27 January 2004
The Film: Big Fish
It's three years since Tim Burton's last film, a remake of the 1968 science fiction classic 'Planet of the Apes'. That's not one many will remember him for. What they will remember is a string of weird and wonderful movies - quirky, dark tales including 'Beetlejuice', the first two 'Batman' movies, 'Edward Scissorhands', 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and 'Mars Attacks'. His new film, 'Big Fish', is lighter than all of those, but it still features Burton's trademark box of magic tricks, lavish production design and a score by his long-time collaborator, Danny Elfman. It's set in Alabama and it's all about the life and times of travelling salesman and storyteller, Edward Bloom, played in old age by Albert Finney and as a young man by Ewan McGregor. The cast also includes Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Billy Crudup and Danny DeVito. Bloom tells his tales in the grand old Southern manner, and with a witch and a werewolf in there, it's often hard for his family to believe anything he says.

Karen Fricker, Declan McGonagle and Thomas McLaughlin discuss 'Big Fish'

The Play: Skylight
David Hare is one of Britain's most successful playwrights. His plays include the trilogy 'Racing Demon', 'Murmuring Judges' and 'The Absence of War', 'The Secret Rapture', 'Amy's View' and 'Via Dolorosa'. He wrote and directed several feature films, among them 'Wetherby' and 'Strapless', and wrote the screenplays for Louis Malle's 'Damage', and Stephen Daldry's 'The Hours'. But although many of his plays have been presented on Broadway and further afield, we don't often get to see them here in Ireland. Well, a production of one of his most admired works, 'Skylight', has opened at the Project, directed by Michael Caven. Cathy Belton plays Kira, a hard up teacher who several years ago ended her love affair with restaurant tycoon, Tom, played by Owen Roe. Suddenly, he appears at her flat, and maybe they can pick up where they left off.

The Panel discusses 'Skylight' at The Project

The Film: Elephant
The director and screenwriter Gus Van Sant has spent the past 15 years making films about young people and they've often painted a pretty bleak picture of contemporary America - films like 'Drugstore Cowboy', 'My Own Private Idaho' and 'To Die For'. Okay, 'Good Will Hunting' was a feelgood movie, but we're back in the American nightmare with his new one, 'Elephant'. Like Michael Moore's Oscar-winning 'Bowling for Columbine', it's based on the 1999 high school massacre in Littleton, Colorado, where two teenagers gunned down a teacher and 12 other students. 'Elephant' owes its title, and much of its visual style, to an extraordinary 40-minute drama, made for BBC television in 1989 by Alan Clarke. In that film, a whole series of murders were provocatively edited together in a kind of visual tirade against the violence in Northern Ireland. Van Sant's 'Elephant' is set in the idyllic surroundings Portland, Oregon, and employs a mainly non-professional cast of local high-school students using improvised dialogue.

The Panel discusses 'Elephant'

The Book: Dr Mukti and Other Tales Of Woe
The author Will Self is from London. A journalist, critic and occasional broadcaster, he began his publishing career as a cartoonist with The New Statesman. He has several books of non-fiction but he's probably best-known for his novels, among them 1991's 'The Quantity Theory of Insanity', winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the follow-up, 'How the Dead Live', shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 2000. His new collection is called 'Dr Mukti and Other Tales of Woe'. It opens with a novella, 'Dr Mukti', and there are four other, shorter stories, all of them pretty familiar territory for fans of the author.

The Panel discusses Will Self's 'Dr Mukti and Other Tales Of Woe'

The Performance: Kevin McAleer
Back in the late Eighties, one of the highlights on RTÉ television was the twice-weekly, late-night series, 'Nighthawks' - and some of the best moments on that show featured a comedian from Co Tyrone with a unique way of looking at things, Kevin McAleer. Well, unlike the TV series, McAleer is still around. He launched a new show, 'Chalk and Cheese' at last year's Dublin Fringe Festival, and he begins the second leg of an Irish tour of the show in a couple of weeks' time.

Watch the performance

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