Back From Good Times In Ye Olde London
- Written by Matthew Toomey
I have returned from the far reaches of the planet… and by that I mean, London. It felt that way after a 24 hour flight (including two brief stopovers). Not good for a tall person like me.
Bye Bye Regent
On Sunday night, I saw my very last movie at the Regent Theatre in Brisbane. I wrote up a tribute piece in my last blog which you can revisit by clicking here.
As my last film, I attended a special screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There were quite a few people in the cinema and it was a nice atmosphere. I really enjoyed the film too – it was the first time I’d seen it in a long time.
Afterwards, there were heaps of people (including myself) taking photos within the famous theatre. You can view a few of my snaps by clicking here.
As I type this blog, the very last screenings will be taking place. The cinema closes its doors of today – 14 June 2010. Brisbane cinema just won’t be the same again.
I won’t ramble on for too long about my London adventures. If you’re on Facebook, you can view some photos by clicking here.
I did see two movies while I was over there. The first was Sex & The City 2. I was booked in to see it on a Tuesday night in a small theatre. It was a cool venue – in a basement with a funky bar serving cocktails. To be honest, I’d best describe it as a bar with a cinema built it. It must be quite popular though as the session I attended was sold out (I had to get my tickets two hours in advance too).
Well as the saying goes – “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. The projector broke and the screening had to be cancelled. It was to start at 9:10pm and it wasn’t until 10pm when they finally gave us word that all hope had been lost. There were some unhappy customers that’s for sure.
I ended up catching it the next day in the famous cinema district of London – Leicester Square. It’s a great place to watch a movie and I picked up some Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream to take in with me. You can read my thoughts on the film above but if it’s not the worst film of 2010, it’ll be damn close. It took me days to get the smell out of my clothes.
On the last day before I departed, I caught Michael Winterbottom’s new flick called The Killer Inside Me. It was heavily promoted and I saw it with a friend (again in Leicester Square). The film isn’t being released in Australia until August but I can say I was also disappointed. A very weak conclusion to what is set up as a thriller with potential. None of the key performances (Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson) are worth mentioning.
On the flight, I saw The Ghost Writer – the new Roman Polanski thriller getting a release later this year in Australia. It definitely had my thumbs up and I look forward to reviewing it.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve been catching up on (1) sleep and (2) movies. I’ve been able to see 9 movies in the past 6 days which has me back on track. All the reviews are found above.
I also bought a TV series on DVD in London called The Inbetweeners which I’m keen to sink my teeth into. Have heard a lot of great things.
I don’t know what else has happened in the film world while I’ve been gone. I heard that Dennis Hopper passed away which was very sad. Such a talented actor. I only picked up on that while looking over someone’s shoulder while they were reading a paper on the tube. You tend to lose track of everything when travelling overseas.
Anyway, that’s it from me this week. Over and out.
Farewell: 10 Great Memories From The Regent Theatre
- Written by Matthew Toomey
In a few weeks, the Regent Theatre in Brisbane will close its doors for the last time.
This is a very sad event for me. The Regent is one of the most beautiful theatres in Australia. It opened back in 1929 and whilst it has gone through a few refurbishments over the years, it has a classic, traditional look.
I recently stumbled across this old picture of the Queen Street Mall taken in the mid 1960s - http://twitpic.com/15f7yb. Most of those buildings have been knocked down (and there’s certainly no tram line today) but the Regent can be seen in all its glory. I can’t imagine how many people have visited that cinema over the past 80 years.
Many have tried to stop the closure of the Regent but the State Government hasn’t come to the party. Brett Debritz ran a website - http://www.debritz.com/str/ - trying to do whatever he could to bring this to people’s attention.
From a personal perspective, I understand that change is inevitable. Not all things are meant to last. Maybe the Regent falls into this category. It’s still sad though. Birch, Carroll & Coyle and Hoyts have done such a poor job running the cinema in recent years. Very few people go there (except for special preview screenings). If more patrons were coming through the door, I’m sure there’d be a much bigger public outcry over the site’s redevelopment.
I’m in London for a few weeks and so will miss the week long gala of classic movies which will be showing at the Regent from May 29 to June 5. You can book tickets through the Event Cinemas website. If I was here, I’d be going along every night – trying to make the most of the Regent’s final days. I look of the foyer and marble staircase amazes me every time I walk in.
The good news is that the cinema will remain open until June 13 and so I can sneak one last movie (as I return from London on June 9). The Rocky Horror Picture Show is on every night during the final week and I’ve booked tickets to the very last session on June 13 at 6:45pm.
For this week’s blog, I thought I’d reflect back on my 10 favourite Regent memories. I’m not as old as many other Brisbane moviegoers but I’ve had plenty of great experiences there. Enjoy!
First Regent Movie – The Basketball Diaries – August 1995
My love of film started after I got a job in a video store in January 1995. I’d heard about the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) but had never been before. A fan of Leonardo DiCaprio (having seen What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), I made the effort to see The Basketball Diaries at BIFF. I’d never driven into the city so had to ask for directions from my work colleagues.
I loved the movie (check it out if you haven’t seen it) and I’ve attended BIFF every year since 1995 as a result.
Longest Movie Ever Seen – Hamlet – May 1997
Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet is the longest movie I’ve ever seen. It clocks in at just over 4 hours and was shot in 70mm format (a wider screen than we’re used to). I think it was the last major film to be shot in 70mm and so the Regent’s Showcase Cinema was the only theatre with a wide enough screen to accommodate it.
It came out on Thursday and I skipped my uni lecture to go to the 10am screening. There was a 15 minute interval at the half-way mark and I remember sneaking downstairs to the McDonalds (which has since closed) to pick up a couple of cheeseburgers. Certainly got me through the second half and the film featured in my top 10 list for that year.
Friends At BIFF – Election & Go – July 1999
I’d been attending BIFF for a number of years but the time had come to get some friends into the act. I wanted to expand their theatrical horizons.
On 30 July 1999, I organised for a group of 6 friends to see back-to-back screenings of Election (with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick) and Go. It was a fantastic night and we snuck in a drink afterwards at the Regent Bar (such a beautiful place).
I can tell you for a fact that of all the times that I’ve been to the movies, this was my favourite experience. I loved both films (they were ranked 3rd and 7th on my top 10 list for that year) and it was fantastic to have some friends along to enjoy them too. I think I’ve seen Election about 100 times since.
I got an even bigger group of friends to BIFF the following year to see American Psycho. Not top 10 worthy but another good film. The novel is one of my all time favourites.
Whoops, Wrong Reel – The Green Mile – February 2000
When I ask people about their favourite films, The Shawshank Redemption pops up regularly. I saw it at the Schonell Theatre on the day before a uni exam. Director Frank Darabont’s follow up was The Green Mile and having read the book, I was very keen to see it.
To see it before everyone else, I booked tickets to a charity preview with a few friends. I’ve never seen this happen before but… two of the film reels were played out of order! The story was going along fine and then wham, it jumped ahead 20 minutes. One minute, John Coffey was in prison. The next minute, he had escaped and was helping cure a sick woman. After that reel was complete (20 minutes later), it then jumped back to the bit we missed.
There were some murmurs from the audience and I realised pretty quickly what was going on. How strange. One of my friends was none the wiser though. He thought it was just a creatively done flashback sequence. I had to laugh.
A New Record – Interstellar 5555 – August 2004
In 2004, I went on my first overseas trip. It was a contiki tour across Europe and yep, I had plenty of fun. When I got back 5 weeks later, I had a LOT of movies to catch up on. I cleared my schedule on a Saturday and decided to get busy.
Up until this point, the most number of movies that I’d seen in a day was 3. I love movies but there’s only so many you can see in a day. It’s hard to concentrate and remain in a seated position for so long.
On 7 August 2004, I saw a record setting 6 movies. I’m pretty confident that I’ll never beat this. I saw Facing Windows, Under The Radar, King Arthur, The Chronicles Of Riddick and White Chicks.
It all finished with an 11:30pm BIFF screening with two friends of a Japanese animated film called Interstellar 5555. I think I was running off fumes by this point – driving from my home in Stafford Hts to the CBD just to chalk up movie number 6. I can’t remember much from the film but thankfully it was only 68 minutes. When I put my head on the pillow that night, I’d well and truly earned my rest.
The Hidden Theatrette – Just Friends – December 2005
When I started reviewing for 612ABC in late 2005, I suddenly found myself receiving invites from distributors to see films before they open. Now this was pretty cool. Paramount even had their own private theatrette at Milton.
It turns out that the Regent has its own theatrette too. It’s located on level 1 and you can access it through the lifts next to Aromas. It seats about 25 people and if you’re trying to picture where it is, it’d be directly above the front entrance to the cinema. A few distributors rent this theatre for their private media screenings.
I first saw a film there in December 2005. It was Just Friends (nothing too good) but I took a few hours off work just to see what this theatrette looked like. It was also fun to mingle amongst other critics. I’ve been back numerous times but unfortunately, it too will be gone as part of the redevelopment. For the record, my last theatrette film was Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief.
Fire In The Regent – The Da Vinci Code – May 2006
There was huge hype for The Da Vinci Code but the media preview didn’t occur until the night before the film’s release. Sony didn’t want to take any chances with negative reviews hurting business. I’d read the novel and was curious to see how they would adapt it for the big screen.
About three-quarters into the movie, the film reel caught on fire. We saw the picture dissolve in front of our very eyes. The lights were turned on and the packed audience had to amuse themselves for 15 minutes so that the problem could be fixed.
It was a fun experience because it’s not often you can pause mid movie and talk about it. I was debating it with my friend Sam and a few other nearby critics. An unplanned interval.
My 30th Birthday – The Nanny Diaries – September 2007
My 30th birthday fell on a Wednesday in September 2007. I was catching up with friends that weekend and given I’m not too big on celebrations, I just treated my actual 30th birthday as any other day. I went to the media preview for The Nanny Diaries which just happened to be at the Regent.
The film was horrendous. I wouldn’t subject anyone to sitting through such a painful film on any day of the year, yet alone a birthday. Still, if anyone ever asks where I was for my 30th birthday, I can say that I spent it in a beautiful cinema.
One Final BIFF – An Education – July 2009
When last year’s BIFF came around, I knew it was the end of an era. It had been announced that the festival was moving to November from 2010 onwards. I also knew that the lease from Birch, Carroll & Coyle was due to end in mid 2010 and that the famous Regent would be closed.
I therefore tried to make the most of BIFF 2009. I attended the Opening Night celebrations for the first time in many years. It was for An Education – an amazing film which earned a spot on my top 10 list last year. Carey Mulligan’s performance was the best by an actress that I’ve seen in the past 12 months.
Carey was at the premiere and I had a quick chance to meet her and have my photo taken. The film’s after party was great too. The lobby and the staircase were packed with happy patrons enjoying a few drinks.
I saw plenty of films during the festival and finished it off by hosting a Q&A with Anthony LaPaglia and the cast/crew of Balibo at the Palace Barracks. I’m not sure where this year’s BIFF will be but it just won’t be the same without the Regent. I’ll also miss the long queues which often stretched down the Queen Street Mall (with everyone rugged up in jumpers, jackets and scarves).
The Final Film – The Rocky Horror Picture Show – June 2010
Ok, so this memory is yet to occur but it’s going to be a significant night. I’ll try to take along my camera to get some photos.
As you can see above, I’ve had many memorable experiences at the Regent and hopefully there’s one more left which will be forever etched in my memory. See you there!
2010 Cannes Film Festival: Wishing I Was There
- Written by Matthew Toomey
High on my bucket list is attending a major international film festival. The dream list includes Cannes, Toronto, Venice and Berlin. While I wait here in Brisbane for the opportunity to present itself, some of my favourite critics and bloggers are currently in Cannes covering the most famous film festival of all.
It must be incredibly hectic for critics in Cannes right now. There’d be a zillion of them trying to get one-on-one interviews with the stars. They’d be battling hard with each star’s publicists. There’s also differing credentials which can limit what films and parties you get into. I’m sure Roger Ebert can see whatever he wants but I don’t know if I’d have the same luxuries.
On top of all the interviews and PR functions, the critics have to find time to see plenty of movies too. You see a movie, you blog or write some notes, then you go see another one. It’s an endless loop that keeps repeating until you get sick or burned out.
There are only 20 or so films in the main competition (for the Palm D’or) but there are heaps of other films being premiered (both short and long films) in other competitions. That’s part of the appeal of these festivals – you get to be the first to see these films and then go forth and spread the word. Many films have come out of Cannes with huge buzz and go on to bigger and better things.
So whilst I’m not in Cannes, I have been keeping up to date with things through some of my favourite columnists. In this week’s blog, I thought I’d share a few of their thoughts since they pertain to films that may be released later this year in Australia.
If you want to have a look at the ups and downs of being a first timer in Cannes, check out Sacha Stone’s daily blog (with photos) at www.awardsdaily.com.
Will it be as good as the original? – Wall Street 2
Owen Gleiberman – “Stone has conceived the movie as an inventory of our current crisis, and on that level it seizes and holds you. As fiction, however, it’s competing, in an odd way, with the very events from which it takes off. For sheer dramatic impact, Money Never Sleeps can certainly hold a candle up to reality, but it can’t top it.” – Read more here.
Jeffrey Wells – “An intelligent, briskly paced, rat-a-tat financial tale that moves along nicely for the first 75% to 80% of its running time -- not brilliantly but sufficiently, offering a more-or-less decent ride. And then it blows itself up during the last 25 minutes or so. Or so it seemed to me. Some have told me they disagree, but I know (or think I know) when a film is gutting itself emotionally.” – Read more here.
Anne Thompson – “The script by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff bears the earmarks of a sequel: bring back some old, bring in some new, and try to keep the whole thing timely and commercial.” – Read more here.
Woody Allen’s new movie – You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
Owen Gliberman – “The atrociously titled You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is one of Woody Allen’s “fables” — which could almost be code, at this point, for the flavorless, dry-cookie thing that results when he writes and directs a comedy on autopilot. The film is notable, if that’s the word, for being the first movie Allen has made in London that is every bit as bad as his most awful New York comedies, like Anything Elseand Melinda and Melinda.” – Read more here.
Jeffrey Wells – “Set in London, it's a mildly amusing, somewhat chilly film with no piercing performances or dramatic highlights even, as if everything and everyone is on a regulator of some kind. And yet the undertone has a steady and persistent misanthropic flavour. And it leaves you with a kind of "uh-huh, okay" feeling at the end. It's not a bust -- there's food for thought and reflection -- but it's not my idea of enlivening material.” – Read more here.
I love Mike Leigh and it looks like he’s done it again – Another Year
Sacha Stone – “By the end of all of this madness, the standout film may remain Another Year. It is Mike Leigh at his absolute best. It is surely less irritating than Leigh’s recent films have been. It is up there with his best female-driven films, like Secrets and Lies and Vera Drake. How is it that Leigh can be so good and go so deep with these actors as he manages to do? It is one of the great mysteries.” – Read more here.
A look at the global financial crisis – Inside Job
Jeffrey Wells – “A highly absorbing, meticulously composed hammer doc about the causes of the '08 financial meltdown. Most of us have some kind of understanding of the whys and wherefores, but Ferguson lays it all out like a first-class table setting and makes this titanic crime seem extra vivid.” – Read more here.
Owen Gliberman – “Years from now, if you want to know how the American (and global) economic crisis really happened, if you want to grasp the ins and outs of its peculiar hybrid of greed and cluelessness and corporate treachery and political enabling, then Inside Job, the new documentary written and directed by Charles Ferguson, will stand as a definitive investigative primer on the disaster.” – Read more here.
An appropriate title? – Shit Year
Jeffrey Wells – “The first couple of walk-outs happened about 15 minutes in. People weren't soon walking out in droves, but they did continue body by body. Some, I noticed, decided to take naps. Myself among them, to be perfectly frank. When I woke up I noticed that Roger Friedman, who'd been sitting across the aisle, had left. So had several others. So I stuck it out for another 15 or 20 minutes, and then I slipped out myself.” – Read more here.
Regent Cinema To Go Out With A Classic Bang
- Written by Matthew Toomey
It’s another long weekend in Brisbane which is great so let’s get right to it.
I Love You Too: A Red Carpet Experience
Last Friday night, I had a chance to attend the Brisbane premiere of I Love You Too. In attendance were stars Brendan Cowell, Yvonne Strahovski and Peter Helliar.
You can view some photos from the night by clicking here.
I had a chance to speak to the stars for a few minutes on the red carpet and you can hear the interviews by downloading here.
It’s tricky doing red carpet stuff. I hate to ask the same questions that everyone else will ask but at the same time, there’s only so many different types of questions you can ask (if that makes sense). Ah well. I bumbled my way through it and thankfully, the stars came up with some nice answers. Peter Helliar’s response to my film critic question left me a little unconvinced. I’d love to put the question to some other stars down the track.
The Tribal Theatre Experience: Follow Up
In last week’s blog (see here) I wrote about an interesting experience I had at the reopened Tribal Theatre on George Street in the city.
Over the weekend, I received a response from a representative of the Tribal Theatre regarding my comments. She agreed with my comments on cinema etiquette but noted “Last Friday night was a busy night for us, and certainly not one we are used to at the cinema, so I hope that you choose not to use this as your one example of an independent cinema struggling to find its feet within Brisbane.”
She also noted that it’s probably likely that future classic horror screenings are likely to attract an audience that finds it funny in inappropriate places. However, there are still plenty of regular “quiet screenings”.
Yes, she’s right. I don’t think I’ll be seeing any more classic horror movies at the Tribal but I’m more than happy to see other films there. This week’s movies include Amelie and Crazy Heart which are both worth seeing if you haven’t already.
Professor Matt Toomey
Last Tuesday, I had the chance to give a lecture to some journalism students at QUT on film criticism. I have to admit being a little bit nervous. I didn’t know how easy it would be to speak in front of a large group for 50 minutes straight.
It turned out to be a blast. I’d prepared a few notes but things seemed to roll along perfectly. I had a great audience who asked plenty of questions and it was loads of fun.
I’m doing the same thing this Friday at UQ (a little closer to home) with some post graduate students. It’ll be interesting to see if the questions differ given that they’re further advanced with their studies.
Regent Cinemas To Go Out With A Classic Bang
As you’d probably now be aware, the Regent Cinema will close its doors in early June. As if that’s not bad enough, I’ll be away in London for its final week and won’t get to participate in the farewell activities.
It’s been announced during the week that the cinema will finish with a bunch of classic screenings between May 29 and June 5. They’re showing one great film for each decade that the cinema has been opened. They are…
1930s – A Night At The Opera – Sat, May 29
1940s – Casablanca – Sun, May 30
1950s – The African Queen – Mon, May 31
1960s – West Side Story – Tue, Jun 1
1970s – Manhattan – Wed, Jun 2
1980s – ET – Thu, Jun 3
1990s – Titanic – Fri, Jun 4
2000s – The Return Of The King – Sat, Jun 5
Now let me just say that if I was in Brisbane, I would be at every one of those screenings. What an AMAZING list of films. I urge as many Film Pie fans to check these out.
You can book online at www.eventcinemas.com.au or from the box-office itself.
I’ll be doing my own tribute piece on the Regent in three weeks.