The Friday Encourager: Ten reasons to see Cuckoo this week

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It’s Friday again and it’s time again for my recommendation for what you should watch this week. Truth be told, it’s actually Sunday when I’m posting this. Sadly I have been so busy this month that I couldn’t manage to write a post dedicated to Fridays on a Friday. I toyed for a while with the alliterative Sunday Supporter, but I eventually decided “my blog, my rules”, so I’m posting a Friday post on Sunday. I’m just that daring. (I also dunk digestives in my tea for over ten seconds at a time and I never wear a hat out in winter. Total rebel, me.)

At times like this, cinema is more of an escape than ever. There’s nothing better than huddling down in a warm cinema with the crowded masses to get away from those other crowded masses frantically flinging their last few pennies down the gaping throat of consumerism, and all in the name of Christmas. This week is a typical week in release schedules, with a big Hollywood blockbuster or two (Tron: Legacy, Burlesque) and a talked about indie (Catfish) all getting screens. But this week, I’m going to suggest something a little different for you, and here’s why you’d be mad not to give Cuckoo a chance.

1. I couldn’t wait until next Friday to tell you. Sadly we live in an age where opening weekends are everything, and where to get a film to stay in cinemas for more than a week before the latest Harry Potter swallows up all the screens is a challenge in itself. So the longer I wait, the less chance there is that you’ll actually be able to see it.

2. The director is a bitter man. At least that’s what we had to drink before the Q & A I hosted the other evening. I got the chance to talk to writer / director Richard Bracewell for over an hour, and what comes over instantly is his real passion for his work and thorough knowledge. That comes through on the screen, but it’s not forced down your throat in that overly referential way that so many movies fall into the trap of these days.

3. “We want the finest wines available to humanity! And we want them here, and we want them now!” Hopefully words familiar to any fan of Withnail and I, and there are many of us around. Richard E. Grant is one of those actors who instantly elevates the quality of anything he touches, and he gets to play a little against type here.

4. Tamsin Greig is a national treasure. REG is not the only big name in the cast. From Black Books through Green Wing to this year’s Tamara Drewe, Tamsin Greig is also fantastic and is one of the finer actresses to grace both small and big screen in both comedy and drama working at present.

5. Laura Fraser should be a national treasure. That’s not to say that all of the acting talent is wrapped up in the two most famous names. Heading the cast is Laura Fraser, who’s most recently been seen on our screens in BBC3’s Lip Service and who perfectly embodies the creeping paranoia at the core of the film. But there’s not a false note across the whole cast.

6. It’s a local film, but it’s not just for local people. Interiors filmed in a warehouse in Great Yarmouth? You wouldn’t know. The movie has a fantastically creepy edge, and this is helped not only by the well staged interiors but by the cinematography and the locations, which help to build the paranoia.

7. It shows how important sound is in the cinema. I’ve spent most of the past year attempting to explain to people why movies should be seen in the cinema, and this perfectly embodies that concept. For a film that relies on its use of sound to affect the characters actions and motivations, unless you have a top end home cinema you will do yourself a disservice. Andrew Hewitt’s score is also moodily effective.

8. It’s got an appalling score on Rotten Tomatoes. (Wait, what?) Which goes to show how utterly misleading these things can be sometimes. Cuckoo has gotten strong reviews from at least three major newspapers, two of which haven’t yet appeared on the site. It’s also struggled to make some weekly publications as the clutch of new releases this week means that it’s missed out in a few. It does go to show that you should base your viewing choices as least as much on your personal preferences as on the opinions of others.

9. It twists and turns like a twisty, turny thing. Like movies with twist endings? I count The Shawshank Redemption, The Empire Strikes Back and The Usual Suspects among my favourites, and theirs and others like them have an enduring popularity that shows we all love a twist. Cuckoo might not be in their league (sorry, Richard) but it does have a doozy of an ending that will get you to reconsider what’s gone before.

10. It’s keeping the British end up. I came to the realisation while talking to Richard that I’ve seen more French films this year than British ones, and that’s a shame. I’m not suggesting you should blindly go to watch any British movie (hint: check to see if Danny Dyer is in the cast first) but this one will be worth 90 minutes of your time if you’re willing to give it a go, and by doing so, hopefully you’ll help more British product find its way into our cinemas.

The Half Dozen: 6 Most Interesting Looking Movies for December

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Is is the end of another year already? I swore, after my attempts to watch 100 movies in the cinema in a calendar year two years ago, that I would never again scale such ridiculous heights of cinema addiction. 119 movies and counting this year, and every time I set foot in the cinema, that pointless personal milestone is edged ever further upwards, until the fateful day four weeks from now when the counter will reset to one again. I’m averaging about ten a month at the moment, so I’m guessing I’ll end up somewhere around the 130 mark – but what delights await me, and indeed all of us, in this final month of the year?

Well, first off is Monsters, which allows me to remind you of my self-imposed condition that any movie I’ve already seen doesn’t make this list. Well, I’ve already seen Monsters, I loved it (you can find it in my Best of 2010 list, link at the top of the page), and I hope you will too, but it has slightly Marmite tendencies. Well I love Marmite, and I loved Monsters.

Anyway, it’s out, and also not making the cut are a number of other big names: Jolie and Depp in The Tourist, which tonally lurches about through the trailer like someone trying to riverdance on a mountain bike; the third in both the Narnia and Fockers series, and given that I’ve had no interest in the first two of either, am not inclined to the third movements (and neither trailer had anything to convince me otherwise); the Christina Aguilera campfest Burlesque, where Xtina’s normal singing style, when she sounds as if she’s gargling meerkats, appears to be her one and only burlesque talent; and Love and Other Drugs, which has the positive of top Hollywood stars forgetting where they left their clothes but also Oliver Platt doing a bizarre Jack Black imitation. (Speaking of Jack Black, well, let’s not. Let’s just not. Please, let’s never speak of him, or the Swiftian grave-spinner that is Gulliver’s Travels, again.)

Most tragic of all is the omission of Of Gods And Men, the highly rated French movie, which isn’t included because there wasn’t a decent trailer on YouTube and I couldn’t get the other one I found to embed properly. Along such fickle lines the dance of fate takes place. Anyway, here are the six I was most taken by this month.

Rare Exports

I’m a sucker for a good Christmas movie. Frankly, who isn’t? I’m a bit of a walking Christmas dichotomy, though; on the one hand I’ll lap up traditional Christmas fare like It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, but on the other I need some Bad Santa in my life as well, and everyone of course knows that the best Christmas movie ever is Die Hard. (I’m not even joking.) Please be aware that, although this is a PG site, there is a rather naughty word at the end of the trailer. Hopefully it’s worth it.


I can remember an office trip to see Lost In Translation many years ago. Two of us were completely in love with the movie at the end, the other was totally disaffected. Such is the way of Sofia Coppola, and while her work can sometimes be incredible, this trailer seems to be a supreme attempt not to give anything away about the movie, other than it’s got Stephen Dorff in it, and Dakota Fanning’s sister looking so much like Chloe Moretz you wonder if there’s some odd Hollywood actress laboratory churning these girls out from their magnificent cloning machine. Still, it has an actual mumblecore soundtrack, and it couldn’t feel more classically “indie” if it tried.

The Shop Around The Corner

One of the highlights of my movie year was my trip to the BFI and Empire Movie-Con this summer, about which I blogged extensively. As I happen to be down in London for something else, I’ll be taking the opportunity to catch this while there, as I attempt to improve on my desperately poor knowledge of classic movies. Jimmy Stewart is also one of the finest actors of all time, so to pass up the opportunity to see him on the big screen would be a crime. Even the trailer is great – they absolutely don’t make ’em like this anymore, and that’s a shame. It’s so great to get away from our over-processed, fast food lives and luxuriate in something like this.


Here’s where the self interest ramps up a notch. It really wouldn’t take much convincing to get me to any movie with the legend that is REG (or Richard E. Grant as he is known otherwise) to it, and throw in Tamsin Greig, so great earlier this year in Tamara Drewe, and I’m there. As it turns out, when I am there, so will be the writer / director, Richard Bracewell, for one of my local cinemas, the Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St. Edmunds, is having a Q & A with Richard. Which I will be hosting. I will be astonished if that last sentence hasn’t prompted you to whip out the credit card and head to the booking site right now. Go on – we’ll wait for you.

There now follows a brief intermission to allow people to buy tickets.

Right. Done? Excellent. See you there.

TRON: Legacy

Another of my highlights of the year was my IMAX double bill of Toy Story 3 and Inception. The IMAX couldn’t be further removed from somewhere like the Abbeygate, with its comfy sofas on the back row in the cosy upstairs screen, but I love these different aspects of the cinema experience, and TRON is about as big as it gets. This will be my fourth visit to the IMAX this year, and if you’ve never been then there may never be a better time – TRON is what the IMAX experience is made for. Apparently, the beginning of the movie is in 2D, but they’ve brightened it up so you can carry on wearing the silly glasses before it gets to the fun stuff.


And we finish the year on the most intriguing movie of the selection. Part of the value of this is going in not knowing the outcome, so it’s a shame that I inadvertently read an article in the Guardian magazine the other weekend which has blown the whole thing. So whatever you do, don’t go and Google that article – stay as fresh as possible, for from what I know, it should be well worth it.