Saturday, September 12, 2009

Broken Embraces

So, un film de Almodovar, yet again starring Penelope Cruz.  What's not to like?

Hmm... well, for once this is all a bit meh, to be honest.  Cruz is very good, don't get me wrong, and the film is very nice to look at, but it's all a bit staid, and left me with an overall feeling of "hang on, is that it?"  The whole plot is a bit sub-standard soap opera fare, but that doesn't have to be a problem - in the past Pedro has run with some pretty OTT plotlines, but directed with such vim and vigour that you end up with something not unlike Coronato Streeto, but on acid.  Dare I say that Alomodovar is getting a bit old, or bored?

Si, claro

-although of course it is always nice to pick up the odd Spanish phrase here and there, so I shan't complain too much.  But in my search to find foreign language films to recommend to older students, I'm afraid that this one's a nada.  (Call it a minor mission, or obsession of mine - to persuade a 6th year pupil that they can cope with reading the wee words at the bottom of the screen, and will emerge the richer for having been immersed in the joys of another culture.  Mind you, maybe I should just tell the boys that Penelope Cruz gets 'em out...)

How is la Mathematica?

Well, obviously there's less maths going on than in my other recent Spanish effort, Fermat's Room.  But it's interesting to note that this is yet another film (a la Time Traveler's Wife) full of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey backwards-and forwardsness, as we nip back and forth through time to unravel the secret of the main character's  doomed love-affair with PC.  So I guess you could play with negative numbers yet again... or maybe you could pose the question, which year should we take as the starting point (or Origin, if you will), for the movie?  If we take the earliest event as x=0, then we won't need to worry about negative numbers at all - the benefit of a change of axes, or rather axis, what with time being one-dimensional.  At least I think it is.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inglourious Custards

Ah, dear old Quentin... what's to be done with you?

I know I'm really late to the party for this movie, and everyone else has said their bit a long time ago, but all the same, this is a bit of a mess of a movie. I enjoyed most of it, don't get me wrong, but I can't help but feel that somewhere inside all this self-indulgence there's a truly great movie trying to get out. Mind you, I feel the same way about The Beatles' White Album, yet these days people rave about it. Perhaps time will be kind to QT on this one.

The main problem is that there seem to be two competing movies for most of the film. On the one hand (and in the great opening scene) we have high tension and slow-burning drama, with Christopher Waltz putting in a movie-stealing performance as the evil Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, whose job it is to round up Jews in Nazi-occupied France. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Brad Pitt leads a band of renegade misfits and erstwhile custards (hey, this is a family blog), in the shape of crack Allied soldiers who somehow - Lord alone knows how - manage to rampage behind Nazi lines, killing Nazis (and scalping them) seemingly at will. Let it be noted that Brad is actually not too bad in this role, but it's a comic book performance, and I feared the worst as it became apparent that these two plotlines were headed for a crash in the last reel. Which film would win out?

Sad to say it's the doofus-brained OTT extravaganza which carries the day, at the expense of any semblance of reality. And with that goes any remaining nuance in Waltz's perfomance, which is the biggest crime - to see him acting down to Brad's level is a crying shame.

How is the maths?

Not much to report here, though weirdly at one point Waltz talks about a 999.999 chance in a million of survival... I think QT surely meant "in a thousand", yet Waltz seems to say "millionen" and not "tausend". Much more interesting however is to learn - by way of a crucial plot point - that Germans hold up a different combination of fingers to signify "three" than do we Brits. You learn something new every day.

Final kudos to Quentin, though, for having easily half of the film spoken in a foreign language - the idea of American audiences having to actually read subtitles is very, very appealing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

Oops - well behind, once again. Evidence, if any were needed, that maths teacher is back at the electronic chalkface.

Anyway, The Time Traveler's Wife, based on the highly successful (and enjoyable) novel by the somewhat unfeasibly named Audrey Nifenegger. A tale of love and time travel, which takes the route of seeing time as being non-linear... a sort of big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. Quite right too.

The main idea is of course that when our Time Traveler (minus an L for reasons known only to Americans) Eric Bana meets the always watchable eventual Wife Rachel McAdams for the first time (in his timeline), she's in her early twenties, yet has known him since she was about eight. Much to-ing and fro-ing ensues as their romance blossoms, and blossomed, and will blossom, to great joy and sadness. Why is she never visited by a particularly old version of EB? Uh oh.

The film is a decent effort at fiming a complicated book and manages the romance side of things pretty well - hankies at the ready, folks! But it doesn't really generate enough tension and perhaps gives away too much too soon.

Overall, a watchable effort. But I wouldn't travel back in time to watch it again.

How's the maths?
Well, it would be interesting to try and do a timeline for the two lovers, but as with any time travel or flashback movie, it's really all about the additive inverses within the integers. So if we head back, say, 15 years (negative fifteen) and then want to come back to the present day, then that's adding 15 to -15 to get 0.

But you spotted that already.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fermat's Room

Well blimey o'reilly, if this isn't just the sort of film that we maths teachers going to the movies have been waiting for. Not only does it have a mathematician in the title, there's even four mathematicians in the film (some of whom are even not-too-bad-looking) - all trapped together in a room trying desperately to solve maths problems before the four walls close in and crush them. And yes, so it is in Spanish, but even then - what's not to like?

Oh yes, I had high hopes for this one, you can tell. Perhaps too high, in fact. Truth be told, Fermat's Room is a decent wee movie that doesn't outstay its welcome (around 100 mins, if I recall correctly) and more or less does what it says on the tin. And that's no bad thing.

If I have one complaint, it's that the film doesn't really deliver much in the way of suspense: despite the set-up, you're not really gripped by what is going on, or anywhere near terrififed. Contrast this with the total brown-trouser job that is Cube, and you can see that the film does seem to fall short in the terror or thrills department.

Overall, I'd award the film pi stars out of five, as an overall movie-going experience. But then of course there's all that lovely maths... speaking of which:

How's the maths?
Well, there's a fair bit here, I must say. Early on things are looking very good indeed: a young, unfeasibly attractive mathematician is busy finalising his "proof" of the Goldbach conjecture (that's when he's not signing copies of his best-selling maths book to swooning young lay-dees - aye right!); and discussions between other characters manage to quickly clock up references to such hard-core maths as Godel's Incompleteness Theorems, and the fact that quite a few famous mathematicians have committed suicide. When our quartet of mathematicians first arrive to be greeted by the eponymous Fermat in the equally eponymous room, they are given mathematical code-names too: Pascal, Galois, Hilbert and Oilva (that's Oliva Sabuco, apparently, a famous female mathematician from the 16th century - news to me too). There's even a fair bit of banter about how mathematicians work, and some laughs to be had throughout the film at the difference between "applied" and "pure" mathematicians. Well, I laughed...

And of course this is All Very Good and manages to go a long way to erasing previous cinematic crimes against mathematics such as Jeff "weird specs" Goldblum's ridiculous turn as a "chaos mathematician" in Jurassic Park.

The only trouble is, when the "ooh we're trapped in a room and will die if we don't solve these problems" bit kicks in, the script-writer seems to have abandoned The Penguin Guide to Dead Hard Maths in favour, say, Maths In Action Book 2B. For it breaks my heart to have to report, the problems they are set are way, way too easy and way, way too well-known to cause supposed high-powered mathematicians any difficulty whatsoever. Quite seriously, they are the sort of puzzles that MIA2B did set as "brainstormers" for 2nd year pupils back in the day. They even dig out the Liar's Paradox, which was used as a plot device by none other than Doctor Who way back in Tom Baker's day (Pyramids of Mars, episode 4, for those taking notes).

I appreciate the difficulty the film-makers face here - after all, the problems need to be reasonably accessible if a general audience is going to make any sense of them, and their solution. But I do feel they could have tried harder. Still, maybe they're preparing a special edition, or DVD extra - Fermat's Room: The Mathematician's Cut - where our heroes have to solve much harder fare?

I'd buy it!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123

Oh dearie me, this will never do.

I mean, as a modern teacher, I should be more positive and upbeat, in keeping with current thinking about offering encouragement - you know, "two stars and a wish" - but it's hard to do with this lumbering, mindlessly vacuous movie.  I mean, what is the point of this remake?  Why?  For goodness' sake, Tony Scott, why??

For those who don't know: when marking homework and the like these days, one is not meant to blaze away with the ticks and crosses, but is rather meant to proffer words of encouragement (that'll be yer two stars then) and of wisdom/advice (that's the wish bit - as in, say, I wish you'd stop making so many bloody mistakes).

I confess I'm not very good at this, but you know what, maybe this is exactly the approach I need for this snoozefest.  Let's see...

Two stars: Denzel W and John T (well, I mean obviously)

A wish: I really, really wish I hadn't bothered going to see this.

Can I get my chartered teacher status now please?

How's the maths?

Well you know, this is very interesting, as yet again we have a movie which offers up a maths (or in this case, arithmetic) question.  Travolta - aka Shouty McShouty of Bad Guy Inc - demands at one point that Denzel get a calculator and work out what 19 times $526315.79 is.  I leave it to you to ponder the significance of the answer.  But is this a trend that I'm noticing - Hollwood beginning to insert random maths questions into its movies?  I know this sounds far-fetched, but you never know.

Sadly of course Travolta's demands wouldn't go down well in Scottish education, where (under the new Curriculum for Excellence) it is for the learner to decide whether or not to use a calculator for a particular calculation.  Tut tut.  I mean, Denzel might have fancied having a go at long multiplication!  It would certainly have helped take his mind off the script for a bit.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Public Enemies

So, the tale of John Dillinger, notorious bank-robber from 1930s America, as directed by Michael Mann. Let's be generous and leave aside the fact that JD is here played by "The Gorgeous" Johnny Depp (ooh - I've just noticed they have the same initials), which means he would have found it hard to pass himself off incognito in public, what with women of all ages swooning all over him. Instead let's concentrate on the main problem of the film, which has been commented on by several critics, though to my mind they have all misdiagnosed the cause. Much has been made of the shaky, hand-held style of shooting which MM has used on and off throughout the film, in marked contrast to his more usual highly glossed style, and even the good Dr Kermode himself has complained that this just doesn't work with a film set in the 1930s - we have expectations as to how all this should look and feel, based on the way greta movies have been shot in the past. Now I sort of see what they are getting at, and for the first 15 minutes or so I was quite uncomfortable with the look and feel of the film, and the shooting style did seem to be the culprit.

But, like a good mathematician should, I sat and mulled over this problem as the film progressed, and I realised that this is not quite right: it's not the visuals that are the problem, it's the soundtrack. Y'see, it may look all shaky and all over the place - almost like The Blair Witch Project - and of course the idea is to give you the feeling that you are there, in with the actors, in the midst of all that's happening. But, Mr Mann sir, if that's the case, then I sure as hell shouldn't be hearing a traditional sumptuous Hollywood soundtrack. That's what grates. I shouldn't hear any music - except for any ambient music, ie records playing in the background or whatever. (I'm not saying that this approach would work, by the way, but it might have been interesting for MM to at least to try to run with his intention properly, instead of trying to have his cake and eat it.)

While on the subject, I should say that bits of the soundtrack are actually very good: some excellent Billie Holiday, and a to-die-for slow, lazy version of Bye Bye Blackbird", sung by Diana Krall (a favourite of mine, I admit), who even turns up in a cameo performing the song in a nightclub. Mind you - speaking as a jazz fan and pedant - she sings the song at a tempo that would have been absolutely, ridiculously slow for the period. But enough of that.

Of the film itself, well, Marion Cotillard is wonderful but underused as JD's girlfriend; JD is his usual watchable self; and Christian Bale is a near-total cypher; but overall it's hard to really care about anyone. I know MM is often accused of making films which are all style and no substance, and it's hard to see him breaking out of the mould here.

How's the maths?
Well, not much here, but JD gets a big laugh at one point when he points out that $15000 is less than $300000 (I'm making the actual figures up here, I confess, but they're around that level). It's the way he tells them.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Or HP6, to save a whole lot of typing.

The general critical feeling seems to be that this is the best HP since Azkaban, and I'm happy to agree.  In fact I think there might even be case for saying that this one is a shade better - HP3 looks amazing but as I recall the finale is a bit rushed (more a fault of the book, as it turns all Basil Expositiony).  By contrast I was happily entertained throughout this one, and found the conclusion very dramatic and engaging.  (I can even see it making my end of year top ten films list.)

Ah, yes: the conclusion.  Or, as the good Doctors Mayo and Kermode have taken to calling it (for fear of being accused of giving away major plot points): The Unfortunate Incident.  For those who don't know, the movie takes quite an unusual step in making a major change to events at this point in proceedings.  It all boils down to whether or not Harry Potter is unable to act at a key juncture (due to magical shenanigans being placed upon him) or whether he chooses not to act - for reasons which may or may not be cowardice.  The movie opts for the latter route, and I was expecting (like M&K) to be most discomfited by this, but I wasn't.  To me, it's not about cowardice, it's about trust: Harry choosing to trust Dumbledore, and perhaps - just perhaps - even Snape.  And I can see that the final movies (HP7 now being filmed as a two-parter, as anyfuleno) will get a lot of yardage out of the consequences of all this.

Kudos to Rupert Grint, who has gone from being an all-girning plank of wood to a young actor with a fine sense of comic timing, and to Jim Broadbent for a fine performance as a returning master to Hogwarts.  And Alan Rickman as Snape - well, what can you say?  He's chewing it all and loving it - and so are we.

How's the maths?

I've said it before - would it really, really hurt the film-makers to show a bit of maths being taught every now and then?  I mean, I know it's a place of magical learning, so I can see why they give science lessons a miss... but presumably they get taught English, for goodness' sake, as they all seem able to read and write at least.  So come on, film-makers, let's seize the opportunity.  Let's face it, there are two films left and only one book title to play with (HP and the Deathly Hallows), so here's a golden opportunity.

Harry Potter and Curse of the Irreducible Quadratic Equation... it has a certain ring to it, surely?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Those who follow the blog at all regularly (that's three of you by my count) may have been baffled of late. What on earth is maths teacher up to you, you may well have asked? And why isn't he going to the movies?

Hey, stuff happens. And sadly yes, it's been over a month since I darkened the doorstep of a cinema (watching movies on telly never counts, as I'm sure you all agree). No particular reason why, other than general busyness, and never quite getting round to it.

So, anyway: Moon, as directed by the artist formerly known as Zowie Bowie. A throw-back to 70's sci-fi, complete with model shots (reminiscent of Space: 1999), a cast list of five, and made for about £2.5 million - or, in movie terms, peanuts.

I really don't want to discuss the plot here, as it would be a shame to give anything away, but overall it's quite a dark film, slow and foreboding. I won't say that not much happens, because that's far from true, but what happens takes its time, and you are left to join a lot of the dots yourself. All in all, I found the movie enjoyable, though I wouldn't rave. It's great to see this kind of film being made though. And no, not even a hint of Space Oddity on the soundtrack...

How's the maths?
I had pretty high hopes here - surely there's bound to be talk of trajectories, or orbits, or lunar distances and such. But not really much to write about here. All the maths is done by the base computer, I suppose, as ably voiced by Kevin Spacey, leaving lone worker Sam Rockwell to do all the manual stuff. I doubt he even has his maths Higher, to be honest, as he seems to have difficulty coping with numbers bigger than one. But there I go, giving the plot away...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Let The Right One In

Or, "Bjorny The Vampire Slayer"... except (a) he's not called Bjorn and (b) he doesn't slay the vampire, he falls in love with her. But hey, why should that get in the way of a bad joke? After all, the film is set in Sweden, in 1982 or thereabouts. (Scandalously no Abba on the soundtrack though.)

All in all this is a very strange film, the sort you find yourself thinking about for days afterwards. In places it's scary; in others touching; and even at times riotously, deadpan funny (witness, for example, cats attacking a vampire). I doubt you'll see a film like this all year. I don't want to give away the plot, other than to say that it involves a young lad who is being bullied at school, and who befriends a (seemingly) young girl who turns out to be a vampire. Drama ensues.

For those of you who are fans of Buffy you will find some interesting parallels - after all, the Buffster fell for Angel, who was a vampire, as well as having a fling with Spike as well. Apparently some people have been a bit baffled by the lore which gives the film its title - a vampire can't come into your house unless specifically invited so to do - but we Buffy fans have known this for ages. Saying that, Buffy never (to my mind) explored the consequences of this as fully or horrifically as this film does.

And for anyone who has ever been bullied: boy, do you ever want to hang about for the penultimate scene in the film. Now that's what I call retribution...!

How's the maths in Stockholm, Lars?
Well, no maths as such in the movie. But there is a bit of stuff in the classroom, and for me it tips the film away from being a five-star job down to four-and-a-half. To explain: at one point we join the boy's class as they are being held rapt by their teacher, who is reading a story to them (The Hobbit, I believe). The story ends. The bell rings. The class all get up to go. And, yes folks, it's at this point that the teacher chooses to attempt to communicate some reminder or other about homework to the departing bodies.

Honestly, I'm getting sodding fed up with this. It happens all the bloody time in the movies - heck, even Indiana Jones does it (in Raiders of the Lost Ark) - and yet no teacher does this. Or, no teacher worth his or her pay packet does. You know what, Mr Scriptwriter? We can tell the bloody time. We're organised. And we know that if we did this, every kid will be in tomorrow claiming not to have heard what we said because they were in the middle of scarpering. They'd have letters from their parents too...

So here's what should happen: the teacher finishes her story, then reminds the class of their homework, after which she invites them to pack up, then the bell rings, then the teacher reminds the class that the bell is a signal for her, not them (we love saying this), and then she lets them leave, in an orderly fashion. Perhaps row by row.

Or is that just me?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Star Trek

Apologies for taking so long to get round to writing this one up, having caught up with it a couple of weeks ago now. Even then I was a bit worried that it had been overhyped, but you know what, all the hype is pretty much well-deserved. This is one hell of a reboot of a franchise that had long become too tired and, heck, old. Having transmuted from Kirk and co into the somewhat po-faced Next Generation crew, it's great fun to be back with the original bunch, looking all young and sexy and stuff.

Of course, from a mathematical perspective, things get interesting even before the movie starts. Some are counting this as Star Trek XI, which means that finally we have an odd-numbered Trek movie which is actually any good, after such snooze-fests as Star Trek I: The Slow-Motion Picture and Star Trek V: the one they never should have let Shatner direct. Just goes to show that you shouldn't be too quick to think you've seen a mathematical pattern or rule.

Even better, the moive gets bonus points for including a bit of real maths, in the form of a Proper Maths Question, for when we drop in on Spock as a young 'un, he's in the middle of a Vulcan school lesson, and is busy being asked the formula for the volume of a sphere. Good to see that these Vulcans clearly take education seriously - no formula sheet for these bad boys! (I'll leave more detailed discussion on Vulcan educational techniques for another time, but let's just say that I can think of quite a few teachers who'll like the approach seen here, where the pupils are in individual pods while the teachers are, presumably, off drinking tea. Green tea, I suppose.)

Kudos too to the cast, who offer a mix of close imitations of the original (whatsisname from Heroes as Spock is a given, but Karl Urban is uncanny as Bones too) and modern re-interpretations (see Uhura, Sulu and Chekov). Kirk is deservedly in a class of his own, though Chris Pine perhaps wisely decides not to try to outchew both scenery and dialogue the way only old tubby Shatner could. And mention too of course for Simon Pegg, who's decided to go for Scotty as a sort of Billy Connolly in space. Which is fine for cheap laughs, but surely it's wrong not to have him shouting "the engines canna tak it, Cap'n" at least once.

Monday, May 18, 2009

State of Play

Apologies for not blogging for a while... life, eh? Anyhoo, leaving aside a Werner Herzog documentary on the Antartic called, um, Encounters at the End of the World or something like that (more of which later, if I get round to it), I finally caught up with State of Play the other week.

As any fule no, this is a remake of the BBC TV series of the same name, broadcast back in 2003. This time round the events are set in the US political (and newspaper) world, rather than the UK - and, some would say crucially, the film-makers manifestly do not have the luxury of six 57 minute episodes within which to tell the tale of political intrigue and derring-do.

And to be fair, they manage this well. Russell Crowe is very watchable as the intrepid newshound, and whilst Ben Affleck is as wooden as ever, the fact that he is playing a politician (possibly corrupt) sort of makes the mahogany varnish somewhat appropriate. Rachel McAdams also impresses as the young newshound trailing along in the wake of ol' Maximus Crowe-ius, and it's a nice bit of updating to make her a blogger with the newspaper. In fact the only person who doesn't really acquit themselves is - whodathunkit? - none other than Dame Helen Mirren, in the role of the newspaper editor. Maybe it's because Bill Nighy was so gobsmackingly wonderful in the original, or maybe it's just because the part is underwritten, but either way she really doesn't shine here.

So, to sum up: a very watchable, they-don't-make-'em-enough-like-this-anymore thriller which doesn't insult its audience or rely too much on car crashes, explosions and CGI jiggery-pokery. And I should add that it'll be all the more enjoyable if you haven't seen the original series.

How's the maths?
Well, it's nice that a major plot point revolves around a very precise amount of money, and why it should be that a particular character has knowledge of this, but that's hardly enough to get me shouting "you see, maths matters, dammit!" whilst leaping out of my seat and punching the air. Though to be fair, I have yet to do this at any film.

More interestingly, perhaps: how's your maths? Let's see... one cinema ticket to State of Play the movie (running time 127 minutes) costs, well, let's say £6, shall we? And one DVD of State of Play the TV series (running time 342 minutes) can currently be had for a fiver from Fopp. So, which is the better value?

Not much of a question, is it?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coraline (3-D)

An interesting film this, based on Neil Gaman's novel of the same name. Admittedly it's not the movie I actually headed out to see, but seeing as State of Play was sold out, I opted to don the old 3-D Gregory Pecks and give it a go.

Overall, I'm impressed, but I have to say I more admired the movie than enjoyed it. Visually it has Tim Burton written all over it, though it turns out that it was directed by Henry Selick, who I think is a one-time collaborator of old Timbo. (Musically it sounds very Danny Elfman-ish too, but again it's not.) So, all in all, the weirdness and creepiness factor is comfortably cranked up all the way to eleven. And I have to say, this is a pretty darn scary movie in parts, so I'd be careful before I dragged too young a child along to it (well, unless they'd forgotten to do their homework) lest they be scared witless.

But, but, but... there's just too much of a lack of overall warmth for the main characters, I feel.

Still, the 3-D stuff is impressive.

How's the maths?
Well, as far as I can see, Coraline doesn't even go to school, so how the heck am I meant to know?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In the Loop

Lordy, and I thought The Wire had bad language...!

For those not in the know, In The Loop is a sort of continuation, in film, of the BBC4 comedy series In The Thick of It, which is in turn a sort of update of the great comedy series Yes (Prime) Minister, but with added swearing. In particular, we have Peter Capaldi reprising his role of government fixer Malcolm Tucker, a man supposedly inspired by Alastair Campbell. And this time the subject would seem to be war in the Middle East (though Iraq is never mentioned by name), and whether or not the UK is going to back US military intervention.

I confess I had high hopes for this, as it's been very well reviewed. And for the most part those hopes have been met. I laughed out loud quite a few times, and I really cannot express fully enough quite how virtuoso (and funny) the swearing is. The only trouble is you'll come out of the cinema wanting to eff and blind at the first person you meet, which can't really be A Good Thing. And leading on from this, can I register here my astonishment that the film is only a 15 rating? I know that bad language alone isn't enough to get the good people of the BBFC reaching for their 18 certificate, but blimey, there really isn't a swear word left unflung here, including one starting with "c", which I confess I thought was more suited for the 18 territory. But hey, what do I know? So whilst I'm happy to endorse this movie, I'd caution teachers against reaching for this to put into the DVD player come the last week of June. You know who you are...

Kudos in particular here to the other Scottish actor, Paul Higgins, who has a fairly minor role as an even worse violent, foul mouthed government fixer and is so outrageously funny and scary that you automatically wish he was a Depute Head Teacher in your school. Or maybe that's just me...

How's the maths?
Och. Slim pickings here yet again. I mean, there's a vote in the UN at one point, which made me think maybe we were in for a bit of percentage work, but no. Then again, maybe this is entirely true to life: since when did politicians know anything about maths anyway?

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Damned United

Time, surely, to check up on Michael Sheen's latest attempts at being Rory Bremner... has there ever been an actor so famed for impersonating real-life figures? I have to confess when I heard he was playing the role of football manager Brian Clough in a screen adaptation of David Peace's novel, I was astonished. I mean, he doesn't even look like the guy - or so I thought. And yet... he does. Sort of. No prosthetics at work here, folks, no fake hooter a la Nicole Kidman's turn in The Hours (and so probably no Oscar either) - instead... well, what exactly? I suppose it's just bloody good acting.

The boy done well, Brian
And it's not just Michael Sheen who deserves praise - there are fine performances here by Timothy Spall as Clough's right-hand man Peter Taylor (though if I were him I'd be a bit miffed that I was being played by someone quite so, ahem, plump as the good Mr Spall is right now); also by Jim Broadbent as the long-suffering chariman of Derby County, and Colm Meaney as Don Revie, Clough's nemesis and predecessor at Leeds United. Colm's comb-over deserves at least an Oscar nomination all by itself...

A game of two halves
I have to say I enjoyed the film immensely, helped at least in part by its relatively short running time (just over 90 minutes - how apt for a footy film). It's by no means perfect, as it seems to want to be both a light-hearted comedy and reflect some of the darker aspects that are the main meat of Peace's novel. But, at the end of the day (Brian), as many have pointed out already, the film is really a love story - the sort of macho, male bonding love that allows Taylor to feed Clough cheese and onion crisps whilst Brian drives the car, drinking Skol lager all the way. That's something to celebrate, surely?

Aye, but...
It pains me to say it but I do have to draw special attention (and not in a good way) to the performance of Stephen Graham as the diddy Scots hero and Leeds captain, Billy Bremner. Referee! Offside!! etc. I mean, I know that wee Billy was no great athlete but he wasn't the fat porker on screen here, unless my childhood memories of (say) Scotland v Zaire in the 1974 World Cup are deceiving me. And worse yet, Graham (a scouser) gives what is easily one of the worst Scottish accents you are ever, ever likely to hear. Ever. It's so bad, he could have been auditioning for the part of Scotty in the up-coming Star Trek remake. (A part which, incidentally, has gone instead to Simon Pegg... more on that story later.)

How's the maths?
Well, I was disappointed in one sense, in that there was little talk of football tactics or combinations - I had hoped for at least a bit of 4-3-3 stuff. And OK, they do bang on about the First "Division" and the Second "Division", but that doesn't count as a proper mention of mathematics. But, to be fair, there aren't many films around where, slap bang in the middle of the movie, someone comes flat out and asks a maths question, as Clough does of Taylor when he asks (albeit in the middle of a tirade of insults): "What's half of nothing?" And he gets the answer right...

It's not much, but we maths teachers have to take it where we find it. And, in a week where the First Minister of Scotland was apparently asked by a frustrated parent how you divide by nothing, I suppose things are perhaps looking up, in the division stakes at least. Or the "goes-intys", as many of our children prefer to call it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How's this for a book title?

Long-time readers of the blog (in its previous incarnation as The Proof Is Out There) may recall a while ago I posted with great excitement about the US actress and mathematician Danica McKellar and her book Math Doesn't Suck. As far as I could see Danica was keen to emphasise to girls in particular that maths, sorry, math was all about handbags and boyfriends and make-up and stuff. I may have been unkind, but only a little, though I admit now that saying "ding dong" was hardly advancing the cause of female emancipation in the sciences...

Well, what do you know, but Ms McKellar is back on the case, as I found out upon browsing a bookstore on holiday in the US. Yes folks, I give you her sequel: Kiss My Math.

What can I say? And, more importantly, what the hell will the third book be called? Eat My Equations? Look at the curves on that quadratic?

I can hardly wait to find out!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Something novel...

Well, read the tagline to this blog carefully enough and you'll note that it does say "maths teacher goes to the movies... and elsewhere." So, whilst my film viewing is going through a bit of a dry spell, here's a quick review of the novel "PopCo" by Scarlett Thomas, on account of it having a fair bit of maths in it.

Thomas came to some fame relatively recently via her book "The End of Mr Y", which had a red cover and black-edged pages and was well-received. I never quite got round to reading it, but then I saw this book and was interested by all the maths links therein. And, of course, any book that gets an approving cover quote from Jonathan Coe has to be worthy of some attention. This is actually an older novel, repackaged with a blue cover and blue-edged pages. See what they're trying to do there? I tell you, the folks at Canongate books never miss a trick to shift some stock.

So, the book: the main character is called Alice and works for a global toy company (the eponymous PopCo) where she creates children's kits with a spy & code-breaking theme. She's off on a company creative weekend and starts receiving mysterious coded messages... now read on.

Or not. The book is fine but by heck it gets worthy the further in you go. What's that you say, Scarlett? Global corporations are bad? Well shucks and gollee, who knew? It also a bit of a puff piece for homeopathic remedies - aye, right - but Alice herself is an intriguing character with a good back-story which (this being a modern novel) it takes most of the book to discover fully.

How's the maths?
Well, this is definitely the saving grace. As far as I can tell Thomas doesn't have a maths background but she's done her homework well enough and there are several good passages dealing with all manner of codes, as well as Godel's Incompleteness Theorems and the Riemann Hypothesis, in a cheerfully non-technical manner that deserves praise.

And besides, how can you not like a book that has a maths-related cryptic crossword towards the end? For what it's worth, I'm still stuck on 1 across...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Class

Finally... just about the only film I've seen that gets the feel of a classroom right. Oh, hang on, there was also that movie Etre et Avoir... (guess the French must have a real ability for doing education justice) but that was a documentary, whereas this isn't. Or, not quite. It's based on the book Entre Les Murs (Between The Walls), written by French teacher (as in, Frenchman who also teaches French) Francois Begaudeau, which relates a year of his life teaching in an inner-city school. I think the situations in the film are semi-scripted, and semi-improvised, with the pupils coming up as the real stars of the show.

I confess I was dead chuffed with myself for declaring, at the end of the movie, that the actor playing the teacher must actually have been a teacher at some point, because I doubted anyone without a teaching background could cope so well with the whole improv set-up. Turns out I was spot on, as M. Begaudeau plays "himself" in the film - though with the character's name changed, presumably to emphasise that this is fiction, not fact. Nice one, Francois!

It's quite a film, and we teachers will quickly see that this guy - and these kids - are for real. It's fun spotting all the differences between the French system and ours... boy, those Frenchies do like their committees, don't they? Mind you, at one point the main business item on the agenda is the staff coffee machine, and we've all been there. The film couldn't be further from all your Michelle Pfeiffer/Richard Dreyfuss inspirational twaddle, though it does show the upside of teaching as well as the downside, and Francois is portrayed as a complex, flawed but well-meaning character.

I believe the book and film caused quite a storm in la belle France and actually, you know what: the more I write, the more I think this is a contender for the film of the year for me, given how easy it would have been to do this really, really badly. Go see it! If you're not a teacher, it'll show you a slice of modern-day classroom reality; and if you're a teacher, it'll remind you of the importance of not calling any of your students... um... let's just say, a bad name.

So, a gold star for the movie. I may even give it a Praise Certificate. Oh, wait a minute, I've forgotten - I don't do that.

Commes les mathematiques?
Well, as usual we have a movie that at least partly nods towards the language teacher as one who deals with inspiration, self-expression and all that guff, whilst the maths teachers are only mentioned casually - at one memorable point, in a list just after "racists". Jeez, gee's a break, Francois pal, non?

However there is one brilliant bit, just towards the end of the film, when Francois is asking his class (in his role as form tutor, or whatever they call it in France) what they have learned this year. One lad talks about having learned Le Theorem du Pythagoras, so F challenges him to explain it. What follows can be summed up more or less (after much umming and ahhing) as: "well, if you have a triangle, and the square of the two sides added together is the same as the square of the hypotenuse, then... then the triangle is a rectangle."

I'd give him the mark, wouldn't you?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gran Torino

Aw heck, what's not to like? This tale of the gradual rehabilitation of an unreconstructed racist old duffer ticks all the right boxes, though some of the performances are a bit dodgy and the script somewhat lame... but who cares? Clint is amazing throughout. He spends the first half of the movie doing little esle but growling, but these are virtuouso growls, I tell you. Good stuff.

How's the maths?
Ah, the old question. Not much here, punk. but I have been wondering about the possibility of using movies like this to develop a proof of some mathematical theorems. My current one? Every movie is almost exactly 10% too long. This movie is roughly 120 minutes long, and I definitely flagged around the 108 minute mark. It makes you think, doesn't it?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Paris 36

... or Faubourg 36, as it's known in France. I suppose Faubourg isn't too well known as a suburb of Paris, generally speaking, so I can see why it would be renamed for an international audience. Would a gritty Scottish movie called Pilton 89 be renamed Edinburgh 89 for foreign consumption? Go figure.

Anyway... this is a very pleasant French movie (well, duh) which is worth catching, though by no means essential. It's a musical comedy drama about a group of unemployed workers in 1936 trying to reopen a theatre shut down just after New Year - a sort of Ringing in the Seine, if you will. It'll put a smile on your face, like a cinematic creme brulee. Or something.

How's the maths?
Not much to see here, but as with any French film I did find myself whiling away an hour or two afterwards pondering this whole weird way the French have of counting - you know, the whole seventy-two is sixty plus twelve or ninety-eight is four twenties plus eighteen thing. 'Cos what I want to really know is, does this mean there are certain questions which a French maths teacher would never ask? I mean, why bother asking "what's four times twenty plus eighteen" in French?

Think about it. I do!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I hae ma doots...

Hmm... sadly I managed to get along too late to see yet another movie at the Glasgow Film Festival the other day (a German comedy, no less) and so made do with Doubt instead.

Ho, and, indeed, hum.

I mean it's not desperately bad or anything. Amy Adams is very good as the naive (is she ever anything else?) nun; Philip Seymour Hoffman is, well, as good as he ever is, which is to say very good indeed, as the young-ish priest. And bonus points to the film-makers for resisting any temptations that they might have had to show us Mr Hoffman's wobbly white bum - blimey, we can do without seeing that again, I'm sure.

And then of course there's Meryl. She's very good too, though her part (as the scary nun who sets out to ruin PSH's "modern" priest, on the basis of what may or may not be flimsy evidence) is a real ham's delight, and poor Meryl can't resist sinking her teeth into a fair amount of the scenery. At one point I wondered if maybe she's angling for a part as a baddie in the next Batman movie - who says The Penguin can't be female?

But och, overall it's a bit dreary and unconvincing.

How's the Maths, father?
Well, a fair amount of this is set in the young nun's classroom, where she drones on for the most part about history and suchlike. But things did perk up considerably for me when a scene began with her writing some fractions on the board instead - Lordy, thinks I, we're about to get some maths, I mean math! Now I can't recall exactly what all the fractions were, but they were something along the lines of 1/4, 2/8, 4/16 and 16/64. So, I'm thinking, equivalent fractions - fair enough, it could happen. But then Amy says "What is the common denominator?" - at which point something or other reasonably dramatic happens, and the question remains unanswered.

Well all I can say is, do tell, please, sister: what is the common denominator? 'Cos as far as I can see, there isn't one! Oh sure, you could convert them all to have the same (ie common) denominator... but the examples are all the same bloody fraction! A better question would be, what do these fractions have in common? Or, leave some blank, and ask for them to be filled in: how many 64ths, etc. But presumably no-one on the film set could be arsed bothering coming up with anything half-decent, by way of a maths question. Quelle surprise.

Yes folks, what we have here is a clear transgression of Maths Teacher's (hitherto secret) First Rule of Movie Mathematics: Thou Shalt Do The Math. Clearly Sister Amy has been at the communion wine when she should have been revising her knowledge of basic fractions, and a better movie would surely have seen the eagle-eyed Ms Streep getting all righteous on Ms Adam's ass for her shortcomings in matters arithmetic. PSH could still have been around, going on about Godel's Incompleteness Theorems, if he was keen to be seen as "trendy" - and you just know a dedicated actor like him would go off and study the subject for a good few months, just to get the part right.

Talk about a missed opportunity!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


... in 3-D, no less.

Got to the cinema last night along with a fellow maths teacher and we tossed a coin to decide between this and Vicky Christina Barcelona, Woody Allen's latest supposed-return-to-form. The Woodster won, at which point we realised that really, we'd rather he hadn't. And so we went for the catoon dog instead. As you do. (Now, try capturing that decision-making process in a mathematical equation...)

I didn't have particularly high hopes for the 3-D glasses, as my left eye is weak compared to the right and so 3-D picture thingummies tend not to work for me. But this worked more or less fine, and it was a bonus not having to look like a real dweeb wearing different colour lenses, as these ones were clear. And to be fair there was a reasonable amount of things pointing out the screen at you, in the manner of 3-D films of old. But I wouldn't say the 3-D really added over much to the experience.

What, then, of the film itself? Well, I enjoyed it a great deal, and laughed long and hard quite a few times. It doesn't outstay its welcome and there's a good amount of humour pitched at grown-up level, to keep us intellectual types happy. The movie is pretty much stolen by the hamster sidekick, and the voice artists are good, though I did spend a long time trying to identify the voice of the female cat, only to find out by the closing credits that it was No-one I'd Ever Heard Of. Which was a bit annoying. It's not Toy Story (though the central plot borrows heavily from both TS movies), but it's a great way to spend an evening. Good curry too, but that's another story.

And the maths?
Well, given that dogs don't count past... um... three? four?... there's not a lot going on. But that allows you to pontificate instead on how little progress movie-making has made with this 3-D schtick. I mean, about 50 years after the first 3-D movie (The Revenge of The Thing From Another Title I Just Made Up), here we are, and the best we can do is still to work in three dimensions? Yeesh, gimme a break! What about four dimensions? Five? I want n-dimensional movie-making, dammit, and I want it now!

I mean, is it too much to ask for a movie set in a Klein bottle? I'll bet Charlie Kaufman could write it. No problem.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Frost / Nixon

I've been meaning to catch up with this for a while, and I'm very happy to say that this has proved well worth the wait. In some ways it's a bit of a powder-puff piece, and if you're looking for an in-depth look at Watergate, you've come to the wrong place. But as a dissection of the power of the interview, and the power of the close-up, the movie has much to offer. And when it comes to the final, crucial "confession" of guilt by Tricky Dicky (though it's not quite that), I was totally gripped. All good stuff, though it's maybe a shame that so many of the key moments are in the trailer, which seems to have been around for ages.

Michael Sheen deserves more credit than he seems to be getting in award land (nary a nomination) for bringing David Frost to life, and at first I thought that Frank Langella's performance was in fact the lesser of the two - I mean, all he has to do is look presidential, and you can argue he looks far better than Nixon ever did. But towards the end Langella delivers a masterclass in close-up acting: a slight twitch here, a lowering of the eyes there... none of which can be in the script, if you think about it. So, praise all round, even for director Ron "Ritchie Cunningham" Howard.

How is the maths?
Not much here - lots of numbers flying around, in terms of how many days/hours of interviews were recorded... what percentage made it to the final interview? Of more interest to me is the title, with it's forward-slash ever so slightly suggestive of the division/fraction symbol in maths. Is this a subtle suggestion that Frost gets one "over" Nixon? Is Nixon, in some weird, sense, the "denominator" of the movie? Would a mathematcian read the title as "Frost divided by Nixon", or "Frost over Nixon"? Would anyone else care?

Oh, and one final word of advice: if you want to sound knowledgeable about the movie, for goodness' sake don't do as I seem to be doing, and start talking about "David Nixon" (who was, as any fule no, a reasonably famous children's magician & entertainer of the same period).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Boy, do I feel for this film. Talk about setting high expectations: "feel-good film of the decade"?? Really??

I recall hearing, ooh, ages ago Simon Mayo reviewing a novel on his 5 Live radio show, about a boy in India arrested just as he was about to win some quiz or another. I clearly wasn't paying that much attention, as despite the rave reviews of the book, I didn't catch the title. Eventually I found the book - called Q&A - but was then thrown into confusion by hearing about this movie, with its similar - heck, identical - story. Turns out they are indeed one and the same, so let's first up give kudos to whoever it was who decided on the title change - Slumdog Millionaire is a way better title.

And what a start to the movie: the drama of the quiz show, and the interrogation, and then the flashbacks to the young lad's life. Wham! Wham! Wham! Director Danny Boyle does this all so well, in Trainspotting fashion, that I half-expected to see Begbie in the background having a pint and a curry). And from there, he doesn't do much wrong. I confess I thought the pace lagged a bit once we got to the flashbacks which were more recent, but all in all, this is very close to a five-star film for me.

Now, the "feelgood" thing. Hmm. Critics have rightly pointed out that there's quite a lot of uncomfortable material in the film, which seems at odds to a feelgood tag - but that's the same accusation you could make against everyone's Christmas favourite, It's A Wonderful Life, when you think about it. Though this film is probably not one you should think about too much.

So, job well done. Not perfect - and I can't quite think why, but there you go. Maybe it's written.

Oh, and please stay for the end credits. It's worth it. Heck, it's always worth it if you ask me, but you're missing a bit of extra feelgood if you get up and go early.

Wait a minute - what about the mathematics?
You'd think, wouldn't you, that in all these questions there would be room for a maths one. Sadly not. But it's interesting to do some exchange rate work: our lad actually becomes a technical "millionaire" early on when he gets to 1000000 rupees... how much is that worth in pounds then? And the grand prize of 20 million rupees - more or less than a million pounds?

Final answer?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Well obviously I have to go and see this!

A still from the soon-to-be-released Spanish movie "Fermat's Room". From what I can make out, it's a sort of horror-cum-mathematical thriller (reminds me a bit of the low-budget Canadian film "Cube" a while back) - judge for yourself with the trailer here.

I see that Empire movie mag reviews the film this month, so it must be on some form of general release at some point in February, though I hae ma doots that it will come anywhere for long, if at all. So three cheers for the good people of Glasgow and their Film Festival, which has a couple of showings, though only one that a teacher can make it to! Details can be found here.

I mean, how can I not go to see this?

Got Milk?

Well, I finally did, and I'm glad I got to see this movie before it disappears - which it may well do soon, going by the paltry number of showings that my local cineplex is managing.

In some sense it's a fairly conventional film, though flashbacks are used to liven things up a bit. I confess I didn't know the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected politician in the US, and so was a bit surprised when the movie more or less began with the aftermath of him getting shot and killed. Those of us still in the dark then spend the film wondering who exactly it was that pulled the trigger. Which all sort of works.

Two things help lift the movie out of the ordinary. One is the simple power of the story of the struggle for gay rights, which is of course a story that's on-going. The other is Sean Penn, who turns in a masterful performance and one I didn't really think he had in him. There's a nice touch during the end credits when you get to see the main actors, followed by a still of their real-life counterparts; mostly you marvel at how accurate the casting is, but less so when it comes to Milk himself (who looked, to me at least, more like, say, Javier Bardem). I daresay Penn has worked hard to capture mannerisms etc from available footage, and I'd be happy seeing him win an Oscar for this.

But what about the math, I mean, the maths?
Well, here's the thing: you could easily use parts of this movie to do work on percentages and their application in election results, but tell me this: would your school be happy if you did? Would parents be happy seeing their children doing work on gay rights? Tell you what: answer this: if x is the distance we have travelled in the direction of tolerance of gay people since 1978, then
(a) is x positive or negative?
(b) what unit should we best measure x in? km? m? mm?

(I don't mean to be pessimistic, because I do think we have come a long, long way - but by jings this is still a tricky subject when people start talking about schools.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Reader

Lordy, but it’s high time I committed my thoughts on this movie to print, what with it being all Oscar nominated and everything. And, of course, dear old Kate winning her Golden Globe… (well done lass – now please be quiet, and please put them away)


First up, I confess I haven’t read the book on which this is based, though I know a lot of people who rate it very highly indeed. So it may be that some of the problems that I have with the movie are more to do with Bernard Schlink’s original plot. If you hunt around online you’ll see that there’s been a right rammy between The Guardian’s film critic and David Hare, the screenwriter, over whether or not the movie is a pile of poo (I’m paraphrasing here, you understand). Some have accused the film of being overly sympathetic to Nazis, but that isn’t what bothered me quite so much.

What did? Well… I was a bit bored, to be honest. Not helped for me by Ralph Fiennes ‘phoning in his repressed Englishman (who happens to be German) schtick. Even worse is seeing the great Bruno Ganz having to act, in English, as a German professor, and getting very mangled in his accent as a result. He sounds like Columbo! (The simple truth is surely that this film should have been made in German.) And if I see Kate Winslett’s breasts one more time…

All in all, I suspect it’s maybe a three star adaptation of a five star book. Perhaps someday I’ll actually read The Reader and find out. But I will say that I’ve had quite a few conversations with people based on the film, and have found myself thinking ever more about all the issues which it throws up. Maybe that’s pretty good going for any movie.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I should be out at the movies, I know, but it's dark and cold out there after a day's teaching (or whatever it is that one does)... so this is how I'm spending my evenings just now. More than half-way through season 2.

But hey, it'll soon be the weekend, so perhaps a movie or two beckons.

Either that or I could write about Masterchef.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pull yourself together, woman!

Blimey, but did you catch Kate Winslet's performance at The Golden Globes last night? Yikes! An acceptance speech to rival Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar blubfest from, ooh, ages ago. Catch it all - and wince - at

Oh, and can someone tell me how Sally Hawkins wins a Best Supporting Actress gong for "Happy-Go-Lucky", when there's hardly a scene in the movie without her? What's that all about??

Questions, questions...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Wire - just how good y'all be?

As advertised above, sometimes here at MTGTTM we go eslewhere - and what better place to start than with the vexing question, "just how good is The Wire?"

For those not in the know, this is a US TV cop show (now just finished, after five seasons) made by HBO and only broadcast in the UK by FX, which means that very few people have seen it. But TV reviewers are all but universal in their praise of the show, and when even Mr Grumpfest himself, Charlie Brooker, calls this the best show on TV in the past 20 years, well, notice must be taken. And so your reviewer has bravely gone forth, sought out season one, and is now in a position to comment. And let it be said immediately, this is a show that will have an effect on you - or at least on the way you speak...

Yo. A-ight?

(To make matters easier for y'all, this review will now offer subtitles for those not yet fully versed in Baltimore street-patois...)

'Fo we get to the main, y'all gon have to unnerstan the way ma man be talkin' atcha.
Now before we proceed, let us deal with the matter of the way that characters speak in the show.

Fo' sure, m_________f___________.

Cuz they all be gettin' with this mofo this an' mofo that sh__. 'til that stuff be comin' out yo' ears, bro.
Many of the characters make frequent and recurring allegations about sexual relationships in a maternal sense.

Mos' def. A-ight?
I say this with certainty, and I do hope that you concur.

OK, enough of this sh__, y'all be gettin' the hang of it now. Unless y'all really be some poor-ass n_________ m_________ f___________.

Enough already
OK, on with the review, before I start sounding like Ali G. But all the same, language is important in this show, as - unlike most others - the story is not instantly and easily understandable. You have to listen carefully (as the tagline says), and you may well find yourself rewinding frequently to try to catch what the heck is going on. (At this point, a useful tip: the HBO website offers very full episode summaries, which make good reading after you've watched each episode. Boy, do I wish I'd realised this before getting to the end of the box set.)

All in all, I'd say this is a grower. I'm on board for season two (mos' def), and I'm pretty impressed with what I've seen so far. But: best TV show of all time? I hae ma doots... though perhaps it's unkind to judge so early. I mean, Buffy season one wasn't up to all that much, and it may well be that greater things lie ahead for officer McNulty and the gang (and, indeed, the gangsters, or crew, or whatever they are called).

On the plus side, this is great DVD box-set fare. Apparently the episodes are meant to feel more like chapters in a book, and it's very easy to get through quite a few pages in one sitting. I think the show will be keeping me company through the remaining winter months - well, that and Masterchef.

Tell it like it is, Holmes
OK, let's be honest: it's not Doctor Who. (Best. TV. Show. Ever.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And at number one...

Happy New Year, folks - and let's wave a fond farewell to last year by unveiling my personal choice of In Bruges as Film of the Year 2008. Seriously.

Yes, I know it ain't high art, and I doubt it'll go down in history as a milestone in cinema history, though I have half a mind to put a bet on that it will become a cult classic. But you know what? I loved it. Hooted my way throughout, and marvelled at both a decent performance by Colin Farrell (who knew?) and a brilliant scene-stealing one from Ralph Fiennes. I enjoyed it all the more because, quite frankly, the trailer for the film was well pish.

Comedy is not easy. Comedy drama even less so. And ladies and gentlemen, this movie delivers. Unless of course you have problems with bad language...