to be somewhat plot-less, a series of events trudging on to no foreseeable conclusion. Where after all, can an anchored boat journey to? But, as I’m sure I have given away, the plot for me seems somewhat irrelevant as you see the talent that Curtis has yet again drawn together.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his rarer but no less welcome comedy roles, shines as The Count, the only yank on the station and as loud as one would expect. In terms of costume, Bill Nighy playing himself but disguised as Quentin the station owner wears his 1960s garb with such flair and can only be topped by Rhys Ifans as golden-tonsiled Gavin, most popular DJ in Britain making an unforgettable entrance to the film. Further cast enticement is Nick Frost (holding up well without other half Simon Pegg) as leery Dr. Dave, Tom Sturridge as Young Carl whose coming of age, find-me-a-father-search the plot is loosely structured around, Flight of the Conchords Rhys Darby as the ‘most annoying man on radio’ Kiwi Angus Knutsford, and Tom Wisdom as the butterfly-inducing handsome Midnight Mark. Not to mention IT Crowd favourites, Chris O’Dowd as adorable romantic Simon Strafford and Katherine Parkinson as Felicty the lesbian cook, thus allowed to inhabit the boat with the fine men folk.

Rhys Ifans - looking damn sharp

Rhys Ifans - looking damn sharp

The female cast members aren’t particularly displayed in a positive light, with Emma Thompson as Young Carl’s dismisive mother, Talulah Riley as the seemingly virginal yet ultimately sneaky Marianne and take-the-cake, out right wrong, January Jones as Elenore. You leave the film hating the female characters and feeling very in love with the boys club.

Ultimately I found the individually shallow male characters to make up the many faceted amalgamation of the father Young Carl is desperately searching for. Each character offers him some form of wisdom – he is the blank slate they all want to project their ideas and musical tastes on, he being the sponge eager to absorb. Even when the plot lulls, Curtis’ canny song choices propel the story along to one jolly, giggle inducing jaunt after the other. Toe-tappingly fun it always is. To end with a cliche, it ROCKED.