The Wolverine

I used to really love Hugh Grant. But then he bought into his own marketing and he trans-morphed into a vain, preening, self-satisfied hokey old ham of an actor. He’s essentially become unwatchable these days, so self-aware and inward-looking are his performances. As a producer of The Wolverine debacle, you can almost hear him sending daily notes through to the Director: “Mr. Grant thinks the audience would like more scenes where he’s shirtless….”

Wolverine

The whole movie smacks of his self-indulgence, and it is painful. I saw the extended version too. If you want those boys in Guantanamo to hurry up and confess, show them this on a loop. Seriously. And let’s not talk about the gaping plot holes, or the really really really annoying trend of giving us a Superhero movie, and then actually denying him his superpowers. (Yes I’m thinking of you, Spider-Man 3) Anyhoo, The Wolverine filmed in Japan, so it’s got some interesting-y locations, but the bulk was actually shot in Sydney, so it’s just not interesting enough. Honestly, I really wouldn’t bother.

Cloud Atlas

Although Cloud Atlas polarised the critics, I’m going to say simply that I thought it an astonishing, moving and utterly unforgettable film. I watched it twice, in somewhat quick succession, and the second viewing was even better than the first. Don’t get me wrong, the six interweaving tales of how reincarnated souls move through the centuries and find redemption is not necessarily an easy watch – you have to pay pretty close attention to what’s going on, the tonal shifts between the episodes can be jarring, and the racial, tribal and gender-hopping is somewhat off-putting. But it somehow rises above the limitations of its assorted chaotic parts to become one of the most memorable film experiences that I can remember.

Cloud

The soundtrack in particular is literally gobsmacking – I’ll be buying that – and I thought Ben Whishaw’s turn as the amoral 30’s composer was stand-out. Locations wise, the island scenes were shot on Majorca in the Balearics – in the World Heritage site of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, at Sa Calobra and near Formentor. Another quirk: the San Francisco scenes shot in Glasgow. Oh indeed, everything IS connected.

Did You Hear About The Morgans?

Clearly I have developed Tourettes: since last night’s movie Did You Hear About The Morgans?, I’ve been blurting out all kinds of ill-advised and off-colour swear words at inopportune moments.

The Morgans starts on tricky ground for a comedy – an estranged NooYoyk couple, her wounded, him pleading – witness a murder and are whisked off, together, into the Federal Witness Protection Program in rural Wyoming. (Wyoming’s all rural, actually, but it just sounded better written that way). There they have to learn to trust each other and learn to laugh together again and learn about just how nice and homely the folk are in the state that beat Matthew Sheppard unconscious and left him strapped to a post – all the while unaware that the incompetent assassin is tracking them down.

Listen, Did You Hear About The Morgans? is not, on paper, a bad film. The plot is obvious, sweet, fish-out-of-water, town-and-country vignettes kind of stuff, Sarah Jessica Parker is (gasp) really quite touching as the emotionally injured wife, and there’s a nice enough cast of supporting players. However, what you’ve probably already heard about The Morgans is that it’s basically unwatchable, and that is all down to Hugh Grant. OMG – here comes the tourettes again, fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck – what the fuck was that performance? A role so completely at odds with the tone of the movie, so grating, so stilted, so shallow, so totally self-referential (Hugh as himself, basically) that every time he’s on screen the movie dies a thousand small deaths. Awful.

As for Wyoming, the movie of course filmed in New Mexicoallegedly because Wyoming Republicans (led by that charmer Dick Cheney) objected to jokes about Sarah Palin and the state’s venomous attitude towards liberals. As a result, the ranch that appears in the film is actually to be found in Pecos NM, the rodeo grounds in Galisteo, and there really is a town of Ray. It’s just not in Wyoming. As a result of Cheney’s political interference, 75 NM crew and 1000 NM extras scored the jobs that could potentially have gone to Wyomingans (is that a word?) Apparently the DVD’s extras include “an interesting look at how a small New Mexico town cheated for Wyoming.”

Notting Hill

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since Julia Roberts graced the streets of London in Notting Hill. It was on TV again over the weekend: a “what happens” when a megastar meets and falls in love with quite a normal chap. Even if the chap is floppy Hugh Grant.

What happens when a normal city neighbourhood meets the might and madness of Hollywood is another story altogether.

Although there were discussions about building a huge set of Portobello Road, the decision was ultimately to go for authenticity. Sue Quinn, the film’s location manager said: “We wanted to capture the real flavour of Notting Hill, which meant filming in the most densely-populated areas, the main area being where William’s bookshop was situated.”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuQDAbfha3k]
The Portobello Road c/o Notting Hill

But exactly how do you persuade neighbours to close off a major urban resource for six weeks of filming, without really pissing them off? Quinn’s team ended up writing letters to thousands of people in the area, promising that they would donate to each person’s favourite charity. Close to bribery this may be, but over two hundred different charities benefited from the approach.

And it worked. Last year, a report commissioned by the UK Film Council and its partners titled ‘Stately Attraction – How Film and Television Programmes Promote Tourism in the UK’, the Notting Hill movie gave international prominence to an area of London relatively unknown outside the city, provoking “a huge and lasting influx of tourists searching for the famous ‘blue door’ and the travel bookshop.”

Of course, with location filming, nothing is quite plain sailing. By October 2007, the UK Independent was reporting that Notting Hill residents (evidently entirely smug at the astronomical house prices they can now command) rebelled against filming in their area. Citing the “absolute havoc” that Notting Hill movie inspired, a councillor claimed:

“There is not one day in the week now when people who live and work around Portobello Road have any peace and quiet. There are hordes of people all the time. Fridays and Saturdays are unbelievable and on Sundays there are always crowds parading around still looking for that blue door which was sold to America years ago.”