Leicester Square is finally a square again!

In the past few weeks I’ve been under the plague of an unstoppable force that extends across the breadth of the United Kingdom. That force is… EXAMS! That’s right, I’ve been sailing/storming/stalling through my GCSEs which will explain the lack of recent material on here. I’m working on it. Soon for the pleasure of your eyes you will be able to read about my exploits at an Indiana Jones marathon, perhaps indulge in my idea of a ‘classic movie’ (I haven’t done one of those in ages) or anything else which I see fit to post.

What I’m going to talk about now, however, is that place in London known as Leicester Square, home to about a thousand different cinemas and a pleasant, though small, greenery area. Well, that’s what it was like, until some educated chaps decided to board up the entire place for maintenance, turning what was previously known as a ‘square’ into an awkwardly-shaped cigarette smoke-laden mosh pit, forcing distributors to hold their premieres elsewhere (which nonetheless resulted in a truly memorable sight of Trafalgar Square populated by obsessed hormonal teenagers for the final Harry Potter). Having only discovered the Empire’s gargantuan Screen 1 and the cult delight of the Prince Charles Cinema relatively recently, I have more memories of being caught up in a cramped myriad of tourists, businessmen and cinemagoers than the original square itself. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that when I heard Leicester Square was re-opening this weekend, I hiked over as soon as I could.

Well, sort of a square.

Did my frenzied excitement pay off? Well, to an extent, yes. It was nice to be able to breathe for once whilst in the area and the trees looked very nice. But to my mind the construction workers that had halted movement for months didn’t really seem to, well… do much. There was the added addition of several vertical jet fountains which lapped around noisily, and a distracting tent feature, but were they necessary? Everyone who walked through the square seemed to do so without the slightest inkling that anything had occurred. Perhaps it’s my fractured memories of the old square fading ‘like tears in rain’ – rocking the Blade Runner reference there – but there seemed to be no developments which were really needed beforehand.

Yay. Fountains.

Never mind. I did enjoy some of the events that were going on, despite the fact that barely anyone was there. The renowned stuntman Vic Armstrong gave a very entertaining interview, talking about his escapades in doubling for Bond, Indiana Jones, Superman and countless other film characters. After that, two Empire Magazine reviewers, Ian Nathan and Ian Freer, gave a fascinating insight into their jobs in ‘Life of a Film Critic’, which included their hilarious revelation of “the better the sandwiches at a press screening, the worse the film”, as well as a trailer for the upcoming Hobbit movie. You can tell why that would appeal to me…

Vic Armstrong – one of the greatest stuntmen of all time.
Ian Nathan and Ian Freer

So, yes, it was a fun and dehydrating experience overall, and thankfully the London tube trains weren’t too exhaustive. I’ll be back in Leicester Square in a couple of weeks for the Indy Marathon (which thankfully excludes the fourth film) at the Prince Charles Cinema. In conclusion I have to say that despite my reservations with some of the developments it is truly fantastic for the square to be back, and I look forward to basking in its warmth in the years of cinemagoing to come.

No more barriers!

P.S. I have a new camera. Click on the images, they grow so much larger, it’s incredible…

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Review – The Muppets

Review – The Muppets

2011, 103 mins, U, Dir. James Bobin, starring Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper and The Muppets.

The Muppets

Everyone knows who their favourite Muppet is. In the February edition of Empire, dozens of celebrities gave their verdicts on the character that has most inspired them (mine is the Swedish chef). In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard a single thing about Jim Henson’s puppet creations. After the highly successful Muppet TV show in the 1970s, a number of films were produced, ranging from the surprisingly good (The Muppet Christmas Carol) to disappointing TV specials (The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz). Despite their continued popularity, the iconic creatures haven’t made their way onto the big screen since 1999.

But that’s all about to change. Hitting UK cinemas on Friday is their new film, simply titled “The Muppets“, a film that has received universal critical acclaim. And it’s not hard to see why. Their latest outing is stylistically quite different from all that has come before it. For one thing, it’s incredibly frenetic, almost as frenetic as Animal (although in the film he is living in a celebrity anger-management clinic) and the song and dance numbers have a wonderful feeling of spontaneity. No surprise there, as the film is directed by James Bobin, creator of Flight of the Conchords, who uses his absurd sense of humour to great effect. Bret Mackenzie, one of the conchords, also contributes by writing some songs for the film – “Man or Muppet” has now been nominated for an Oscar. The humour is intelligent and often self-referential, Fozzie Bear at one point exclaiming “Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! I can’t believe we had that in the budget.” 

The three (human) leads do a great job and Chris Cooper is hilarious as the (admittedly rather stereotypical) greedy oil magnate, especially when he randomly bursts into song halfway through and frequently demands “maniacal laughter” from his henchmen. The film is especially noteworthy for its vast range of celebrity cameos, harking back to the days of the Muppet Show, which saw the likes of Peter Sellers and Steve Martin as guest hosts. This time round, there are appearances from Jack Black (whom the Muppets kidnap in a kind of spoof Chinese martial-arts scene), Ken Jeong, Kristen Schaal (a lead character in the conchords show), Alan Arkin, Zack Galifianakis, Jim Parsons, Emily Blunt and numerous others. Elmo sadly doesn’t appear for legal reasons (although a documentary on his puppeteer, Being Elmo, was widely acclaimed recently). 

It is a real joy to see the Muppets back on top form. They are still as funny as ever, spurred on by Kermit’s neverending optimism (and Miss Piggy’s neverending vanity). The story isn’t quite as dazzling as its numbers but it’s conceptually very impressive. The freshness of this new offering is something to behold, and it certainly proves Bobin as one of the most creative directors around. It’s good to have you back, Kermit.

4 stars out of 5