Philomena just made me mad. Mad and depressed and so, so disappointed with the world. It’s the story of an ordinary Irish girl in the 50s who falls pregnant outside of marriage and is essentially enslaved by nuns while her child is sold off to the highest bidder. Over the decades she tries to find him, only to be continually thwarted by the Good Catholics at the convent, who lie and dissemble and defraud both mother and son of their rights in the most abominable and inhumane way.


It’s not a gleeful tale, not by an means, but it is at least told with wry humour, and acted with pep and verve by Judy Dench in the title role. I didn’t think it was an Oscar-worthy film, particularly, but I did think it a story worth telling. Although some of it filmed on location in DC, the rest filmed in the UK and Ireland. Some of the accents are just a bit off, so you can tell.

Alan Partridge Alpha Papa

Although he’s been around for about two decades, I didn’t really know much about Alan Partridge, the radio dj invented and played with conviction by Steve Coogan. I only knew he was crassly smug and self-satisfied, one of those dreadful early morning broadcast types who smile when they talk, and who fill the silences with complete inanity (“So who is the worst ‘monger’: fish, iron, rumour or war?”) However, I did know Alan Partridge worked at Radio Norfolk Digital, and that the feature film Alan Partridge Alpha Papa was shot in part on the North Norfolk coast and that was enough for me to be interested.

Alan Partridge in the studio

In the movie, Radio Norfolk Digital’s been taken over by some slick restructuring corporate types, resulting in the dismissal of Pat, one of the older, underperforming djs. Still mourning the death of this wife, Pat loses it, storms the station with a shotgun and takes everyone hostage. Alan’s outside the building at the time, and he’s therefore asked to become the gp-between between Pat and the police during the stand-off – which finally gives Alan the chance to get back on the telly and be the hero.

Not really knowing anything about the characters or how they fitted together, Continue reading “Alan Partridge Alpha Papa”

Tropic Thunder

I’m not quite sure what to make of Tropic Thunder  Ben Stiller’s raucous romp through Indochina (Zoolander meets Apocalypse Now). Some belly laughs (mostly covering my mouth going “Oh my god!”), some knowing smiles, a whole lot of “what now?”s. I got all of the jokes and everything; I just didn’t find them all that hilarious. Or maybe it’s because the comedy rollicks along so briskly, there isn’t time to let it all sink in?

The movie’s premise is simple; during the filming of a big-budget Vietnam war movie, several over-primped and self-obsessed movie stars are dropped in the middle of the jungle and forced to make their way home without personal assistants, TIVO or little bankies of cocaine. Along the way they fall foul of the Flaming Dragon drug cartel ruled by a vicious pre-teen thug with a bamboo whip and a penchant for a particular soppy Hollywood drama…..

Yes; no matter what you’ve heard, Tropic Thunder is not a throwaway, third grade-schoolyard style bullying of disabled folk but rather a sharp skewering of the vanity, vapidity and insincerity of Hollywood. And that’s a good thing, right? The cast is great – I have fondest memories of Steve Coogan as the hapless Brit director trying to contain the team of divas before – whump! – he steps on a mine, and a semi-naked, drug-addled, bleach blonde Jack Black strapped to a tree. Or the back of a buffalo. (Off set, the buffalo had a calf during filming they called “Little Jack” – I kid you not.) Downey Jnr would have been even better if he hadn’t lost me up front with a dreadfully fake Australian accent and Stiller of course is always Derek Zoolander – something for which he is still, just, forgiven.

I also secretly believe that Tom Cruise in reallife actually is just like foul-mouthed, fat-fingered Les Grossman; the fact that Tom in a fat-suit is a dead ringer for someone I once worked with made it all the more unnerving.

For a movie about fakes, it’s not surprising the team chose a fake Vietnam; the movie was shot on Kauai, where Stiller has a home. Locations included the movie’s two major set pieces, the Hot LZ and Flaming Dragon Compound. The Hot LZ – location for the tumultous opening “war scene” – was situated on an expansive valley of tropical land, part of the privately-owned 40,000-acre Grove Farm property. TheFlaming Dragon Compound where the movie’s final action sequence takes place was filmed a few miles inland, on set that was constructed over several months at the edge of Mount Waialeale. Mount Waialeale gets 350 rainy days per year – more rain than any other place in the world.

Wsbradio has some interesting production notes on the film; the Hot LZ explosion was apparently created with a 450 foot-long row of explosive pots filled with 1100 gallons of a 90/10 gasoline/diesel mix that were arranged across a field lined with coconut palm trees. In one take and at the flick of a switch, 11 cameras captured the controlled explosion that created a mushroom cloud fireball reaching 350 feet in the air. The entire staggered explosion consisted of 12 separate explosions, the full run of which was completed in 1.25 seconds.