Alan Rickman 1946 – 2016

Alan Rickman

21st February 1946 – 14th January 2016

“If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.”

Die Hard and Attack the Block Double Bill or How to Survive Somerset House

On Saturday night we headed down to Somerset House for the first time to experience one of London’s most popular and unique film-viewing events: Film4’s Summer Screen with a double bill of Die Hard and Attack the Block on the cards.

We were reasonably early and so got a good spot in the beautifully roped off Guest area, allowing plenty of time for drinking cider, buying pick and mix, eating nuts and people-watching. Sitting on thin blankets was surprisingly comfortable, though the ankles suffered the most on the hard stone floor.

At half seven Alan Rickman was revealed and the relaxed crowd went wild. Gradually the cheering crowd got to their feet and applauded the great man. While I know his performance as Hans Gruber is incredibly popular, I’d like to think I wasn’t alone in giving Snape a personal standing ovation. After a few remarks on how young we all looked (what a charmer), how Die Hard was his first film and he had to do the fall without CGI, we were on to the first film.

Die Hard was as fantastic as ever and two of the fastest hours I’ve experienced. Sound and picture were perfect, something I was surprised at considering I was sitting in the courtyard of a neoclassical building. There were plenty of cheers and laughs throughout the film and a few heckles at appropriate moments. With everyone gradually moving from sitting to lying down it became one big outdoor sleepover, lovely. Unfortunately we hadn’t claimed a long enough plot, and were stuck in an awkward lying position, trying not to kick the people in front, or rest our heads in the laps of those behind.

After Die Hard there was a brief interval during which a small proportion of the audience bailed, before Joe Cornish came on to introduce his debut feature. As a veteran of the Summer Screen, Cornish seemed really excited to have his feature shown at Somerset House. One by one he was joined by a huge number of the cast who each got a quick go on the mike. Their messages to the audience varied greatly, from, “Anybody wanna play Fifa?” to “FUCK!” An adorable bunch.

With the people behind us having deserted the area we could enjoy Attack the Block exactly as was intended, flat on our backs, this time under our blankets, in a Grade I listed building. The film was just as brilliant as before, though I found I couldn’t really forgive the kids this time, despite them sitting mere metres away. Jodie Whittaker’s friends went mental for her during the closing credits, Summer Screen definitely provides a unique experience.

Stumbling home at 1:30am we were a happy bunch, though had learnt a few valuable lesson which we can implement when we return as a larger group for Princess Bride next Sunday:

1. Arrive Early: To get the best spot you want to arrive way before the film starts. Don’t complain about having to wait hours for the film to start, you’re with your friends in a beautiful setting and there’s a bar. Shut up and enjoy yourself.

2. Claim a Space as Long as Your Body: At some point during the film you will want to lie down and if you haven’t marked your territory properly this will be difficult and slightly uncomfortable. You have been warned.

3. Bring a Picnic: You can buy wraps, brownies and the traditional popcorn or pick and mix on site, but bringing an impressive spread will help wile away the hours before the film starts and stave of food envy when your better-prepared neighbours are spreading humus on brioche.

4. Pack Layers: It may be a glorious summer’s day but you are sitting still on cold stone flooring so will get gradually colder and colder. This goes double for anyone going to the triple bill on Saturday night. Nobody should die for the love of cinema.

5. Bring Lots of Cushions etc: A blanket to sit on and mark out territory is essential but so is a big, soft cushion. It will keep your ankles from agony when cross-legged and lift your head into the prime angle for film viewing when lying down.

Follow these five tips and you too can have a memorable and unique evening at the Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. You won’t get Joe Cornish and Alan Rickman though, sucks to be you.

The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Adults

While the younger cast of the Harry Potter series may well have been works in progress, the adult roles were filled with pretty much every working actor in Britain with a familiar face. It was these actors who initially kept us coming back for more, without whom we may never have learnt to love the boy wizard and his chums. Below we run through our top fifteen of the adult performances across the eight films in alphabetical order. We tried to whittle it down with no success.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Alan Rickman as Severus SnapeWe start with an actor whose performance has ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often in the same film. As Harry’s most consistent antagonist Snape offered up an ambiguous character, often seeming to be more evil that he was. What makes Rickman’s performance legendary are his epic pauses and dangerously slow delivery, as if trying to get as much screen time as his brief dialogue will allow. In the final film Rickman delivers both his slowest speech and his most moving performance. There are few better in this list.

David Bradley as Argus Filch
David Bradley as Argus FilchIt’s hard to believe that in the earlier films the major danger was being caught out of bed by Filch, a far cry from the fantastical battles the franchise concludes with. While often a menace to our heroes, Filch was ultimately a fun character bringing two of the biggest laughs in the finale and a warm nostalgic feeling with them.
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The Harry Potter Retrospective – The Films

You may remember that last month we spent two nights at the BFI IMAX watching all seven Harry Potter films over the course of two nights. (Thanks BFI IMAX!) We finished our journey through the franchise on Monday night as we watched and scored Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. What follows is a run down of all eight films, written using the increasingly brief and incoherent notes we made at the time. Spoilers lie ahead.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
philosophers stone

In which Harry Potter learns he is a wizard, goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and defeats a teacher harbouring the evil wizard Voldemort at the back of his head.

We start the franchise with an over-long film with terrible acting, odd prosthetics and scenes bordering on pantomime. From the initial scenes with the Dursleys playing out as a knockabout comedy to the final showdown in which a man completely disintegrates, Christopher Columbus produced a completely uneven film which relies mostly on reaction shots for laughs. Horrible acting from the kids is made up for by sheer cuteness and ultimately the film is a bit better than you remember. 6/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
chamber of secrets

The series continues with Harry hearing voices and writing in a diary which writes back. Turns out that pesky diary was Voldemort again.

As the kids seem to have experienced a growth spurt since the previous film they are less cute and their acting has improved slightly to compensate. Early scenes at the Burrows with the Weasley parents are great but even Julie Walters can’t make exposition work properly. Jason Isaacs and Kenneth Branagh are pretty awesome but Christopher Columbus again fails to make anything remarkable happen. With students being attacked (but surviving) the series begins its journey into becoming “dark”. 6.5/10
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Review

For the past three hours I have actively avoided writing this review, struggling to stay objective and discuss the film as if it were any other. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 could have been just another children’s fantasy adventure, yet another sequel and an adaptation of a previous work, but subjective sentiment and a decade of fandom aside, this is one hell of a film.
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