Friday, 17 April 2015

Mike Leigh turns sights on the Peterloo Massacre

The Peterloo Massacre
The massacre of peaceful protestors in Manchester during 1819 will be the subject of Mike Leigh’s next feature film, Peterloo.

On 16 August 1819 a crowd of 60,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Field in Manchester to hear a speech by the political reformer Henry Hunt. They were attacked by mounted soldiers of the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, who left an estimated 15 protestors dead and hundreds injured.

The Manchester-born filmmaker said: “There has never been a feature film about the Peterloo Massacre,” Leigh said. “Apart from the universal political significance of this historic event, the story has a particular personal resonance for me, as a native of Manchester and Salford.”

Most of Leigh’s movies have been contemporary dramas, but he has made several well regarded trips into history. Topsy-Turvey (1999) examined at the relationship between Victorian composers Gilbert and Sullivan, while last year’s Mr Turner explored the career of the painter JMW Turner. Mr Turner, with Timothy Spall in the title role, was Leigh’s highest grossing title to date, taking over £6.8m in the UK.

Peterloo will be made during 2017 and photographed by Dick Pope, who was Oscar-nominated for his work on Mr Turner. The film is being developed with Film4 and will be produced by Leigh regular Georgina Lowe and Mr Turner executive producer Gail Egan. Mr Turner’s assistant producer Helen Grearson  will serve as associate producer.

Han and Chewie come home in Star Wars VIII trailer

Han Solo and Chewbacca
Star Wars fans have had their first chance to see Harrison Ford playing Han Solo in over 30 years. “Chewie, we’re home,” says Solo says to his Wookie co-pilot in the final frames of the new trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

Besides reintroducing Han Solo and Chewbacca, the new trailer features footage of the Millennium Falcon, X-Wing and TIE fighters as well as the hulk of an Imperial starcruiser marooned in a desert. There are also glimpses of new look stormtroopers and the film’s villain, Kylo Ren.

To see the trailer click here

The trailer was premiered at the Star Wars Celebration fan event in Anaheim, California. The event was also streamed live on the internet and to cinemas such as the Empire IMAX in London’s Leicester Square, where Star Wars actor Warwick Davies hosted a gathering of fans.

Ford, who is still recovering from crashing a World War 2 plane on a golf course, but original trilogy co-stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were at the four-day event. Ford, Hamill and Fisher last appeared in a Star Wars film in Return of the Jedi back in 1983.

The voiceover for the trailer appears to be Luke Skywalker, played by Hamill, describing the influence of the force on him, his father Darth Vader, sister Leia and the next generation. “Over the years, all my entire life, I've felt such love from you," Hamill told the audience. “You’re more than just fans. You're family.”

Warwick Davis hosted a fan event at the Empire IMAX
in Leicester Square (James Gillham/StringMedia)
British actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyego, who play the film’s young protagonists, also took to the stage. Ridley plays a solitary scavenger called Rey and Boyega plays a character Finn, who appears in stormtrooper and civilian gear. Boyega was the first person to appear in November’s teaser trailer.

Director JJ Abrams shot the film at Pinewood in the UK last year. He told a Q&A panel at Anaheim that the task of making the new film was daunting but something he enjoyed. “Though there are moments of sheer horror, the opportunity far outweighs the risk,” he said.

The Force Awakens is the first in a new series of Star Wars movies planned by Disney, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012.

The Force Awakens will be released on 18 December.

Meet Amar, meet Akbar, and Tony too

Amar, Akbar and Tony
Amar, Akbar and Tony is a new comedy that explores the predicaments that face a Sikh, a Muslim and an Irish Catholic living in modern Britain.

The film’s title echoes that of the 1977 Bollywood action blockbuster Amar, Akbar and Anthony, but Atul Malhotra’s movie is firmly rooted in contemporary London. 

The film is Malhotra's debut as a feature writer-director. “My vision is to portray on film, the self-assuredness and determination of the multicultural youth of today,” he told Screen. “There have been so many portrayals of Asian people wanting to escape from their cultural heritage, but I wanted to explore the contrasting angle.”

To watch the trailer click here

Rez Kempton plays Amar, a Sikh whose promising career gets derailed. Sam Vincenti plays Akbar, a Muslim who is an ambitious charmer with the gift of the gab. Martin Delaney plays Tony, an Irish Catholic who is in love with the wrong woman.

Martin Delaney (Anthony) has TV credits including starring in New Zealand’s Shortland StreetFamily AffairsCasualtyRobin Hood, Two Pints of Lager and Him & Her. On the big screen Delaney had roles in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. He is currently filming Bonded by Blood and has just been cast alongside Dave Franco and Daniel Radcliffe in Now You See Me, The Second Act. He is also about to release his directorial debut Queens Mile.

Rez Kempton (Amar) has an acting portfolio including Banged Up AbroadSpooksRoger Roger and Channel 4’s Adha Cup. His film career has The Mel and Wendi HouseMerchant Ivory’s The Mystic Masseur, Sharp CookiesUMAR and the family comedy Hari Puttar. Kempton also stars in the upcoming movie Monsoon Tide.

Sam Vincenti (Amar) has film acting credits including the remake of Alfie, Borthers and I Can’t Think Straight. His TV work includes The Bill, Da Vinci’s Demons, Holby City, Spooks and Waking the Dead.

Goldy Notay plays Sonia, Amar’s sister. Her credits include TV dramas Silent WitnessHolby City and the American show Warehouse 13, as well as the film Sex and The City 2. She is about to play a child bride grooming her own daughter for child marriage in the film Red River, written, produced and directed by Emma Lindley.

Amar, Akbar and Tony also features appearances from the likes of Meera Syal, Ace Bhatti and Nina Wadia. It was produced for Sash Media Productions by Victoria Wood.

The film has not wowed the critics. The Guardian’s Mike McCahill was not impressed by what he called a “slapdash ladcom” piggybacking the Amitabh movies, writing: “While elements of that film’s characterisation persist in this tale of three Hounslow chancers doing up a restaurant, it hasn’t a comparable charm, and suffers from disastrous tonal shifts.”

Screen’s Fionnuala Halligan suggests that the movie is not one destined win over film writers, its energy, positive vibe and amiable performances could connect with audiences. “Malhotra has been studying his Richard Curtis – inter-racial romances give him an excuse to schedule more than one wedding sequence per couple, and he doesn’t hold back,” she writes. “Critical opinion may not be warm, but this is on the Nativity end of the British film-making spectrum, and its best shot is a populist one.”

Amar, Akbar and Tony is released in the UK on 17 April