Get to Know Jodie Whittaker in Four Hours or Less

Anyone not a fan of Wimbledon or Doctor Who may have missed the news that when Peter Capaldi regenerates at Christmas he will be taking the form of Jodie Whittaker. This news is particularly significant because this makes Whittaker the first woman to play the shape shifting, time travelling alien after a line of twelve men. This is either a major step forward or the biggest disaster since women thought they could bust ghosts depending on whether you pronounce it “feminism” or “feminazi”. I am not interested in debating that right now but will unapologetically eye-roll anyone arguing for the latter.

Fans of Broadchurch, the ITV crime drama created by Doctor Who‘s incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall, will recognise Whittaker as grieving mother Beth Latimer but she may be less known to some. In the following I highlight three other performances of hers that are easy to find online and don’t last for 24 episodes.

Attack the Block


Way back in 2011 I sat close to, but by no means with, Jodie Whittaker and her friends at a screening of Joe Cornish’s directorial debut Attack the Block at Somerset House the one year I managed to convince Film4 that I was a VIP.

Setting my bragging aside for a moment this film remains a great watch, particularly for anyone concerned about Whittaker’s alien battling skills. In Attack the Block Whittaker teams up with the young gang, led by a pre-fame John Boyega, who have mugged her to tackle an alien invasion on a South London estate. The film is a lot of fun and Whittaker is the audience’s emotional route through proceedings. And what is more Doctor Who than fighting aliens in London?

Attack the Block is available to stream on Amazon Instant Video.

Black Mirror – The Entire History of You

Finishing off the startling good first series of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is this dark tale of obsession, jealousy, and tech. Like Doctor Who this series works best when it uses science fiction to explore very human ideas.

In The Entire History of You humans have an optional implant in their brains that allows them to record their every waking moment. Naturally this leaves people obsessing over every small detail of their day and replaying innocuous moments looking for deeper meaning. This particular episode is one of Black Mirror‘s finest and the whole episode pivots on intense scrutiny of Whittaker’s performance as we hunt for the subtext written on her face.

Black Mirror – The Entire History of You is available to stream on Netflix.

Adult Life Skills

This small independent comedy drama about a young woman stuck in arrested development crept in and out of cinemas this time last year. The film affords Whittaker a showcase for her skills and the one proper lead role I’ve seen her in.

Not enough people saw this film when it made it to the cinema and I don’t think many people even had a chance to so I suggest you seek it out now so that you can form an opinion of Whittaker beyond her gender. There are lots of silly jokes to distract you from the fact that the film is hitting you in the soft bits where your feelings live.

Plus… at various points she pretends her thumbs are two people travelling in a spaceship so there’s a tenuous Doctor Who link for you.

Adult Life Skills is available to stream on Amazon Instant Video.

Attack the Block – DVD Review

Film
We’ve covered this film so much you should know that we love it. Admittedly some cracks start to show on a second viewing but the excerpt from our review below still holds true:

This film is a powerhouse, particularly for a low-budget British monster movie, all the skill behind the camera makes up for any lack of budget, the aliens themselves a testament to ingenuity over cost.

Extras
At long last we have a DVD to review with some decent extras. The first disc holds the film and three different commentaries. The first features Joe Cornish and the young cast, the second Cornish and the older cast and the third commentary just Cornish and Edgar Wright. I only had time to listen to the final commentary, but being a fan of Wright and Cornish feel I made the right choice. With few references to the film as it played, this was more an extended discussion between two filmmakers about making your debut film. Funny and enlightening stuff.

On the second disc are five proper documentaries, one lasting for almost an hour. Rather than just talking heads and brief clips of behind the scenes action, this DVD goes in-depth into the whole production and doesn’t gloss over the more stressful side of filming on a tight time scale. One thing I couldn’t find was the featurette titled Joe’s Massage, either it was removed after the list of extras was released or it is an Easter Egg I failed to stumble upon.

Attack the Block is out on DVD and Blu-ray on September 19th 2011, and you should probably go and buy it.

To watch this video, you need the latest Flash-Player and active javascript in your browser.

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.

Attack the Block – Review

As he briefly introduced the film last night Joe Cornish described Attack the Block as a first time for everyone involved; for himself, for the cinematographer, for Basement Jaxx and Steven Price producing the score and for the 11 young actors bearing the brunt of the film. But from the opening shot as we move down from the nights sky to Oval tube station it is clear that this is not the work of amateurs.

Joe Cornish is no stranger to writing, he’s currently going from writing for Spielberg to writing for Marvel, so it’s no surprise he has managed to produce a funny and action filled script. What is surprising is the dialogue of the gang who discover, and try to fight off, an alien invasion on their block of flats. It’s something that caused me major concern in the trailer and the clips that were released but in the context of the film is not nearly so jarring. You can see Cornish did his research, something highlighted by just how awkward it sounds when Luke Treadaway’s Brewis, more private school than council estate, tries to pull off the dialogue himself.

As a director Cornish keeps his camera moving in a slow and steady style, there’s never so much shaky cam or fast editing that you can’t tell what’s going on. Cornish is happy to let the visuals get the attention they’re due, and the fact that such cinematic visuals are possible in a block of flats is down to Thomas Townend in his first feature as cinematographer. Townend makes the most of dark corners, harsh strip lighting and smoke to create a series of eerie and beautiful images.

Basement Jaxx and Steven Price’s debut score provides the usual necessary functions of making the scary moments scary and the tense moments tense but adds another unique layer. This is no orchestral score and the Jaxx-esque music playing throughout reflects more the culture of the kids involved, adding to the setting rather than taking you out of the film. Danny Elfman would have ruined it.

Moving swiftly on to the conclusion of this review, brilliantly set up structurally in the opening paragraph, let’s talk about the real stars of the film: the stars of the film. As mentioned, Luke Treadaway provides some solid comic relief as the outsider trying to look cool and fit in with the gang of youths. The very gang of youths that had not acted before but became the heart and soul of the film. Terrifying, funny and heroic in equal measure throughout the film, the gang of young tearaways go from petty crime to alien warfare and we go right along with them. As their mugging victim, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), learns to stop fearing and judging the group, we do too and by the end we’re right by their side, kitchen knife in hand. Special mention goes to Alex Esmail as Pest for making me love a character I know and dislike in real life.

It’s hard to be totally objective when I’ve been taught to love the work of Adam and Joe in the past year but there’s no denying this is a great, thrill ride of a film and a confident debut by all involved. This film is a powerhouse, particularly for a low budget British monster movie, all the skill behind the camera makes up for any lack of budget, the aliens themselves a testament to ingenuity over cost.

Now as a treat for anyone who is still reading, a clip featuring Mr Joe Cornish:

To watch this video, you need the latest Flash-Player and active javascript in your browser.