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THIS WEEK IN FILM – Film galore: Scalarama & much more.

This week’s picks are by Alberto Serna, Spanish boy living in cosy Rotherhithe, London.


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The Beach (2000)

01/09/2015 – 07:15 pm
JOURNEY FILM CLUB – Journey Film Club, Birmingham LGBT Centre 38/40 Holloway Circus Birmingham B1 1EQ

Danny Boyle adapted writer Alex Garland’s [(28 Days Later (2002), Dredd (2012), Ex Machina (2015)] novel of the same name about a young American backpacker seeking out an urban legend about a secluded island paradise in Thailand. Despite its commercial and critical failure, The Beach is an interesting film for a number of reasons. First, Leonardo Di Caprio’s performance. Although Boyle’s originally casted Ewan McGregor for the role of Richard, 20th Century Fox’s pressure forced the director to give the job to Di Caprio due to the actor’s popularity in the US. As Joe Reid at The Atlantic wrote, Leonardo Di Caprio’s performance in The Beach can be seen as an act of bravery sitting “at a fascinating crossroads of youth and respectability for the actor, between the boyishness of his 1990s work [(Romeo + Juliet (1996), Titanic (1997)] and the Scorsese-and-beyond adult period”.

Di Caprio was not the only one taking a risk with The Beach, since Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) follow-up A Life Less Ordinary (1997) had been bitterly disappointing. Despite The Beach’s many flaws, Boyle managed to bring some of the novel’s fascinating backpacking subculture into the silver screen – especially in the first act – supported by actors such as Tilda Swinton and Robert Carlyle (perhaps the film’s most mysterious character). Darius Khondji’s cinematography is splendid accompanied by a hip original soundtrack including Moby’s Porcelain.


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LA GRANDE ILLUSION (1937)

02/09/2015 – 08:00 pm
The Plough Arts Centre – The Plough Arts Centre, 9-11 Fore Street, Torrington, Devon, EX38 8HQ

Jean Renoir’s antiwar masterpiece revolves around a small group of French officers who are prisoners during World War I and are plotting an escape. There’s, however, almost no combat portrayed in La Grande Illusion, whose message is that of the futility and absurdity of war, and title refers to the belief that the 1914-1918 conflict was the war to end all wars. La Grande Illusion would influence two famous later movie sequences: the digging of the escape tunnel in The Great Escape (1963) and the singing of the “Marseillaise” in Casablanca (1942). Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresney and Erich Von Stroheim’s performances are brilliant, especially the latter’s. Considered Renoir’s most famous film, La Grande Illusion is above all remembered for its humanistic message.


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Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

04/09/2015 – 07:30 pm
Cobden Chambers – Cobden Chambers, Pelham Street, Nottingham, Ng1 2ED

The teenagers of the 1980s have quite a lot to thank to the tandem John Carpenter / Kurt Russell – from Elvis (1979) to 1997: Escape from New York (1981) to The Thing (1982). In Big Trouble in Little China, the duo managed to surpass themselves with a fast-paced, action-packed, wonderfully entertaining flick. Russell is at his prime, perfect as Jack Burton, an American truck driver who gets dragged into a centuries-old mystical battle in San Francisco’s Chinatown, while Carpenter had the freedom to just be himself – nonsensically glorious. Expect Chinese black magic, impossible monsters, jaw-dropping kung-fu fights, hilarious one-liners and, overall, lots of fun.


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Taxi Driver (1976)

05/09/2015 – 08:00 pm
Close-Up – Close-Up, 97 Sclater Street, London, E1 6HR

Robert De Niro is mesmerising as Travis Bickle, a mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran working as a night-time taxi driver in New York. The perceived decadence and sleaze of the city at night feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute (Jodie Foster) in the process. Scorsese’s dark masterpiece of urban alienation is still as powerful today as it was in the 70s. If you ever wondered where the quote “You talking to me”? comes from, here’s the answer.


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The Terminator (1984)

05/09/2015 – 08:00 pm
Meantime Brewery – Meantime Brewery, Brewery & Tasting Rooms, Lawrence Trading Estate, Blackwall Lane, London, SE10 0AR

“Getting the extraordinary physical specimen of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the lead was a stroke of genius and a stroke of fortune”, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw appropriately wrote. Despite his “limited” acting skills, The Terminator wouldn’t have been the same without Arnie. The film made both him and director James Cameron stars, and I’ll be back” one of film’s history most famous quotes, although the original script said “I’ll come back” and Arnie had some trouble pronouncing it. The Terminator was a B-movie at heart, yet it succeeded for its ability to keep audiences on the edge of their seat. The film is essentially a sci-fi thriller, game of cat mouse, where a cyborg is sent back to the past to kill the mother of the unborn leader of the human resistance who have turned the tide in a war raging between man and machine in the future. A true classic.


My name is Alberto and I have been fascinated with films since I saw River Phoenix running across the top of a moving circus train. Originally from Murcia, Spain, I live by river Thames in cosy Rotherhithe, London where I keep watching and learning from movies.


Enjoy writing about film? Would you like to choose your top 5 for the week ahead? Get in touch.

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