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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec



It's not often that Triple P actually goes to a cinema to see a film but we did manage to persuade Agent DVD to accompany us to see Luc Besson's Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adele Blanc-Sec the other week.  We thought we were on strong ground as Agent DVD does like a French film. 




Triple P had been intrigued by the poster  for the film, on the London Underground, as it featured several things bound to pique his interest: namely the pyramids, a pterodactyl, a dinosaur skeleton and an attractive young lady in a fetching straw hat.  Even before we had found out anything about it the poster alone would probably have got us along to see it!



When we discovered it was the first major film to be directed by Luc Besson for some time we knew that we had to see it.  We have seen a  number of his films and although many are flawed he has a wonderful visual sense which is most important for Triple P.  We are just not interested in seeing a film that could equally as well have been shot for TV (i.e. most of them) so we do like something with that extra bit of visual flair. 


Besson directs Adele Blanc-Sec


We first came across him when we went to see Subway (1985) which also had a great soundtrack by Eric Serra, a regular collaborator.  We have also enjoyed to varying degrees La Femme Nikita (1990), The Fifth Element (1997) and Joan of Arc (1999).  We have not seen Leon (1994) as it does not appeal, but we know Agent DVD rates it.




We knew we were going to enjoy it from the minute that Serra's marvellous "Egyptian" music started up over credits appearing as if on wall of an Egyptian tomb. 




If one had to design a film for Triple P it would be hard to better the constituent elements of Adele Blanc-Sec: pre-WW1 Paris, Pyramids, Egyptian tombs, mummies, a pterodactyl, a can-can scene, a big game hunter, a natural history museum, a beautiful heroine, a gratuitous bath scene and even a classic ocean liner.  Perfect!



We are not going to go into the somewhat convulted plot but part of the latter can be explained by the fact that this was based on not just one but two seperate bande dessinées by Jacques Tardi featuring his heroine Adele Blanc-Sec.  Besson is a big fan of the original graphic novels and some of the scenes in the film recreate the look of the scenes and characters  extremely closely.





We have a complex prelude which introduces some of the main characters and gives us our Can-Can scene as well, in a beautifully realised pre Great War Paris. 




The exterior shots are very convincing and done panoramically.  When filming period productions in London it is necessary, on the whole, to shoot very tightly, concentrating, for example, on just a couple of houses, which leads to a rather claustrophobic feeling.



The centre of Paris still has great swathes that are free of modern buildings enabling a much broader panoramic effect with any modern elements beeing able to be tidied up with CGI.



Even more wonderful than the exterior shots are the interior ones and the period set dressing is a wonder to behold.



The location shooting in Egypt is excellent but it always amazes Triple P how film makers manage to show the pyramids as if they still sat in splendid isolation in the middle of the desert when they are, in fact, increasingly surrounded by modern elements. We wonder whether the Egyptian government tries to preserve at least one unspoilt view, rather like London tries to do with St Paul's Cathedral.






Overall the film was well received but had a horribly limited release in the UK.  When Agent DVD and Triple P went to see it it was showing in just four cinemas in the UK.  This is a shame as Besson has said that he would like to make a sequel "if there was enough interest".






One element that some of the critics picked on was that the CGI was not up to Hollywood standards.  Triple P would admit that a few shots were less good but frankly there are lot of big movies where the visuals are obviously CGI (even The Lord of the Rings had some very dodgy shots).  We thought the red pterodactyl (we wondered about the colour choice until we saw the graphic novel) was very well realised, for example.









The film stands and falls, however, on the protrayal of Adele Blanc-Sec herself, as she is on screen for much of the time.  Fans of the original bande dessinées were initially unhappy with the selection of Louise Bourgoin as being far too pretty to play the rather mousy Adele.






Bourgoin isn't pretty in this film, however, she is absolutely gorgeous.  Dressed in the most wonderful period outfits and possibly the greatest selection of hats seen in a film since My Fair Lady, she looks sensational.








She not only looks fabulous but she nails the character and delivers a performance which, we suspect, will take her on to bigger and better things.  Not very long ago she was just a TV weathergirl!






Several other critics have mentioned the gratuitous bath scene but, in fact, it is straight from the pages of the original graphic novel and therefore can't possibly be gratuitous!  Anyway, if Triple P was directing a film with Louise in it we would absolutely ensure we got her into a bath!





Louise was born in November 1981 in Brittany.  Her real name is Arianne but she adoped the name Louise because a presenter on the TV show she joined as weathergirl was also called Arianne.  Her performance in La fille de Monaco (2008) got her a nomination as most promising actress in the French César awards (equivalent of the Oscars).


Mlle Bourgoin in modern dress


To help publicise Adele Blanc-Sec Louise did a photo shoot for French Elle's April 2010 issue where she was dressed up as characters from other Luc Besson films to agreeable effect.


Louise as Leeloo from The Fifth Element from Elle 2010


Louise as Nikita


So, a thoroughly enjoyable (if totally silly) film and we hope that there is a UK DVD released before too long. It has come out on DVD in France but with no English subtitles, as is usual with the French. There is also an Asian version but this may be cut. We will have to keep an eye open for Mlle Bourgoin in any other films!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Playboy Club picked up by NBC for the autumn

Amber Heard makes a very pleasing Bunny indeed


Well, much to Triple P's surprise, the Playboy TV series we reported on in February has been picked up by NBC for the autumn season.  The title of the series has changed once more from Bunny Tales, to Playboy and now is being called The Playboy Club.


Amber Heard, Naturi Naughton and Leah Renee looking the part on set


Added to the cast since our last report is 25 year old Canadian actress/singer/songwriter Leah Renee.  Despite her young age, Toronto born Leah, has been in showbusiness for twenty years, doing cartoon voiceovers (she played a beaver, inevitably) and her first TV acting at 10. 


Leah Renee


She started taking singing lessons at the age of thirteen and her first single came out in 2009. There was talk of a follow up album at the time but there is no sign of it anywhere on the internet, which is probably why she has dumped her previously wholseome image for a cottontail.


Amber Heard and Laura Benanti


The show will go out on network TV which means no nudity (why are Americans so funny about this?) but, apparently, the cast, in an unprecented move for a network show, has been asked to sign a nudity clause, with nude scenes being expected for international editions and/or DVD. How you can make a show about Playboy and not have any nudity? It's like making a series about a restaurant and not showing any food.

We shall continue to follow developments closely!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cheryl Cole back in Britain


Cheryl sinks her US career with the worst look of the year


Poor Cheryl (who used to live a few streets away from Agent Triple P) has been unceremoniously kicked out of the new American X-Factor before it has even begun.  Well, not according to "sources close to the singer" who claim that she was just homesick for the rolling hills of Surrey (probably not for her council estate in Noocassle).  I suppose "homesick" is equivalent to saying that you are leaving a job to "pursue other interests".  A lot of publicists and agents are no doubt slaving away at present for a mutually acceptable form of words (which probably means that we will never know if the real reason for her departure was really the fact that Americans wouldn't be able to understand her Geordie accent (whcih actually isn't that thick).

X Factor in the UK wants her back, of course, but there are rumours that she is not happy with Simon Cowell.  Hmm, Simon Cowell takes someone on and then drops them like a hot potato when their popularity dips a little bit.  It all sounds very familiar, especially to most of the previous X Factor winners.


The recently published  Lonely Planet guide to the UK said that we were obsessed with celebrity news.  Surely not?


Reaction in the UK has shown an upsurge of support for America as a result, with the comments sections of internet news services full of people praising the Americans for their sound judgement.  Not since President Bush called the French "cheese eating surrender monkeys" has the US been so popular over here.

Will she be welcomed back to Britain or has showing her true little miss diva side and trying to abandon this green and pleasant land meant that the the position of the nation's sweetheart is now vacant? 

Maybe she could get a job as a lavatory assistant in a Guildford nightclub?

Agent Triple P's advice to Cheryl would be to reconsider Playboy's offer!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Week's Films: 5

A very mixed bag this week but we did get four films watched and only purchased one (well, and the TV series Spartacus: Blood and Sand but we are a third of the way through that already).

The Belles of St Trinian's (1954)




The story

Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim- brilliant), the headmistress of St Trinian's, a school for notoriously badly behaved young ladies, gambles on winning enough money on the horses to get the school out of debt.  Her shady brother (Sim in a dual part) thinks he can help.
Seen it before?

A Saturday afternoon staple from Triple P's childhood, although we probably haven't actually seen it since the mid-seventies.



Any good?

Yes, but probably more from enjoying some classic British character actors (Sim, Grenfell, Baddely, Cole, Wattis, Handl, Reid) effortlessly being put through their paces than any real laugh out loud comedy (although any parts with Sim in are usually good).  Oh, and did we mention a lot of rather mature girls in short gymslips wearing stockings? 

Notable for...

Sim's wonderful double role as brother and sister.  Joyce Grenfell defining the jolly hockey sticks school teacher.  Classical composer Malcolm Arnold's jaunty incidental music.


Belinda Lee: ripe for a spot of detention.  Actually, just ripe...


Any good girlies?

Not quite as totty heavy as some of the later sequels but we must mention the splendid Belinda Lee as one of the naughty sixth formers. Lee was nineteen when the film was made but sadly died in a car crash in California just six years later.

The Scorpion King (2002)


Got mine in Canada, eh?


The story

The man who would become the Scorpion King, villain of The Mummy Returns (2001), seeks revenge against an evil king who is using power gained from a sorceress to conquer the world.

Seen it before?

Yes, definitely with Agent DVD, but probably not at the cinema.




Any good?

For sub-Conan sword and sorcery it's actually quite fun and wrestler Dwayne Johnson performs pretty well.  Reasonably competent effects, a feisty heroine, nice art direction and a harem scene!  What more could you want from this genre?

Notable for...

A quite horrible, but bizarrely popular rock score.  Being a spin-off prequel to a sequel of a re-make.


Wizard outfit


Any good girlies?

The luscious Kelly Hu is more than adequate as the sorceress, in every possible way.  She wears some entertaining little outfits as well.  Some harem girls too!


Evolution (2001)




The story

Two college professors, a trainee fireman and a lady government scientist try to contain an outbreak of creatures evolving from organisms brought to earth on a meteorite.

Seen it before?

We think we have seen half of it before but we gave up on it.

Any good?

It was OK as comedy alien invasion films go.  Directed by Ivan Reitman it couldn't replicate the success of his earlier Ghostbusters (1986) and the film only made back less than half its budget. David (X Files) Duchovny was rather good.




Notable for...

Some quite good creatures and a weird product placement for Head and Shoulders shampoo.



Any good girlies?

Although we like a redhead we thought that Julianne Moore lacked any sort of sex appeal whatsoever.  Sigourney Weaver she is not.


Emanuelle Nera (1975)




The story

Photographer Emanuelle (only one "m" to avoid possible legal problems fom the makers of the original films) travels to Africa to take pictures and ends up having sex with a lot of badly dubbed people. 

Seen it before?

No, it was a present from Triple P's German friend B who sent it to us a week or so ago.

Any good?

An odd one, this.  This was the first in a whole series of films starring Gemser as "black" Emanuelle.  Although she is quite obviously Asian everyone discusses her as if she had black African heritage.  Strange! The location shooting is excellent but the English dubbing is terrible especially when very Italian looking actors are dubbed with very British voices.  Most of the sex scenes are unsatisfactory as well with hardly any convincingly enacted passion. Karin Schubert's eye rolling perfomance in the petrol station being particularly dreadful.  Gemser admitted she found scenes with girls really difficult and it shows.  She is better when she has to engage in  fake masturbating (as she does quite a bit).   Additional hardcore inserts which had to be included for certain markets (like Germany) are so obviously shot using different actors (finding a double for a body as exceptional as Gemser's was always going to be a challenge) that they destroy any eroticism a scene might have had.  Gemser is also rubbish at using a camera and makes a totally unconvincing photographer.  Makes the original Emmanuelle films look like masterpieces. 


Dressed or undressed Gemser always looks stunning


Notable for...

Being shot on location in Kenya. Turning Indonesian model Laura Gemser in to a softcore superstar (she had appeared briefly as a masseuse in the original Emmanuelle 2).  Some hilarious phallic symbolism involving a petrol pump nozzle whilst one of the characters (played by Swedish actress Karin Schubert) bangs the African petrol station attendant and some steam engine pistons when Emanuelle takes on an entire hockey team on a train.


Gemser doesn't ask Schubert for the name of her hairdresser


Any good girlies?

Karin Schubert is handicapped by having a really unsexy haircut. Isabelle Marchall's (on the DVD cover with Gemser) scene with Gemser seems cut short just when it was looking interesting.  It's all about Gemser really who is naked for pretty much most of the film.  She looks absolutely amazing and, as an added bonus, has a lovely smile.

Another selection next week!