You’d think a story narrated by Death and set during WWII would be a fascinating tale touching on some pretty dark ideas, or at least some delightful gallows humour. Not so, or at least not in the case of The Book Thief.
Adapted from the best-selling book (which if like me you haven’t read, then it’s been recommended to you at least fifty times), The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, a young German girl adopted by an older couple during the war who develops a passion for the written word, ironically, whilst mass book-burnings are a country-wide phenomena. That synopsis added to the aforementioned “narrated by Death” aspect makes for an even more enticing prospect which never actually materialises. In this hypothetical film’s place is a cinematic trial
That The Book Thief is directed by Brian Percival, a man best known for helming a handful of Downton Abbey episodes, should clue you in to the fact that this is mostly two hours of po-faced earnestness, which on deeper examination doesn’t make sense. Why would this middle-aged couple, with barely have enough food and income for the two of them, take in an unknown, unrelated child to care for? And how does the initially illiterate Liesel become an amazingly adept and voracious reader after a couple of basic basement lessons from stepfather Hans (Geoffrey Rush), that she’s actually stealing books from someone’s personal library? And how could Liesel possibly be described as dirty and filthy when her new stepmother Rosa (Emily Watson) first lays eyes on her, when she’s played by Sophie Nelisse who looks as healthy and radiant as it’s humanly possible to be?
Whilst the production design of the film looks convincing enough, there’s this glossy sheen that disengages you from any of the actual horror and hardships of the war and life in wartime Germany. It’s all very predictable; Hans and Rosa are warm and stern respectively,the Nazis are cold, sneering and barely even have one dimension, the Jews are trotted through the streets in the obligatory “look how inhuman the Nazis were” scene, Liesel and her neighbour Rudy (Nico Liersch) have an “I hate Hitler!” shout-off at an empty lake. Bet the Fuhrer was shaking in his boots at that. The street that Liesel, Rudy et al live on is called Himmelstrasse - Heaven Street in the Queen’s - whilst Death, and by extension Roger Allam, is severely underused, only dropping in very occasionally for exposition, drab pseudo-philosophy and a few ironic quips. It’s hard to believe this maudlin sludge came from a book that spent four and a half years on the New York Times best-seller list.
One moment which is praise-worthy is the film’s use of blackface. Wait, let me finish; Rudy is a passionate amateur sprinter and in his naivety, rubs soot on his arms and face to emulate his hero Jesse Owens, only to be found and scolded by an SS officer, chastised by his father and teased by schoolfriends. Of course, out of context, a young boy blacking up is not something to applaud or excuse, but this one section of the film is the most interesting to watch. Other than that, and John Williams’ best score in a while (although it’s still overly saccharine icing on an already too-sweet cake), The Book Thief is far too solipsistic a film, especially for one so concerned with a defining tragedy of humanity. Not only that, but there’s a truly terrible bit of product placement concerning an Apple Mac in the final minutes, as Death is waxing lyrical and the meaning of life, which is possibly more horrific than the entirety of Schindler’s List.
Crikey, this looks good. And if Heisenberg is worried for the future of humanity, then we should be too. Giving away just enough clips and not showing a clear glimpse of the monster himself is a surefire way of building a heck of a lot of anticipation. From now on, all trailers should use “Requiem” from 2001: A Space Odyssey; it’s a far better and far more effective soundtrack than the ubiquitous BRRRRRMs (thanks for that, Inception). There’s also a nice wink to the original Toho film in the line “In 1954, we awakened something”, 1954 being the year that the original film was released.
Godzilla is released on May 16th
Watch: Coldplay - Midnight
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Coldplay are set to return very soon. It’s been three years since the release of Mylo Xyloto, and “Midnight” signals a new record in the very near future. The new track is pretty atmospheric, almost certainly an influence of regular producer Brian Eno, without the stock stadium sound the band have perfected over the years. In fact it sounds very much like Bon Iver, which is no bad thing.
My brilliant friend and fellow creative William Sawyer created a Beyoncé soundboard and let me help design it. It’s the least we could do to honor the best album of all times. Go play with it at www.soundboardt.com.
Oh em eff gee.
If you watched Heroes (like a decent human being) then feel free to carry on reading, if you’ve never heard of it then I guess that’s kind of acceptable, but what are you, a hermit? Either way, go and watch it and then come back (you might be a while). However if you’re one of these “Oh yeah I watched that for the first season or two but then it went bad” kind of people, then just leave, you’re not welcome here. Yeah I get that it may have trailed off a little bit, and some bits were just down right crazy. But hey, this is Tim Kring, eventually you just get to do whatever the fuck you like with your shows, and why not? He’s done his hard work just for bringing Hiro and Sylar into my life.
But alas, onto the topic at hand…
I saw one of the best 21 second-long youtube videos of my life today (if you haven’t already, watch it here). Ever since Heroes ended way back in 2010, every time I saw the image of a solar eclipse, I stood up and proclaimed “Finally! It has happened! Heroes is coming back!” …as it unfortunately turns out, that’s quite a popular bit of iconography, and it’s been on a few film trailers/music videos/adverts, so yeah, it’s been four years of crushed dreams (and public embarrassment from jumping up and shouting at screens so much). Today though, it happened, and I almost wee’d. Sure there have been rumours of a possible spin-off film, or an internet mini-series, but hearing that it’s going to be back on TV for (supposedly) thirteen whole episodes, damn, just… damn.
Once again, as I said, if you’re not familiar with the show, I guess you’ll be a bit like, “oh, erm, this guy seems to like this a little bit too much”, and you’re probably right, but don’t let my overenthusiastic words and love for Zachary Quinto put you off the best show of the pre-Breaking Bad era (to be known to future generations as B.BB). Hopefully though most of you will at least have a clue to what’s going on here, which is superlative; you should share in my glowing happiness until 2015 when the series kicks off once more.
Yep, that’s right, the trailer revealed pretty much only two things: the title, and that I have to wait nearly a year for this. That’s the kind of thing that can physically and mentally wound people. I wouldn’t really care if I had to wait until December to find out Heroes was returning, but is it really necessary to start the hype this early? Really? It’s like finding out what you’re getting for your birthday next year… The day after your birthday this year, but then you also haven’t had a birthday since 2010 (people with leap year birthdays, I now understand your pain).
And I’m also a bit sceptical about the title. Heroes Reborn? Why isn’t it still just Heroes? What are parts of the vital elements of the show are you messing with to require a title alteration? I’ve heard rumours that some of the old cast might “pop in”. Pop in? They’re not a distant relative, callin round for a brew and a chat, they’re the foundations of the show! They’ve given me what I’ve been waiting for, for four years (alliteration bonus) but they’ve provided it in such a way that it’s made me automatically suspicious. And I don’t want to be suspicious, I just want to look forward to my favourite show, I really do. There’s so few things for me to look forward to, I just want one. Please, just give me this, NBC?
I suppose I can’t really complain, the one thing that Heroes actually did well was have a half decent character-turnover rate, mainly because one of the main characters was going around and killing everyone.. But hey, it worked. Kring has been confirmed to be returning to his showrunner’s chair for the reboot, but apart from that details are relatively low on the ground, and NBC have made a point of telling everyone that that’s how it’s going to stay, at least until shit gets sorted (I don’t think that’s their exact wording, but it’s close enough).Seems like it’s going to be a year of anticipation and turmoil for me. Wonderful.
On a final good note, Masi Oka has hinted as delicately as a ticking clock (see what I did there), that he might be coming back, tweeting that it might be “time to dust off the sword”, what a guy.
Listen: The Horrors - I See You
The first track taken from The Horrors’ fourth album isn’t exactly radio-ready single material but it is a huge and very welcome return for the Southend-On-Sea quintet. “I See You” doesn’t represent a huge reinvention for the band (as the releases of both Primary Colours and Skying did), rather picking up where they left off last time; whirlwind guitars, sparkling synthesisers and sights trained on the big leagues.
Mythical Creature Destroying A City of the day: Honestly, at this point, how can you not be excited by the prospect of a new Godzilla movie? Directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston, hopefully this revisit of the king of the monsters will erase all memories of the 1998 Matthew Broderick version.