As if I hadn’t already placed Australian actress Essie Davis on a pedestal awhile back after our brief Q&A preceding the premiere of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, along comes what could perhaps be the best horror flick to come out since William Friedkin’s The Exorcist back in 1973. If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook! For Essie Davis fans, The Babadook is definitely not your father’s Miss Fisher.
Essie Davis (a.k.a. Miss Phryne Fisher) plays single mother Amelia, a caretaker to the elderly, who lives in an Australian town in a ramshackle, spooky house with her six year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Her husband Oskar died six years earlier, in a car accident, on the day his son was born. When a children’s book turns up, introducing the monster The Babadook, Samuel is scared- the monster is said to enter a house when invited, knocking on the door three timesand calling “dook-dook-dook!”, and never leaves.
The film, which plays to everyone’s childhood fear of the boogeyman and are scarily documented in a children’s book Mister Babadook which mysteriously appears in Amelia and Samuel’s lives, has received stellar reviews ever since its January 2014 premiere at Sundance including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Indiewire. It has won eight international film awards out to ten nominations and has been released in both Australia and France so far. The film is set for a 24 October premiere in the UK and a November 28 premiere in the U.S.
Looks like it’s time to sleep with the light on beginning November 29.
It’s hard to believe that, after only three series, Scott & Bailey was one of the early adopters of the concept of featuring strong female police officers. The series was pretty much the lone-wolf on the telly when it came to showcasing strong female characters in roles that were more complicated and had substance. It now seems to be much more commonplace given the recent performances of Keeley Hawes and Vicky McClure in Line of Duty, Gillian Anderson in The Fall and Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley. Based on an original idea by Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay, who plays Rachel’s sister Alison in the drama, Scott & Bailey follows two female detectives who are part of the Major Incident Team (i.e. murder investigation, etc.) in Manchester.
Jones and Lesley Sharp will reprise their roles as Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott in series 4 with the always brilliant Amelia Bullmore not only returning as DCI Gill Murray but, given co-creator Sally Wainwright’s increased workload (Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley), will also take over lead writer duties for series four. Bullmore admits to having taken a deep intake of breath when she watched series one of Wainwright’s other creation, Happy Valley.
“I watched it and thought, ‘God, look at that! Are we just sort of trotting around the car park here with Scott & Bailey?’” says Bullmore. “It was so intense and extreme. It was like Mummy suddenly had a Latin lover! But you have to hold your nerve. They are very different shows and Sally Wainwright made some really sound choices when she gave birth to Scott & Bailey all those years ago. So you just have to hang on to your hat.”
While cast and crew remain tight-lipped about what will transpire following the rocky end to series 3 and the relationship between the two main characters, Sharp did reveal that while her character Janet Scott will be in competition with colleague Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) for a sergeant’s post, “…the competitiveness will not lead to a fresh bust-up”. Scott & Bailey returns on Wednesday, September 10 at 9:00pm on ITV. The series will return in early 2015 on public television stations in the States.
THE IMITATION GAME with Benedict Cumberbatch staring as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII, is set to hit theaters in both the US and the UK this November. Following WWII, Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal at the time.
The film, which also stars Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, the English cryptanalyst who also worked as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II, takes a close-up look at the race against time by Turing and his team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) known as Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. The ‘team of code-breakers’ were comprised of a motley group of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers with a powerful ally in Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It was Churchill who authorized the provision of any resource they required.
The film spans the key periods of Turing’s life: his unhappy teenage years at boarding school; the triumph of his secret wartime work on the revolutionary electro-mechanical bombe that was capable of breaking 3,000 Enigma-generated naval codes a day; and the tragedy of his post-war decline following his conviction for gross indecency, a now-outdated criminal offence stemming from his admission of maintaining a homosexual relationship.
In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated” and, on 24 December, 2013, The Queen granted him a posthumous pardon.
Being part of a mega-hit telly series is not all ‘lunch in LA, dinner in NY followed by theatre in the West End’, contrary to popular belief. Double-digit hour days are more the norm than the exception. In the case of Downton Abbey, filming a season’s batch of nine episodes takes about six months (March-August). No matter the series, cast and, sometimes, crew find very creative ways to pass the time between takes courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.
Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) cites the popular English whodunit parlor game, Wink Murder, as just one of the methods used by the cast to pass the time during 11-hour days on set. “Playing Wink Murder — that helps at dining room table scenes,” says Michelle Dockery. Lady Mary goes on to burst everyone’s bubble in the glitz and glamor category’ by revealing another time-passing secret, “There’s also the movie game. Someone names a film and you name an actor in that film, and it passes on. It’s great fun when we’re all here together.”
While about a third of the series is filmed at Highclere, with the “downstairs” and bedroom scenes shot at London’s Ealing Studios, footmen Kevin Doyle and Rob James-Collier and butler Jim Carter arguably nave the longest hours of the cast, appearing in scenes upstairs with the Crawleys and downstairs with the staff. “At the moment, it’s just me here because my staff, Mrs. Hughes [Phyllis Logan], Mrs. Patmore [Lesley Nicol], Anna [Joanne Froggatt] and Daisy [Sophie McShera] all have days off,” jokes Carter.
While Dame Maggie Smith and Elizabeth McGovern will sit quietly, playing the word game Bananagrams in the Highclere library to pass the time before “action” is called, Michelle Dockery takes the opportunity to return to the 21st Century for a few ‘what is going on in the world’ reality checks before having to return to the 1920′s.
Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) takes advantage of every ‘down’ moment on set by trying to take care of business. “I’m trying to order some flowers, but you can’t get a 3G signal in here!” laughs Carmichael, 27. Here, she longingly holds up her iPhone in Highclere’s lavish drawing room just praying for even a hit of two bars.
So, when you sit down to watch the premiere of Downton Abbey either on 21 Sept, 2014 in the UK or Jan 4, 2015 in the States, know that it’s not always all moonlit nights and a bed of roses for cast and crew as they film your favorite British period drama. It’s pretty much a case of hurry up and wait most of the time.
Next to the Thrilla in Manilla in 1975 which featured the third and final meeting between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, Planet Earth has not had a day like this that they have been waiting for for almost 40 years.
While America, unfortunately, still needs to tap the breaks and continue to keep their finger on the ‘pause’ button while they await the January 4, 2015 PBS premiere of series 5 of Downton Abbey, there is joy in UK Mudville now that ITV has announced the transmission date for the premiere. Let the countdown begin to 21 September 2014 – a day that will forever be known as Downton Day 2014. What should cause excitement across Downton Abbey Nation no matter where you hang your hat is the fact that with ITV’s announcement comes the release of their first trailer for the premiere!
As you can see, while Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Hugh Bonneville, Joanne Froggatt, Elizabeth McGovern, Rob James-Collier, Brendan Coyle, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Lily James, Sophie Mcshera and Tom Cullen all return for series 5, there will also be a few welcome newcomers to Downton with the arrival of Richard E Grant and Anna Chancellor.
From the looks of things, series 5 will be drama, drama and…more drama. Al Jolson must not have been watching Downton Abbey when he spoke the first line that was ever ‘heard’ by the silent movie-going audience of the day which was “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet! otherwise, he would have definitely changed it to “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Looks like it’s going to be a good one. Must be the year of the fire what with Southfork burning on Dallas and all.
Unfortunately for William Hartnell and Matt Smith and all Doctors in-between, Daleks have been perceived (by themselves, mostly) as the supreme race in the universe with the sole purpose of universal domination and extermination. Their desire to purge the Universe of all non-Dalek life has solidified their place in Time Lord history as the all-time greatest enemy of the Doctor. In 2010, readers of science fiction magazine SFX voted the Dalek as the all-time greatest monster, beating out competition that included the Japanese movie monster, Godzilla.
But, are they simply a misunderstood race of tank-like cyborgs who just happen to have had every emotion removed except hate? It’s doubtful that the newest Doctor, Peter Capaldi, will feel this way after last night’s second episode, “Into the Daleks”, but maybe if he could just see his greatest enemy outside of their element, he might change his mind. You decide…
The Daleks sing Gilbert & Sullivan
A Dalek in Love
A Very Dalek Christmas
The Daleks – Come Fly With Me
Following their recent Emmy wins for their brilliant performances in Sherlock, my guess is that there were more than a few folks on Planet Earth that wondered, even for the briefest of moments, how lucky both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were to win given this was their first role. How wrong they were. As most of the world knows, both are wildly successful and incredibly good at what they do. Their respective performances were the result of a number of years of study and practice.
For Martin Freeman, there were years of guest roles in series such as The Bill, Casualty and Black Books and countless TV and radio shows and theatre work. Freeman’s big break came in 2001 as Tim Cantebury in Ricky Gervais’ The Office. Following three series in sales for the Slough branch of the Wernham Hogg Paper Company, Freeman starred in Hardware, written and directed by Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly), which followed the daily wisecrack battle between store staff and packs of DIY obsessed clients.
Martin Freeman in Hardware
Benedict Cumberbatch’s career path to his 2014 Emmy win has deep roots in regional theatre. Like his Sherlock co-star, his CV also features numerous guest roles on the small screen including Heartbeat, Spooks and Silent Witness and followed by signature roles that really brought to life his training as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art where he graduated with an MA in Classical Acting.
Roles like his critically-acclaimed 2004 performance as Steven Hawking in Hawking which focused on his early years as a PhD student at Cambridge University, followed his search for the beginning of time through his struggle against motor neuron disease. There was even a gap year where he volunteered as an English teacher at a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling, India. Cumberbatch’s earliest series role came in 2003 opposite Hugh Laurie, Anna Chancellor and the Twelfth Doctor, himself, Peter Capaldi. The pre-House Laurie starred as a doctor facing a mid-life crisis with Cumberbatch as Rory, Laurie’s oldest son and student at the University of Reigate.
Benedict Cumberbatch in Fortysomething
For both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the rest, as they say, is history.
As members of Downton Abbey-Nation begin to make preparations for the start of series five (September in the UK, January 2015 in the States), there are those few that may not be aware that not all of what you see on the telly is actually filmed at Highclere Castle. For those that don’t necessarily want to know ‘how the sausage is made’ for fear of ruining the magic that is telly, do not click play on the video below. Ealing Studios, the television and film production company and facilities provider which is located approximately 60 miles from Highclere at Ealing Green in West London has been in the film and telly business since 1902, making it the oldest continuously working studio facility for film production in the world.
Much of Downton Abbey‘s downstairs sets are built, filmed and housed at the Ealing soundstages including the servants’ quarters and attic bedrooms scenes which are shown on stages 3A and 3B. Here’s quick look at how the kitchen set is constructed…
Probably the best take on the distance between Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios and the continuity issues this causes comes from the brilliant minds of Red Nose Day that stars Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Harry Enfield and Victoria Wood.
So, whether you watch in September or January think about how difficult it is for poor Thomas who might be filmed leaving the kitchen with a plate of food for upstairs and would then appear two weeks later in the dining room.
There is no explanation that would do justice to The League of Gentlemen, which was made up from the combined twisted mind palaces of Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Jeremy Dyson and Reece Shearsmith. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 20 years since we have visited the home of Edward and Tubbs Tattsyrup in the sleepy little town of Royston Vasey, the setting for the brilliant but darkest of dark comedies, The League of Gentlemen. That said, it’s probably a good thing that Papa Lazarou has not crossed our paths for that length of time.
While portions of the group have found ways to collaborate over the years beginning with Shearsmith and Pemberton’s brilliant Psychoville series (who needs Krusty the Klown when you have Mr. Jelly) and their recent collaboration of the anthology series Inside No.9 and then Shearsmith, Pemberton and Mark Gatiss appearing in the children’s sketch comedy show Horrible Histories, this would be the first attempt to ‘get the band back together’ given the extremely busy schedules of the three above plus off-screen writing partner Jeremy Dyson.
Speaking with the Radio Times, Shearsmith wasn’t promising a return to Royston Vasey but did say that a creative collaboration is in the works so one can always hold out hope for maybe a short detour to Ravenhill Hospital?
When one thinks of Downton Abbey, the names of Julian Fellowes, Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery immediately come to mind. Right up there are the likes of Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle and Jim Carter. Probably the one with the least visibility who should get much of the credit for making Downton Abbey as it appears on your home telly is the series historical adviser, Alastair Bruce.
While you may not be familiar with the name Alastair Bruce, you see his work every moment that Downton is on the air and, sometimes, you even see him as a ‘supporting artist’. In the first series, in 2010, Bruce played a butler for the Dower House, where Dame Maggie Smith lives as the Dowager Countess of Grantham. In the second series, Bruce was in the car beside the General visiting Downton Abbey during the First World War and then returned as a guest for the Downton shoot in that year’s Christmas Special. For series 3, in the Christmas special shot at Inveraray Castle in Scotland, Bruce was disguised with an incredibly itchy beard and acted as the river ghillie and stalker for the Duneagle Estate. And, in last year’s Christmas special, Bruce played the Lord Chamberlain to King George V in the scenes where Lady Rose is presented at Court.
As the individual that is in charge of both historical accuracy and etiquette on Downton Abbey, Bruce’s primary purpose is to make sure every period detail is correct, which means such things as being able to advise on the minutiae of early 20th century protocol, in such subjects as dress, posture, the serving of food and even on matters that might initially appear trivial, such as the use of vocabulary or the correct way to walk out of a car. It also should not be overlooked that every time the Downton Abbey credits roll, those are Alastair Bruce’s hands holding the ruler over the knives and forks on the table! How great is that!
Viewers can get an up close and personal look at the painstaking work of Alastair Bruce on the set of Downton Abbey when The Manners of Downton Abbey comes to PBS’ Masterpiece series on Sunday, January 4, 2015 at 8pET / 7pCT immediately preceding the season 5 premiere of that little drama series, we call, Downton Abbey. Set. DVR. Now.
The British Film Institute has found two lost episodes of the ITV comedy sketch classic, At Last the 1948 Show which starred comedy legends, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman. The find was made by Missing Believed Wiped coordinator, Dick Fiddy, when he was invited by family members to explore the personal archive collections of the late Sir David Frost who was executive producer on the show. Former Python John Cleese will present the two episodes, the first and last ever of the series, on loan from the Frost family, as part of Missing Believed Wiped, the BFI‘s annual celebration of recovered TV programs, on 7 December in London. The programs have not been seen since their original broadcast in 1967 on 15th February and 7th November and were contained on two reels of 16mm film which were filmed directly from a television screen.
The latest discovery of “lost” tapes is being dubbed a major find for fans of the early incarnations of surreal British television comedy which was hugely influential in the creation of Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969. At Last the 1948 Show is famous for containing the first use of the phrase “And now for something completely different” which became a Python catchphrase and for showcasing the first outing of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
Re-watching the material after some 47 years “…made me laugh a great deal“, admitted former Goodie member, Tim Brooke-Taylor. “I think the sketches would be shorter now, but I’m rather pleased with it. It was ground-breaking in a sense in that it was very silly. We were thinking, will we get away with it basically?”
Sadly, these sentiments were echoed by former Python members Terry Jones and Michael Palin last year when we asked both if anything resembling the likes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus could find its way to the small screen today. The universal answer was very doubtful. Like At Last the 1948 Show, Python was ground-breaking telly where all involved were just handed the keys to the comedy closet and told to make a funny show with no ‘suit’ looking over their shoulders.