Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Critics curse Cage and “Season of the Witch”

Photo

CageNicolas Cage has a reputation for dividing the critics. Some love him, others loathe him, and many love and loathe him in the same breath. No such confusion over his latest movie, however, with “Season of the Witch“, out Friday, winning almost universal scorn among critics.

The Oscar-winning actor plays a war-weary, disillusioned 14th century crusader charged with transporting a young girl to a remote monastery on the orders of the church, which believes she is a witch responsible for a devastating plague sweeping Europe. Cage is not so sure, and promises her a fair hearing when they get to their destination. Accompanied by his comrade-in-arms, played by Ron Perlman, Cage’s character Behmen faces collapsing bridges and fierce, diabolical wolves on his way through the forest, only to come up against even greater forces of evil at the abbey.

Reviewers have not been kind to Cage, with the Rotten Tomatoes critic aggregator site giving it a putrid three percent approval rating based on one positive review out of 36. And all on the actor’s 47th birthday as well.

The Wall Street Journal, perhaps harshly, compares it with the Ingmar Bergman classic “The Seventh Seal”, in which a knight plays chess with Death. “Mr. Cage’s knight ends up playing second banana to a digital devil. Welcome to the January dead zone,” its review concludes. The Daily Telegraph had this to say: ”The stench of plague is all around, unless that’s an aroma emanating from the script.”

Sean Connery turns 80, acting days “over”

Photo

connerySuave Scot Sean Connery turns 80 today and tells a newspaper that his acting days are over.

The landmark anniversary has prompted a general outpouring of love and appreciation in the media for a man best known for his portrayal of super sleuth James Bond. His six official outings as 007 established him as the definitive Bond in many people’s eyes, including his closest rival for the title, Roger Moore.

Glastonbury’s new fad? Shade

Photo

Music, beer and wellington boots tend to top Glasto2Glastonbury revellers’ must-have list. This year they have added another essential commodity — shade. Baking hot temperatures in the high 20s Celsius are reducing many of the 150,000 revellers in the southwest of England to a lethargic crawl as they struggle to cope with the heat, not to mention the hangover.

Walk around the sprawling rural site and you will see unusually large empty spaces and then hundreds of people seemingly randomly crammed in odd places — against walls, around trees in the middle of dusty tracks and under benches. Then it becomes clear why — they have found shade from the sun, which has been beating down on the site virtually uninterrupted for the last two days.

Too old for Glastonbury?

Photo

Glastonbury1.jpgGlastonbury, at 42.

While I worry about whether I have packed my ear plugs, the conversations of music fans around me on the train to Glastonbury this morning make me feel very old indeed. What does not help is that everyone in my crowded carriage from London’s Paddington station looks less than half my age. One girl in a high-spirited group reads a text from a friend describing what she was up to in a college library late the night before (hint: it was neither reading nor sleeping). A boy discusses what drugs he is hoping to score at the festival. Alcohol is a popular topic, overall, as is first-year university exam results.

That can be quite an intimidating range of topics for a man of middle age. Add to that the mind-blowingly bewildering geography of the sprawling site when you get here and I begin to wonder whether I am too old for this gig. A Glastonbury “virgin” too. Really, the shame.

Lily Allen blasts the BRITs

Photo

Lily1Lily Allen has been quoted in the media as blasting the BRIT awards – the UK’s high-profile equivalent to the Grammys (think BAFTAs to the main prize the Oscars). The singer won best British solo female artist at the prize ceremony in February at which she also performed. Her website was not coy about the triumph, trumpeting the star on her official website and calling the award “coveted”.

Either Allen’s memory is short or her PR team is not on message, because in an interview that has just been aired as part of Sky Arts’ “In Confidence” series, she is quoted by the Mirror tabloid and Telegraph broadsheet as calling the prize a “non-award” that “means nothing”. ”The Brit Awards is a TV show, and a record company executive makes deals with ITV and the producers about who wins what award in exchange for performance time,” she said. “I got one last week and it just meant absolutely nothing to me, to be honest. It just became a non award.”

Cannes family or Cannes clique?

Photo

LoachThe press conferences that follow screenings at Cannes are singular affairs, where journalists often spend as much time expressing their admiration as they do asking questions. They can be revealing nonetheless and rarely more so than when the regular master of ceremonies, a certain Henri Behar, introduces somebody as “very much part of the Cannes family.”

One of the persistent criticisms levelled at the world’s biggest film festival is that it always features the same names. It is an unfair criticism in some ways. There isn’t an infinite number of great film makers and so it isn’t surprising that certain directors and actors keep being invited back. But just running through this year’s main competition lineup, there certainly does seem to be something like a “Cannes family”.

“Thank you for getting me off the radio!”

Photo

FrearsGemma Arterton may be the eye-catching star, but fans of “The Archers”, have an extra reason to look out for Stephen Frears’ adaptation of “Tamara Drewe” as it marks a rare big-screen outing for Tamsin Greig, who plays the no-nonsense Debbie Aldridge in BBC radio’s long-running serial on life in the fictional village of Ambridge.

In Tamara Drewe, she plays Beth, the long-suffering wife of philandering author Nicholas Hardiment and stands out in a strong cast.

Mike Leigh lays into reporter in Cannes

Photo

LeighYou can call a director’s latest film terrific, but it may not mean you get treated nicely.

Relations between filmmakers, actors and journalists inevitably come under pressure at the Cannes film festival, where people work (and party) long hours and often do not see eye to eye on the quality of a movie or performance. But in just three days of this year’s festival, there have been two terse, public exchanges between filmmakers, actors and reporters.

Trading on Twitter with Shia LaBeouf

Photo

There is something slightly surreal about talking with an up-and-comingShia Hollywood star about the intricacies of trading on Wall Street. In an interview with Shia LaBeouf for his role in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, that’s exactly what happened.

The 23-year-old, most famous for the successful “Transformers” franchise, plays Jake Moore, an idealistic and successful financial trader who comes up against Michael Douglas’s ruthless Gordon Gekko and an equally formidable Bretton James (played by Josh Brolin) in Stone’s update of his 1987 hit “Wall Street”.

Can Cannes live with low U.S. turnout?

Photo

Cannes2010-1So, Cannes 2010 is about to get underway and the usual bout of soul-searching, navel-gazing and nail-biting is occupying minds in the Mediterranean resort.

No one knows whether it will be a strong year or not until the end, of course, so the main focus for a lot of critics and journalists in the runup to Wednesday’s opening (with Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood”) has been the lack of U.S. titles in the main competition lineup and also in sidebar events. Doug Liman’s political “Fair Game”, based on the true story of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, is the country’s sole representative out of 19 competition movies. That said, Oliver Stone and Woody Allen are both in town with films, and they don’t come much bigger or more respected.

  •