TV - BOOK AND ART REVIEWS
By Jeanne Monk
Axiom Film presents ‘Honeydripper’ due to be
released in early May 2008. The
town is called Harmony and two young boys are pretending to play but no sound
comes from their instruments. One
plays on a made-up cardboard piano and the other on some string and wood.
The scene is set as they then walk down a long road to where the
Honeydripper Lounge is where real music is playing with a blues singer.
It is 1950 and it’s a make or break weekend for
Tyrone Purvis (played by actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover, famous
for his film role in ‘Lethal Weapon’), the proprietor of the Honeydripper
Lounge. Deep in debt, Tyrone is
desperate to bring back the crowds that used to come to his place.
He decides to lay off his longtime blues singer Bertha Mae (played by
the one and only Dr. Mable John who was the first female recording artist for
Motown). “He’ll ask me back
when he wants me” she calmly says as she walks away from Tyrone and the
Honeydripper Lounge. Tyrone announces that he has hired a famous guitar
player, Guitar Sam, for a one night only gig in order to save the club.
In the meantime, drifter, Sonny Blake (played brilliantly by Gary
Clark, Jr. who was recently named Best Blues Artist at the Austin Music
Awards) comes into town and is rejected by Tyrone when he applies to play at
the Honeydripper. However, when Tyrone’s ace-in-the-hole doesn’t
materialise, his desperation leads him back to Sonny and the strange,
wire-dangling object in his guitar case. The Honeydripper Lounge is all set to
play its part in rock ‘n roll history.
John Sayles, Honeydripper’s writer and director,
says that Honeydripper grew out of his fascination with the genesis of rock
‘n roll. “There was no single
moment when R&B, blues, gospel, jazz, and country all came together to
create this thing called rock ‘n roll,” says Sayles. “But a big change came with the advent of the electric
guitar. Before that, the piano
ruled - it produced a lot more sound than a little acoustic guitar.
Suddenly, a poor boy like Sonny could travel around with a portable,
cheap, high-volume electric guitar and peel the paint off the walls!
There were lots of Guitar Sams and Guitar Slims in those days.
Everybody was moving around and listening to each other - white and
black.” Sayles continues: “At
the same time, I wanted to capture that poignant period when the old blues
styles were waning, like the salty medicine-show hokum that Bertha Mae sings.
In any field - sports, music, politics - these times of change are
Other great cast members include Sheriff Pugh,
played by Stacy Keach (of ‘Mike Hammer’ fame) and China Doll, Tyrone’s
daughter, played by Yaya Dacosta who made her film debut in ‘Take the
Lead’ opposite Antonio Banderas. The
character Maceo, Tyrone’s friend, is played by Charles S. Dutton, a veteran
of numerous feature films such as ‘Aliens 3', ‘A Time to Kill’,
‘Secret Window.’ And then
there is Lisa Gay Hamilton, Nagee Clay, Tom Wright, amongst the other
excellent cast members.
A story of strife, perseverance, humour and
toe-tapping music, with great lines like “You can’t argue with
failure!”, producer Maggie Renzi says: “The Alabama townspeople became
major contributors to Honeydripper. For
the choir, we used 18 from Alabama, including the members of the New
Beginnings Ministry choir in Greenville.
We asked New Beginnings to give us their best singers, and wow!
We couldn’t have duplicated that sound.”
The high spot for me has to be when Sonny
plays that guitar and peels the paint off the walls!
A lot happened to me on the way to see the
screening of the film >The Savages=
in London, presented by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film stars the
outstanding American actress Laura Linney (>The
Can Count on Me=
which gave her an Academy Award nomination, amongst others), Philip Seymour
Hoffman and Philip Bosco and is to be shown in January 2008.
However, receiving a phone call to say my son at uni had broken his
right thumb, his writing hand, in a rugby game diverted me to Southampton
which meant I was going to miss some of the film.
My thought on the train going up was that my son had already
encountered the savages in his rugby game!
The film >The
however, has nothing to do with wild or fierce behaviour and everything to do
with a family=s
name and their immediate plight. Luckily, I was able to see some trailers and
can claim that this is a hilarious and heartbreaking story revolving around a
modern American family who have drifted apart emotionally and geographically
over the years only to band together again to care for their elderly father.
The two siblings Wendy Savage (played
brilliantly by Laura Linney) and Jon Savage (Academy Award winner Philip
Seymour Hoffman of >The Talented Mr. Ripley=
fame) are plucked from their every day, self-centred lives to care for their
estranged elderly parent. Wendy
is a struggling East Village playwright, AKA a temp who spends her days
applying for grants, stealing office supplies and dating a married neighbour.
Jon, on the other hand, is a neurotic college professor writing books
on obscure subjects in Buffalo. Then
comes the call that the father they have long feared and avoided, Lenny Savage
(Tony Award winner Philip Bosco) is slowly being consumed by dementia and they
are the only ones that can help.
>The Savages= writer/director, Tamara Jenkins, says she woke up one day to discover she was living in a strange, new, rapidly aging world. Walking her dog by a neighbourhood nursing home, she began to observe aides wheeling their ever-multiplying charges around the block. She had already seen her grandmother go into a nursing home and then watched, as her own father developed dementia. She became fascinated by how younger adults react to seeing their own parents drop through the rabbit hole of aging, and wanted to dig under the skin of our societal anxiety about growing up, let alone getting old. AIt was something that was happening all around me and, at first, I was scared to write about it,@ says Jenkins. AIt=s an intimidating subject, but ultimately, I think >The Savages= is a story that is not just about confronting death, but really also about seizing upon your life, even in the smallest of ways.@
Linney, who plays Wendy,
was born in New York City, studied at the Julliard School and first came
to prominence in the public television mini-series >Tales
of the City=.
She has since been in several notable films.
Her wonderful timing, facial expression on film and excellent voice left
a mark on my memory, particularly as Sarah in >Love
where she excelled as a woman torn by being the dutiful sister to her mentally
ill brother and having a life of her own. In
Linney says: AFamily=s
complicated - always has been and always will be.
But this story takes on a family issue that really hasn=t
been dealt with. Ultimately, the
only thing you can do is enjoy the relationships while you have them and not
take them for granted, which can be difficult because family, especially this
family, is so complicated.@
A learning curve for all.
THE ROYAL TODAY
By Jeanne Monk
ITV1 presents a brand new daytime medical drama, ‘The Royal Today’ in January 2008. The back drop for this gritty, realistic new drama serial is the established hospital, St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital, made famous by one of ITV’s flagship shows, ‘The Royal’. Whilst ‘The Royal’ is set in the 1960s, ‘The Royal Today’ fast forwards almost 40 years to modern day Britain and life working in the NHS in 2008.
Fiona Black, Line Producer, says she is hugely excited having
watched all the forthcoming episodes and having a daytime audience which is
unique. The writers of the drama are Sarah Bagshaw, Mark Holloway, Patrick
Melanaphy, Darren Fairhurst, Jonathan Rich and Chris Parker. Executive Producer
is Keith Richardson and Co-Executive Producer is Ken Horn.
Best Actor award nominee Paul Nicholas for his role as Vince in ‘Just Good Friends’ (also of musical fame in ‘Hair’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Grease’ as well as numerous TV work and film credits) plays head consultant surgeon, Mr Woods. Arrogant, intolerant and strict, Woods does not suffer fools gladly but is an excellent surgeon of the old school and his patients are always in good hands. Beneath his gruff exterior, however, he has real affection for his coven of female staff, although he would never admit it. Nicholas says: "It’s great to be involved in something that is brand new. I have never been involved in a medical drama and I was very keen to get with it and do it." When asked whether he based his character on anyone in particular, he said: "I suppose the closest to being a professional was my father who was a lawyer. I am a bit of a perfectionist anyway. It was useful for me when we went on a tour of St James Hospital in Leeds to watch real surgeons at work."
As to what makes his character tick, Nicholas replied: "I think there is a soft side to him which he doesn’t like to reveal too often. After all, he is the top guy in his field, dedicated to the work and keen to instruct." I asked Nicholas whether it was no bad thing for a surgeon to have a ‘bedside manner’ to put people at their ease? He laughed and said: "You have to be careful because you cannot get emotionally involved with patients, but there should be a certain amount of care shown. When a surgeon performs an operation, they totally dissociate themselves from the person and I find we do that on set. I am sure surgeons do get emotional sometimes though, especially if they are working on a child, or if they lose someone."
Regular cast members’ Andrew Scarborough, Mark Wells, Kirsty Mitchell, Victoria Pritchard, amongst others, also star.
Mark Wells, who plays triage nurse Kieran Marwood, says: "Because there are so many episodes, it feels like you are doing five plays in eight days! It’s ‘on your toes’ acting. I have done 12 scenes in day, but it’s helped by good scripts and I love it."
By Jeanne Monk
I first met British actor, Sir Michael Caine, CBE back in
1992 when he was writing his autobiography, ‘What’s It All About?’. A
major international star, Sir Michael Caine’s versatile talent in more than
100 films has earned him many Golden Globe Best Actor Awards, British Academy
Awards, Academy Award nominations as well as numerous other awards. Not only is
he one of Britain’s best loved and favourite actors, but he is a perceptive
businessman and entrepreneur and, of course, a very fine actor.
In 1972, Sir Michael played Milo Tindle (an aspiring out of work actor) in Anthony Shaffer’s screen adaptation of ‘Sleuth’ directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Sir Michael played opposite Laurence Olivier who played a wealthy writer of detective stories. Having watched the film myself all those years ago, I thought what a great story it was and how teaming Sir Michael opposite Olivier was quite brilliant. Not surprising, Sir Michael received an Academy Award nomination in Shaffer’s 1972 screen adaptation.
Now Sir Michael graces our screens again in a new film by Paramount Pictures UK of ‘Sleuth’ (released on 23 November 2007) which is directed by Kenneth Branagh with a screenplay by Harold Pinter. Pinter says: "It’s a totally new take. I had not either seen or read the play and I hadn’t seen the original film either, so I knew nothing about it. So, I simply read the play and I think it’s totally transformed. I have kept one or two plot things in because you have to but, apart from that, I think I have made it my own."
In this new film, Sir Michael plays the pathologically jealous detective writer out for revenge against his wife’s young lover (Jude Law). The writer’s exquisitely modernised Georgian manor becomes the backdrop for a cat and mouse game that pits one creative mind against the other. Sir Michael says he has waited a long, long time to be reunited with Harold Pinter. "Yes, I had done ‘The Room’ at The Royal Court which was Harold’s first play," recalls Sir Michael. "And then Harold became famous as a writer and I became one of his biggest fans, and then for 50 years I never got another chance to work with him. And I am going ‘wait a minute, I started this!"
"I would have never had made a remake of Tony Shaffer’s script" Sir Michael explains. "I felt Larry and Joe Mankiewicz and Tony and I did a perfectly good job with that script and there’s no point in remaking it. The attraction, however, was the Pinter script. It’s very, very different and Pinter has made it his own." He is also delighted to play opposite Law who he says is a very experienced movie actor.
Sir Michael, who is famous for his pragmatic approach, is quoted as saying: "John Wayne once advised me, talk low, talk slow and don’t talk too much. And then I went and made ‘Sleuth’ " referring to the original film version. (Quote taken from Hallwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion, 11th edition). Sir Michael says: "I haven’t seen ‘Sleuth’ since I made it, and I didn’t look backwards on it at all," says Sir Michael. "But I remember that Olivier played it - and played it fantastically - as this very dangerous eccentric. I’m playing it based on the syndrome of morbid jealousy so while Larry was a dangerous eccentric, I am a murderous psychotic. Larry was probably more fun and this is quite a bit scarier."
(Sleuth will be available on DVD this Spring).
THE LAST ENEMY
By Jeanne Monk
The recent Sunday Times Culture Magazine, in its preview of the best TV coming up in 2008, stated that ‘The Last Enemy’, to be shown shortly on BBC One (a Box TV production) is a superior 5-part thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Carlyle. "It’s all about the surveillance society stepping over a line" and as Gub Neal, its producer says: "It’s a near future story where the only way we can account for ourselves is through huge collections of personal data."
The drama is told through the eyes of Stephen Ezard (played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch), a scientist who comes back to England after four years in China for the funeral of his brother (played by Max Beesley) - an aid worker killed in a landmine accident. There are three lead players - Benedict Cumberbatch, Anamaria Marinca, Max Beesley - who are joined by Geraldine James, David Harewood and Robert Carlyle at his most menacing as the mysterious Russell, as well as other great cast members.
In talking to the cast, Benedict says the programme is about "cold technology, a fascinating topic. It’s a challenging part and I think the writing is really gripping. My character is not conventional, which I like. He also has a compulsive disorder and, unlike his brother, went off to China to find another family whereas his brother wanted to embrace the world and became an aid worker."
Peter Berry, writer of ‘The Last Enemy’ says: "The two brothers are very different individuals. We went back as far as their parents and how there was a difference in the ways they reacted. Stephen Ezard wants to preserve his individuality by not getting involved with the world around him, whereas his brother Michael Ezard wants to embrace the world and help people."
Benedict continues: "The relationship my character has with his brother is split apart. Stephen is an extreme opposite to his brother. He has to overcome his obsessiveness and his quirky and awkward ways."
Not exactly Big Brother is watching you, ‘The Last Enemy’ focusses on a super-database called TIA (Total Information Awareness) which brings together all records on individuals in a bid to target potential threats and the information is linked to an individual’s ID card.
Peter Berry draws on an analogy made by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty:
"She said that if you throw live frogs into a pan of boiling water, they will sensibly jump out and save themselves. If you put them in a pan of cold water and gently apply heat until the water boils, they will lie in the pan and boil to death. Is it me, or is it hot in here?!"
Everyone has a story to tell and this one is definitely worth telling.
By Jeanne Monk, Jeanne Monk Associates. Copyright Jeanne Monk © 2008. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be heavily sub-edited, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, Jeanne Monk.
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