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MOSTLY FILM: The Hometown Trilogy

'Don't you have any arthouse films?' The scene in Unknown Pleasures that ties the whole trilogy together, sort of.I've been writing for Mostly Film again. The latest thing I've done for them is a review of Jia Zhang-Ke's The Hometown Trilogy, which has just been released by Artificial Eye on DVD. (It's also apparently out on video-on-demand, but I haven't been able as yet to find out where you can watch it: I would imagine Curzon On Demand might have it eventually, though.)

As you can deduce from the opening paragraph of the piece, Jia Zhang-Ke has been previously mentioned in these pages three times (and yes, I realise I screwed up the spelling in one of them, but I can't be arsed going back and fixing it right now). I saw him in 2000 in a London Film Festival discussion entitled Go East (along with another director who would go on to huge things, the Korean Bong Joon-Ho), and in subsequent festivals I've watched his films The World and I Wish I Knew. Writing this review was a nice opportunity to catch up on his earlier movies. If you're wondering whether you'd like to do the same, here's the usual backup feature that I like to supply alongside my articles for Europe's Best Website.

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Simian Substitute Site For November 2012: Lopburi Monkey Festival


Books: When my copy of Steve Berry's book Behind The Sofa plopped through my letterbox the other day, it took me a while to remember when I ordered it. (This amused The Belated Birthday Girl enormously, as it's a charity book raising money for Alzheimer's Research. She said it, not me.) It turns out that the original purchase was made back in March, when Berry announced his plan to self-publish a book of celebrity memories of Doctor Who, and asked people to pre-order it directly from him half a year in advance, to help him raise the money to print it. A fine cause, and I duly PayPalled him the fifteen quid: whereupon PayPal chose to shut his account down, because (and I'm reading between the lines here) they're subhuman filth. After two days worth of continuous kicking from all quarters of the internet, PayPal eventually released his funds again, but to this day I'm still rather reluctant to use them for any payments if an alternative method is possible. Nevertheless, after all the ups and downs, the book is finally out, and it's rather lovely. By its nature it's an episodic affair (and would therefore be a fine addition to any toilet bookshelf), but Berry has managed to get some comic mileage out of the sequencing of these short pieces. So, for example, Richard Herring's preference for Elisabeth Sladen over "that slattern Katy Manning" sits directly across the page from the erstwhile Jo Grant's own article. Entertaining book, delightful illustrations, great cause, buy now.

Movies: October was a somewhat film-heavy month, as it usually tends to be. And somehow, it always feels weird when the LFF ends, and a few days later I'm back at the cinema seeing regular stuff. But how could I turn down the opening weekend of Skyfall? After the much-needed reboot of the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale, it seemed like Quantum Of Solace was a messy step backwards, with its garbled plot and scrappily-edited action. Skyfall has definitely put the series back on track again, although I'm attracted to the theory that it's more of a film about the idea of James Bond than a 'James Bond film' in its own right. Part of that may be down to the surprisingly large proportion of the story that takes place in the UK, as if Sam Mendes has been taking advice from those Government adverts about how we should all go on staycations this year. Not to mention all the little variations on characters and situations we already know and love - I'm not complaining about Ben Whishaw as the new Q, but I'd like to see them go the whole way down the nerd route and cast Richard Ayoade next time. Still, Skyfall hangs together a lot better than its predecessor, and most of its setpieces do all the stuff you want a Bond movie to do, including some great old-fashioned not-CGI explosions at the climax. You could argue that a lot of the 50th birthday in-jokes and references are just fan service: but I think it's excusable in this instance. When you're James Bond, the world is your fanboy.

Telly: Well, I say telly, but it's hard to decide what category a UK fan of Breaking Bad should use. Sure, the first two seasons were shown on TV here, all the way up to a ballsy season finale that convinced me we were in the presence of great television. The Belated Birthday Girl, however, would have you believe that this was the point where the show jumped the shark. It would appear that every network in the UK agrees with her, because it's never been shown on TV since, and seasons 3 and 4 have only been available on DVD years after their original US transmission. I've only just caught up with last year's season 4 on disc, and I'm itching for more, but without the inconvenience of piracy. So hooray for Netflix, who have been looking for fiendish ways to lure punters into their online movie and TV service, and have come up with a brilliant one: they're streaming Season 5 of Breaking Bad, just weeks after its US screening, and ages before the DVD release. They've convinced me to sign up - after all, the first month's free, so I could just watch BB for nothing and scarper immediately afterwards. But I may hang around for a bit and see what else they have to offer. Such as, in February 2013, the US remake of our very own House Of Cards, produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey in Ian Richardson's old role. A terrible idea? You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment...

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