Today's Joanna Page

Today’s Joanna Page: Ready When You Are Mr McGill

Today’s Joanna Page is Ready When You Are Mr McGill, a 2003 remake of Jack Rosenthal’s famous 1976 play.

Rosenthal is best known for creating London’s Burning and for writing the first ever episode of Coronation Street as well as famous plays such as Play For Today‘s Bar Mitzvah Boy and P’Tang, Yang, Kipperbang. In Ready When You Are Mr McGill, he turned his attention to television.

The original play, made for Granada, focused on the filming of a single scene of a TV show, in which just about everything can go wrong, does go wrong, and Mr McGill, one of the extras, does everything he can to help out and deliver his all-important line before the end of the day.

ITV, back in 2002/3 when it had a little bit of cash and was using big names to draw in the crowds, decided to remake the play as a one and a half hour movie. Starring Tom Courtenay as Joe McGill, Bill Nighy as the egotistical director, Amanda Holden as herself and Phil Davis as the cameraman, it also featured comedy luminaries including Tamsin Greig, Sally Phillips, Sam Kelly, Stephen Moore and Stephen Mangan.

It more or less followed the original play’s plot, but was updated to cope with modern television politics and production – and changing it to the filming of a cop show instead of a spy show. But to pad it out for an extra half hour runtime, there’s an additional sub-plot about Babs Carter, an actress who’s a bit worried about her nude scene and who does everything she can to get out of it. Playing Babs Carter: Joanna Page.

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Richard Harris and David Hemmings in Juggernaut
Movies you should own

Movies you should own: Juggernaut (Terror on the Britannic)

Juggernaut

If you’ve watched enough movies and TV shows, the idea of the ‘ticking bomb’ should be familiar to you. You know: there’s a bomb, it’s got to be defused, usually by snipping either a red wire or a blue wire, and there’s only a few minutes or seconds to do it in.

Normally, you’ll find this in a single episode of a TV show or maybe in the final act of a film and it’ll usually be just a regular cop or soldier doing the disarming, rather than a heroic bomb disposal expert – typically they‘re running late. Equally rarely will the ticking bomb scenario last the length of the entire movie or TV show or the bomb be any more complex than just that red-blue question.

In fact, off the top of my head I can only think of Danger UXB and occasionally The Unit really focusing on bomb disposal on TV; in the movies, even Speed didn’t dwell on disarmament, only evasion, and Quatermass and the Pit didn’t have a bomb, only a spaceship everyone thought was a bomb.

Juggernaut (also known as Terror on the Britannic), released in 1974, is perhaps the only instance of a movie that deals exclusively from beginning to end with the defusal of a single bomb and that features a heroic bomb disposal expert at the centre of the action.

Set on board a luxury liner travelling across the Atlantic, the movie sees Richard Harris try to disarm seven identical and highly complicated bombs designed by a man calling himself ‘Juggernaut’. The first film to develop the ‘red wire/blue wire’ dilemma, it’s a tense piece directed by Richard ‘Superman II‘ Lester, with dialogue by Alan ‘Beiderbecke‘ Plater, that while featuring an all-star cast is in reality a mesmerising monologue by Harris and a musing on the nature of death. It’s a movie you should own.

Here’s the very 70s, slightly judgemental trailer narrated by a bored American man.

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Review: Quantum of Solace

I don’t normally do reviews of current films. There’s not much point since I always see them too late. But when I do see a film just as it comes out, invariably my review would be almost identical to Mark Kermode’s. Case in point: Quantum of Solace. Here’s Mark Kermode’s review, which is pretty much word for word what I would have said. Loved the fight scenes though.

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Film reviews

Movies you should own: Manhunter

¡Madre Mia! I’ve finally got round to writing it. The reasons you should own Manhunter! Will wonders never cease?

As far as most people are concerned, The Silence of the Lambs was the film that introduced serial killer Hannibal Lecter to the world. Starring (Sir) Anthony Hopkins as the ex-psychiatrist and people-eater, it was one of the first horror movies to do respectably at the Oscars and catapulted both Hopkins and Jodie Foster, who played the FBI agent trying to mine him for information, into the league of A-list stars.

Since then, we’ve had Hannibal and Red Dragon, both starring Hopkins as Lecter, and young Lecter movie, Hannibal Rising – all to diminishing effect.

What not many people realise is that back in the 80s, Michael Mann, director of Heat, Collateral, The Insider and Last of the Mohicans as well as creator of Miami Vice, had already adapted the original Lecter novel, Red Dragon, as Manhunter.

Way before Millennium, Profiler and CSI made popular forensic science, psychological profiling and the idea of thinking inside a killer’s mind to catch him, it featured CSI‘s William Petersen as Will Graham, the man who caught Lecter by risking his own sanity and daring to think the same thoughts. Equally notably, it also featured Brian Cox as Hannibal – and he’s a damn sight better than Anthony Hopkins.

Which is why Manhunter is a movie you should own. Here’s the original trailer for Manhunter – forgive it for being made in the 80s.

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Today's Joanna Page

Today’s Joanna Page: Very Annie Mary

Today’s Joanna Page is Very Annie Mary, a little movie set in Wales that features just about every Welsh actor in existence. It stars Rachel Griffiths, an Australian actress who impressed everyone right up until she joined the cast of Brothers and Sisters, as Annie Mary, the frustrated (in every sense) daughter of Pavarotti-impersonating baker Jonathan Pryce. 

She wants to help her best friend, the seriously ill 16-year-old Bethan Bevan, get to Disneyland and singing in a talent contest might be the only way to get the money. And despite being 22 at the time, Joanna Page played that sick teenager.

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