Monday, 31 December 2007

Out with the old...

This time of year tends to bring with it thoughts of reflection and a general sense of taking stock, even as one looks forward to the new. And so who am I to buck the trend...

I started reel world matters back in March shortly after Premiere, a magazine I'd loved since it was launched in 1989 and which I'd written for since 1995, folded. I wanted a site that reflected my cinematic interests, and since then have tried to fill it on a (mostly) daily basis with news and views of anything movie-related that takes my fancy, and, fortunately, those interests seem to be shared by many of you too.

I've appreciated every one of you dropping by and offering your comments, which has always been smart and considered. I've even met some of you in person, while with others it's been an online alliance, but I hope it continues into 2008 and beyond.

On the movie front, 2007 was, at least, something of a vintage year in terms of quality, even if the summer was crammed with far too many medicore threquels. The Coens came back strong, Fincher produced a near masterpiece that was mostly ignored, a fate that also befell Andrew Dominik's sensational Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, the latter two films that won't be in with a sniff of an award come Oscar time and that breaks my heart.

Still Sweeney Todd garnered Tim some of the best reviews of his career, and deservedly so, while my making of book — judging by the response and feedback on this site and elsewhere — appears to have also gone down well, which is very gratifying. Plus, Ace In The Hole and Blade Runner were finally released on DVD. My collection increased dramatically this year, but the arrival of those two, plus Richard Stanley's Dust Devil in a super-duper box set which managed to mispell my name on the cover, were the most welcome.

Who knows what 2008 will bring, but, for now, I must return to my BAFTA viewing, although I will be back early in the New Year with a round up of everything I've seen so far. Which, I must say, has been a very fine bunch of films.

Until then...

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 29 December 2007

The next few days viewing...

Some I've seen and want to see again. Others I've yet to see...

Friday, 28 December 2007

I'm back. Sort of...

Thanks to everyone for both the Christmas messages and the lovely comments regarding the Sweeney book which, judging by the reviews popping up online, seems to have gone down rather well, which is nice.

Between now and the New Year I've got much BAFTA viewing to crack on with — I watched Juno (loved it), Charlie Wilson's War (most enjoyable), Michael Clayton (again), and Before The Devil Knows Your Dead (ditto) among others, in the past few days — as the first round of voting closes at midnight on January 3, plus I have a bunch of year end admin to finish off, meaning my postings here are going to be limited until early January.

However, for Sweeney fans, may I direct you to my Helena Bonham Carter interview that appeared in today's LA Times. Click the headline to read.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Merry Christmas

Since it's the season to be merry, that's what I'm fully intending to do this Christmas. Needlessly to say, service on reel world matters is likely to be, at best, interrupted over the holidays.

That's not to say I won't be popping back here every now and again, when the mood takes me, but a full service will be resumed early in the New Year.

For now, though, I'd like to thank everyone who's found their way here, took the time to comment, and have kept on coming back. Your readership is much appreciated.

And, of course, I want to wish every one of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2008!

The Ruins trailer

I wrote about Scott Smith's book The Ruins a while back and here's a first peak at the movie version. Considering what a great job Sam Raimi did adapting Smith's debut novel A Simple Plan, here's hoping Carter Smith (no relation) does a similarly stellar job.

Update: Head over to for Devin's account of his trip into The Ruins' edit room.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

My Films Of The Year

Here are my twelve favourite films from this year — it's twelve simply because I couldn't decide which two to cut — although, as I write this, I’ve still not seen several contenders that might well have forced their way onto the list. Anyways, without further ado and in alphabetical order…

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

The first time I saw this, it was unfinished and projected from an Avid cut, but it didn’t matter one iota — it was simply sensational. Elegiac and masterful.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

It may be 25 years old, and I may have seen it countless times down the years, but seeing it on the big screen in Venice, I felt like I was watching this for the very first time. And, in a way, I was. Glorious.


Telling some of the same story covered in 24 Hour Party People, rock photographer Anton Corbijn’s directorial debut adopts a more intimate, up close approach that, coupled with the monochrome cinematography, serves the story beautifully.

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

An extraordinary film that soars and tugs at both the heart and soul, Julian Schnabel’s poignant memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby who, having suffered a massive stroke is paralysed with locked-in syndrome, could only move his left eye, exquisitely paints Bauby’s interior landscape and is perhaps as close as cinema gets to pure art.

The Lives Of The Others

I know for many this may be last year’s news, but it's in the running for the 2008 BAFTAs and I only caught up with it recently. Another extraordinary piece of filmmaking with a sensational performance from the late Ulirch Muhe. Exemplary stuff.

No Country For Old Men

I remember seeing Blood Simple on its initial release and being dazzled by the sheer impudence and wit of the filmmakers. This wasn’t only a return to form, it was a near masterpiece from the Coens. This has Oscar writ large all over it…


Smart, funny, delightful, and inventive. Not as good as The Incredibles, mind. But then again, what is?


The funniest film of the year and a wonderful ode to bad taste. I McLoved it. Sorry, it had to be done…


Danny Boyle may have trouble finishing a film (see A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach, and the 28 Days Later DVD for proof of this) but he’s still one of the best we have. Alex Garland’s script had the single greatest BIG IDEA in a movie this year, and the cinematography was sublime.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

Did you think I wasn’t going to include this? Sure, I spent a lot of time on set and wrote the making of book, but this was Burton at the top of his game, with another sensational performance from that man Depp.

There Will Be Blood

PTA + DDL = Genius.


I have yet to see the slightly extended Director’s Cut but this version was damn near perfect. Fincher cut back on the cinematic pyrotechnics to tell a compelling story, beautifully.

Bubbling under…
The Bourne Ultimatum, The Lookout, Michael Clayton, A Mighty Heart, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead.

Best Action Sequence
It’s not because I’m British and I’ve spent a substantial amount of time passing through Waterloo, but to see Matt Damon doing his stuff inside and out the station in The Bourne Ultimatum was simply electrifying.

Best Cinematography
If the prize was for the prettiest, it would arguably go to Seamus McGarvey for Atonement, but I thought Janus Kaminski’s POV work for The Diving Bell And The Butterfly was, like the film itself, extraordinary, Alwin Kuchler painted with light in Sunshine, while Roger Deakins showed why he’s the master with Jesse James and No Country.

Best Score
I figure that Sweeney’s ineligible since it’s pre-existing, so it would have to be Dario Marianelli’s marvellously insistent click-clack score for Atonement.

Breakout Performance(s)
I know Casey Affleck’s been around for a while now, but his turn as Robert Ford suddenly woke me up to him. Ditto: Rosie Byrne in Sunshine. Control’s Sam Riley, meanwhile, embodied Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis physically and vocally.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

James McAvoy Atonement Q&A

A while back, I linked to the James McAvoy interview I wrote for the LA Times. Here's a Q&A with the same Scottish actor that ran in the paper's The Envelope magazine. Click the headline to read.

Net news

Service has hopefully been resumed. Along with my grammatical ability...

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

And another...

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is an extraordinary film. I will have more to say about it in due course...

One more thing...

Apple have 30-minute Sweeney Todd featurette up. Click the headline to link to it.

Net woes

I seem to be spending more time offline than on at the moment, on account of computer problems all too boring to go in to. Suffice to say it means I've not been able to update as often as I've liked. I hope to have it licked soon, so please bear with me until then.

Oh, and many congratulations to Tim and Helena for a having a baby girl!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

No Country For Old Men

I finally caught up with the Coens brothers' latest, No County For Old Men, this week and what a remarkable film it is. I remember Premiere's Glenn Kenny calling it "three-quarters a masterpiece" when he saw it at Cannes, a view he's since revised to a full masterpiece having seen it a few more times. Having only seen it once, thus far, my opinion mirrors his own initial impression. It's not that I didn't like or get the final quarter — and since seeing NCFOM, the film's seldomed left my mind — nor did I have problems with it in terms of it shearing away from what's seen as a more traditional narrative structure. It's just that the last quarter is so deliberately ambigious, difficult, profound, it leaves the viewer to not only question your eyes, but also the meaning of what you've seen.

Clearly I've not mentioned anything regarding plot, or character, or much of anything, and that's because this is a film that benefits from zero information going in. Suffice to say the performances from Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Kelly Macdonald are uniformingly excellent and the Coens are not only back to their best, but back to their old tricks again. How we've missed them.

A terrific dialogue on the meaning of the last quarter has been raging on Kenny's blog. May I direct your attention to and as well as the official site

But only after seeing the film...

Tis the season to be BAFTA

This week, the avalanche of screeners has arrived, including many of the heavy hitters of the awards season (although no Sweeney or There Will Be Blood, thus far). Looks like I've got many film-filled days to look forward to over the holidays...

Friday, 14 December 2007

Tim Burton talk

Thanks to all of you who came to last night’s Tim Burton talk at the BFI Southbank; it was pretty much a sell out.

And for those who couldn’t make it, the evening began with an eight-minute montage of Tim’s films that had been put together especially for his appearance at Venice back in September when he was awarded the Golden Lion.

For me, despite having seen all the films many, many times, cut together like that, it was a mesmerising compilation as one great, iconic image followed another.

Then it was on to me talking about my love of Tim’s movies, how I first encountered his work back in 1985, followed by the opening of Frankenweenie and then more talking.

Then came the good stuff. I explained how I had wanted Tim to come along as a surprise guest, but the imminent arrival of his and Helena’s second child had made that impossible.

Instead, I had asked Tim if it would be possible to show some of his early movies. He’d agreed, and so last night’s audience was treated to around half an hour of footage that has never been shown publicly before.

First up were clips from some of his Super 8 high school pictures. There was footage from a stop-motion caveman film which he describes in Burton on Burton as being “the jerkiest stop-motion you’ll ever see.” Which it wasn’t.

That was followed Houdini: The Untold Story, another film he talks about in Burton on Burton, which he made at high school instead of writing a book report, and featuring a very young looking Tim Burton as its star.

That was followed by several clips from another high school film called Welcome To My Nightmare which showed both Burton's playful and heroic side.

Next were a series of clips from Luau, a spoof of beach and surfer movies he made while a student at Cal Arts with Burton starring as a disembodied head, the self proclaimed “most powerful force in the universe”. Part of the footage was a musical number and I thought it would be nice to contrast that with a clip from Sweeney and so directly afterwards showed Sweeney professing the love he feels for his razors by singing My Friends.

The clip ran for just over nine minutes and I could really feel the audience’s excitement when I announced it, and the disappointment afterwards when it was finished because everyone wanted more…

After that, there was a clip from Doctor Of Doom, a black and white, shot on video spoof of Mexican monster movies with the dialogue deliberately out of synch, a great piece of Burton production design, a wacky monster and another starring role for Tim.

That was followed by Burton’s graduation film from Cal Arts, the hand animated Stalk of The Celery Monster, which went down a storm, and although it was silent because the sound reels were unavailable, you could clearly see Burton’s distinctive style already formed.

The evening ended with a brief Q&A, and then another clip from Sweeney, this time with Depp singing Epiphany, and once again there was palpable excitement from the audience which can only mean great things when the film's finally released here in January.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Tim for allowing me to show the clips, to Derek for all his help in making it possible, to Jayne for helping with the Sweeney clips and to Niall and Laura at the BFI events department.

Thanks also to everyone for your kind comments at the end, to Charlotte and her dad, and a special hi to regular poster Fran who stopped to chat!

Let's play catch up

So, this is how it works, you're offline for half a day due to technical problems and by virtue of the fact you're out of the house giving a talk on Tim Burton (a full report on that later) and by the time you get back, the filmic landscape has shifted. To wit:

The 65th Golden Globes nominations, selected by the HFPA, came out yesterday with Atonement leading the way with seven, and Sweeney picking up a very respectable four: Best Film Musical Or Comedy, Best Director, Best Actor In A Musical Or Comedy and Best Actress In A Musical Or Comedy. Full details can be found at

Here in London, the London Film Critics have concurred with the Golden Globers as far as Atonement is concerned. Joe Wright's film, along with Anton Corbin's Control picked up the most nominations, though neither are in the running for best film; the five battling it out for thart honour are: No Country for Old Men, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac and The Bourne Ultimatum. Hooray for the inclusion of Zodiac and Jesse James. (See, us Brits do have good taste!) Sweeney, being a 2008 release, isn't elligble. Atonement and Control join Once, Eastern Promises and This Is England in the Best British Film category. Full details at

There's also this new Dark Knight poster...

And a pirated trailer up on youtube...

Plus, following on from the openings of Sweeney and AVP appearing online, we have some of Cloverfield...

And the first three of I Am Legend at

Plus, I see that Stephen Norrington, director of Blade and League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, who had seeminly retired from moviemaking after his less than happy experience making the latter, is jumping back into the hot seat for the Clash Of The Titans remake.

Tis really the season to be jolly. Back soon.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Sweeney opening online

You probably all know this by now, but if, by some chance, you don't, then click the headline to enter Sweeney's world...


For the lack of posts recently. Once again I've been having problems getting online and had planned to post a spread or two from the Sweeney book yesterday but just wasn't able to.

On the brighter side, I've got some cool stuff to show at tonight's talk at the BFI Southbank, footage that should bring a smile to any Burton fan. See you there...

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

AVP: Requiem opening online

The first five minutes of AVP: Requiem are now online for anybody interested. Click the headline to find them. I noticed the other day that the film's actually called Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem and not Alien Versus Predator: Requiem as I'd originally thought, presumably as a nod to Cameron's sequel which added an extra "s" to the original film's title.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Gotta love it...

Films Of The Year?

I've still got some viewing to do before I post a definitive list of my favourites films of 2007, which means I won't have a list up for a couple of weeks or so. A magazine I write for asked for my top ten back in October (!) and there were some major omissions; so I want to get it right next time. In the meantime, it would be great to know how you all are thinking, in terms of films, performances, director, etc.

Monday musing

So Sweeney didn't pick up much love from the various critics organisations that announced their picks of the year this weekend, with only a Best Art Direction nod coming its way. Nothing for Depp or Burton. That's a shame, but competition is tough this year, which has been a mighty fine one movie wise, making the process of calling awards winners, even at this stage in the game, pretty difficult, with the Coens back on form, Paul Thomas Anderson firing on almost all cylinders, Sweeney hitting all the right notes, plus an excellent Lumet, the superb Diving Bell And The Butterfly, the great Control, et al, all fighting for honours.

I noticed too, that one of the big Oscar favourites, Atonement, was completely shut out. Them's the breaks, I suppose. As was my inability to make an IMAX screening of Dark Knight footage on Friday afternoon because real life got in the way. Oh well, I guess I'll have to see it with I Am Legend — which I also missed...

On a brighter note, the Jumper trailer has rolled up and is even more jaw droppingly cool than the teaser that had me drooling a while back. If you haven't seen it, get yourself over to

Friday, 7 December 2007

More BAFTA screeners

And still they trickle in. This week: Control, This Is England, Ratatouille and Amazing Grace. Expecting a big influx in the next week or so.

On a side note, I've been rewatching a bunch of Tim's movies in preparation for my NFT talk next week. Yesterday was a triple bill of Vincent, Frankenweenie and Edward Scissorhands. Bliss. Sheer bliss...

Oh. My. Gawd.

Now, I loved The Matrix. Truly, truly loved it. It changed a genre and blew my mind. Reloaded had some great ideas and several cool moments but was something of a disappointment; while the less said about Revolutions the better. Now the Wachowskis are back with Speed Racer and having seen the hi-def trailer more than a few times, I can't wait for the summer...

See it at

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Keira Knightley Atonement interview

Click on the headline to read my LA Times interview with the delightful Keira Knightley.

Depp does Dillinger

No, it's not a porn movie. Rather it's the very exciting news that Johnny Depp is teaming with director Michael Mann for Public Enemies, a Depression-era drama set during the great crime wave of 1933-34 when the US government’s attempts to stop such legendary crims such as John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd helped transform J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI into the country’s first federal police force. Mann penned the script, based on Bryan Burrough’s book and shooting starts next March in Chicago.

I've been a Mann fan from way back. Thief, Manhunter (which I saw on it original theatrical release), The Keep (a very underrated movie — are we ever going to see it on DVD?), Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Collateral et al. I liked almost all of Miami Vice too (save the excursion to Cuba for drinks and sex) and didn't understand why people were so down on it. That scene in the trailer park was pure genius.

Anyways, the notion of Depp and Mann working together has me psyched. As I'm sure it does others...

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Wire

David Simon's The Wire is the greatest TV show of all time. IMHO. Better than The Sopranos, better than Curb My Enthusiasm, better than anything, including Buffy and I loved Buffy. It's more like a novel spread over five seasons than it is a TV series and as Charlie Booker once wrote: "You either love The Wire, or you haven't seen it." It's that simple.

Season four is just out on DVD and season five, the last unfortunately, starts on HBO in the US in January. Simon has put together three short prequels which can be viewed via the season four DVD page on For fans, it's well worth checking out. For non fans, here's teaser of season five, with McNulty, back drinking, about to be a naughty boy. Again.

Cool posters

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Good news...

For Last King Of Scotland director Kevin Macdonald. Russell Crowe has agreed to replace Brad Pitt in the US remake of State Of Play. Meaning the film doesn't fold and lots of great actors get to try and recapture the genius of David Yates' BBC TV version.

I'm pleased for Kevin who is not only a nice bloke and the brother of Sunshine producer Andrew, but also used to work at Faber and helped on the first edition of Burton On Burton (he gets a thank you in the original book's acknowledgments).

Sweeney reviews

The reviews for Sweeney Todd are starting to come in and, so far, it's a major thumbs up.

Variety's Todd McCarthy says: 'Both sharp and fleet, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Stree” proves a satisfying screen version of Stephen Sondheim’s landmark 1979 theatrical musical. Where much could have gone wrong, things have turned out uniformly right thanks to highly focused direction by Tim Burton, expert screw-tightening by scenarist John Logan, and haunted and musically adept lead performances from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Assembled artistic combo assures the film will reap by far the biggest audience to see a pure Sondheim musical, although just how big depends on the upscale crowd’s tolerance for buckets of blood, and the degree to which the masses stay away due to the whiff of the highbrow.

"In all events, DreamWorks-Paramount and Warner Bros. have a classy and reasonably commercial delicacy on their hands. Some Broadway purists will gripe about how the film of Sweeney Todd omits and abridges certain songs, reshapes the drama to a degree or just can’t measure up to their cherished memories of Angela Lansbury’s wondrous performance as Mrs. Lovett. But it will be hard to argue that Burton and his cohorts have not imaginatively reconceived the piece as a work of cinema; strictly in film terms, Sweeney is seamless, coherent and vibrant, with scarcely a trace of Broadway."

While The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt had this to say: "Stephen Sondheim's award-winning musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a savage tale of cannibalism, madness and serial murder, is now Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. The show couldn't have fallen into better hands. With realistic gore replacing the stylistic bloodletting in the stage version, "Sweeney" loses some of its darkly comic tone -- not a lot of laughs here except the nervous kind.

"The blood juxtaposed to the music is highly unsettling. It runs contrary to expectations. Burton pushes this gore into his audiences' faces so as to feel the madness and the destructive fury of Sweeney's obsession. Teaming with Depp, his long-time alter ego, Burton makes Sweeney a smoldering dark pit of fury and hate that consumes itself. With his sturdy acting and surprisingly good voice, Depp is a Sweeney Todd for the ages."

Monday, 3 December 2007

Sunday, 2 December 2007

More BAFTA screeners

December cometh and so do the screeners. After the drip, drip of recent weeks, the last two days have brought a veritable flood of titles: La Vie En Rose, Once, Michael Clayton, Rescue Dawn, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Eastern Promises and Youth Without Youth.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

James McAvoy Atonement interview

Atonement may have come out in the UK back in September but its US release is set for December 7.

Click the headline to read my LA Times interview with star James McAvoy.

Evel Knievel RIP

I was actually chatting to someone on Thursday about those Evel Knievel toy motorcycle sets it turned out we both used to have and play with as children. He had just bought a new version of the stunt set; I was remarking how I still have my original Evel and bike (in fairly good nick too) in a box on the shelves in my office. (As to the wind up device, however, I do not know its whereabouts.)

To a generation of kids, Evel was the epitome of action hero, dressed mainly in that tight white suit of his, flying over the Grand Canyon or leaping over rows of buses at Wembley Stadium (see photo). He didn't always escape without injury, but that made him even more heroic.

I never saw him live but I thrilled to his exploits on television, and distinctly remember getting my Evel toy one Christmas and playing with it continuously for the week my family were away for the holidays, sending it speeding along the tiled corridor at my grandmother's flat, jumping over boxes...

Friday, 30 November 2007

Tim Burton Por Tim Burton

One of the lovely spin-offs of having written Burton On Burton are the various foreign editions I have lined up on my book shelves. The Japanese one still remains my favourite because, well, it's in Japanese, but I have to say that Spanish publisher Alba has always done a nice job with its edition. This is the revised edition which arrived in the post today.

Even more Sweeney...

Empire online have posted links to more Sweeney clips than you can shake a cutthroat razor at. Check out their story at

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Sweeney junket

Spent some time at the Sweeney Todd junket this week. Said hello and chatted to Tim, Dick Zanuck, and Colleen Atwood. Interviewed Tim, Johnny and Helena again for pieces that I will link to once they go online.

The Tim/Johnny interview was fun. I've interviewed them both many times before, but never together, although I have seen how they are on set, working. But listening to them chat back and forth, finishing one another's thoughts, you could really feel the love, laughter and respect both men share for each other.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Freakin' amazing

First a peak at Rorshach and now this. The geeky fan boy in me is all aquiver today.

Rorschach spotted

As any comic book fan knows, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchman is a work of unparalled genius. The long mooted movie version is currently shooting under the direction of Zack Synder who so faithfully transferred Frank Miller's 300 to the screen. The official Watchmen site has posted some pictures including a first-peak at the masked psychopath known as Rorshach.

Check out the rest at

Monday, 26 November 2007

Monday musing

Thanks for all the kind words about the book, and again sorry that I could only show the cover for now. But I promise that as soon as I get the okay from the publishers I'll post some inside spreads.

Sorry too for the lack of posts recently. It's been a busy few days and today was the first day of the Sweeney junket which meant I got to see the film again last night, and you know what, I liked it even more the second time around.

More soon...

Friday, 23 November 2007

Say hello to Sweeney Todd (the book, that is)

Alas, I'm prevented from showing any more than the cover at this stage. But at least it's a nice looking cover.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving...

To all US readers. Have some turkey for me!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson's fifth feature, and his first since 2002's Punch Drunk Love, doesn't open in the US until late December and next year in the UK. Since I was lucky enough to see it the other night, followed by a relaxed Q&A session with Daniel Day-Lewis, I thought I'd toss out a few opinions for you to chew over, rather than write a full-blown review. Suffice to say the film is a remarkable achievement, with a towering performance from Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview, a gold prospector turned successful oil man, and a marvellous supporting turn(s) from Paul Dano who played the unspeaking son in Little Miss Sunshine. Loosely inspired by Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil, Anderson's first film set outside LA is, as Variety called it "boldly and magnificently strange", with Day Lewis' Plainview a complex, self-obsessed, self destructive, malevolent man, seemingly set on destroying any links to the rest of humanity. Will it win him another Oscar? Maybe. Although my money's on someone else.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Here be monster

The good folk at Empire online have done another trailer breakdown to save us from having to do it ourselves. And one screengrab contains the money shot — ie. the monster.

Monday, 19 November 2007

At last

The Cloverfield trailer is finally here. Hooray! There's even a blink-and-you'll-miss it shot of the monster. Hooray! Find it at Hoo-er-ray!

Very excited

Seeing There Will Be Blood this evening, followed by a Daniel Day Lewis Q&A. Should be interesting.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? That is the question...

I haven't really been tempted to upgrade to either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. Certainly not until a clear winner from the hi-def war emerges. But more than that, I have a DVD collection which I am perfectly happy with. The quality (apart from some of discs from the very early days of the format) is more than acceptable for the size of my television. HOWEVER, I see that Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (my favourite Spielberg movie) is coming out on Blu-Ray in all three versions (I have a Criterion laserdisc of the original and best cut, already) with tons of extras and suddenly I'm starting to think, Is now the time?

Has anyone out there had experience of either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? And what do you think of them? Are they worth the extra investment? Or should I stick with what I've got?

All opinions gratefully received.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The Other Boleyn Girl

The original BBC TV production of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl was shot on miniDV with bare sets, few props, and even fewer extras, almost Dogma-style, with Jared Harris as Henry VIII. I loved it for its minimalistic approach and for attempting to do something different with period. From its trailer, however, the Peter Morgan-scripted/Justin Chadwick-directed film version looks to have opted for a more traditional — ie. big bucks — tactic: lots of extras, much pomp and ceremony, lush visuals, implied worthiness. Oh well. Still, it's got Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson together at last, I suppose. Plus Eric Bana.

Burton in 3D

Tim Burton has signed to direct two 3D pics for Disney for whom he made Nightmare Before Christmas and Ed Wood. First up is a version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland which will combine performance-capture imagery and live-action footage. After that, he'll direct and produce a feature length stop motion version of his 1984 short Frankenweenie which is screening as part of the BFI Tim Burton season.

I'm seeing Tim soon, so I hope to have more on these two projects from the man himself.

It's (almost) here...

The Cloverfield trailer is playing with Beowulf in the US from this weekend. Hopefully it'll pop up online soon enough, but if you catch it before that happens, I'd love to hear from you...

Thursday, 15 November 2007


Thanks to Gerard for the heads up.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Tim Burton season

For those readers who live in the UK, may I direct your attention to the Tim Burton season happening next month at the National Film Theatre on London's South Bank.

Beginning on Saturday December 1 with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Frankenweenie, the NFT will show all of Tim's movies (save Sweeney Todd) along with a number of special screenings, including a Vincent Price night (Edward Scissorhands, Vincent and House Of Wax in 3D).

There's also a Masterclass with Burton's regular costume designer Colleen Atwood on December 7 (although that date might change) and on Thursday December 13 a talk entitled The Cinema Of Tim Burton hosted by yours truly which will feature clips from Burton's career, including some of his little seen early work. Hope to see you there.

More details at

Monday, 12 November 2007


I wasn't terribly impressed by the first couple of Beowulf trailers. But now, having seen the entire thing, in 3D, consider me mightily impressed. Beowulf is an amazing visual feast and a startling display of what's possible with motion capture and CG effects. Director Robert Zemeckis sure loves his technology, and while I'd like to see him make something akin to Used Cars again, he's a far better filmmaker than his friend and USC contemporary George Lucas, and so Beowulf has more thrills, more emotion, and more decent acting than all three Star Wars prequels combined.

The "humans" still have that dead eye look if I'm really honest, but this is a big step on from what Zemeckis achieved with Polar Express. And while almost all the cast's digital creations look more or less like themselves (save Ray Winstone's buffed Beowulf and Crispin Glover's hideous Grendel) the one character who looks truly alive digitally is Angelina Jolie, but that may be, in the flesh, she looks beyond "real". (What I'm trying to say here is that some actors, look different to mere mortals, and she's one of them.)

Anyway, back to the film itself. The 3D is sensational. And having suffered through several 3D films during the 80s revival, I can safely report that the dimensional work is the best I've encountered and after two hours I emerged from the cinema without feeling as if someone had stuck a hot needle in my eye, as I have in the past.

In short, go and see this film. Monster House may, scene for scene, be more inventive, but Beowulf is arguably more spectacular.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Strike! Strike! Strike!

I've not posted about the WGA strike up until now because there are others out in the blogosphere better placed (ie. in LA) and better informed (ie. striking screenwriters) to offer their perspective on the matter. Suffice to say, as somebody who writes for a living, I'm with them. I write a book, I get royalties from it (if it sells, that is). I write an article for a magazine, the article gets syndicated, I get a cut of the fee. Kind of figures that if you write a script to a movie that makes money (be it theatrically, on DVD, or from downloads), you're entitled to a fair share of the profits. The WGA is asking for 8 cents for every DVD sold, up from 4. If you ask me, that's still not enough. Other people are making money from movies, why shouldn't the writer. Maybe that's a simplistic argument, but it seems a pretty reasonable one.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

DVD review: Tell No One

I first met Guillaume Canet on the set of The Beach in Thailand in 1999. Back then he was just a young French actor picked by Danny Boyle to play Virginie Ledoyen’s unlucky boyfriend opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie version of Alex Garland’s novel. Little did I know that eight years later he would have turned into one of France’s most acclaimed writer-directors.

Adapted from Harlen Coben’s best-selling thriller, Canet's second feature Tell No One begins in the tranquil beauty of Lake Charmaine before moving to the streets of Paris where widowed paediatrician Alex Beck (played by Dustin Hoffman-lookalike Francois Cluzet) receives an email from his wife (Marie-Josée Croze) — eight years after her death. It’s a brilliant hook and with the police suspecting his involvement in both her brutal murder and that of her best friend, Alex goes on the run and the film transforms into a frantic action thriller, full of non-stop action and smartly-staged chase sequences.

As with the book it’s based on — an airport novel if there ever was one — Canet’s film twists and turns from minute to breathless minute, moving at such a cracking pace you’ve scarcely time to question the logic or ludicrousness of the plot, before Cluzet is again off, running for his wife.

With top notch support from a French-speaking Kristin Scott Thomas as Alex’s lesbian sister-in-law and the always dependable Jean Rochefort as a sinister senator and sleek, fluid camerawork from Christophe Offenstein, the film falls off the rails towards the end as the plot slows down sufficiently to explain itself, but the Parisian settings offer a refreshing change to the streets of New York or LA.

Andrew Dominik interview

My interview with Jesse James writer-director Andrew Dominik can be found in this week's Time Out or at

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Love this cover

Awards Season

The awards season, counting down to Oscar night, has already begun. Oscar sites are up and running, "For your consideration" ads have started to appear in the trades, predictions have been made, proclaimations posted, even though some films have yet to be released or screened.

I'm a BAFTA member. I get to vote for the BAFTA awards, which means I get sent a ton of DVD screeners between now and the end of December. So far two have turned up. A film called Man In The Chair starring Christopher Plummer as well as a screener for Knocked Up.

I'm always very dilligent in my voting and watching, and I'm going to attempt to keep you up to date on my viewing habits and my favourites over the next couple of months.

Last night I saw Sidney Lumet's Before The Devil Knows You're Dead which I'd been hearing good things about for a while now. It was great. Really great. If it's on near you, do check it out, although try to avoid seeing the trailer beforehand because it gives far too much away.

I'll have more to say about it another time, but for now I have a pressing deadline that I must attend to...

Monday, 5 November 2007

Monday musing

American Gangster made $46.3 million at the US box office this weekend. That's incredible. Especially considering it's two plus hours long and R rated. Many of the reviews voiced the same "it's good, but..." as me, but the public spoke and went in their droves. Is it this year's The Departed? Only time will tell.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Yes, I've seen it. And yes, it's amazing

I'm talking about Sweeney Todd here, in case you're wondering. I wasn't going to say anything but since others have gone and gushed, I thought I'd join them. I don't want to go into many details right now, but it's as good as you've heard. And bloody too.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Sweeney Todd book cover

A Halloween treat for all Burton fans out there...

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Yep, even more scary movies

I love Quatermass. Be it the original TV version, Hammer's, or John Mills' 80s incarnation. My favourite of all, though, is Quatermass And The Pit, the third of Hammer's three Q films, and, for me, the scariest of the lot. Okay, so the Martians are a little laughable nowadays, but the conversation about Hobb's End and all the spooky goings on therein always chills my blood, no matter how many times I see it.


I'm currently re-reading Mark Millar's super villain comic Wanted as research for a forthcoming interview and enjoying the hell out of it again. The upcoming movie version has been directed by Night Watch's Timur Bekmambetov and stars James McAvoy, Angelina Joile and Morgan Freeman. Given Bekmambetov's astounding visual sensibility, his obvious gift for outrageous action, and the riotous source material, it should be a real hoot. Empire posted some photos from it yesterday and here are two, featuring Jolie as the aptly named Fox and McAvoy as Wesley Gibson, newly inducted member of super criminal group The Fraternity.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Even more scary movies

I saw Dracula Has Risen From The Grave for the first time on television when I was seven — yep, seven — and it scared the hell out of me. (Well, duh!) On a more positive note, it made me the horror film fan I am today. So that's alright then.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

More scary movies

I first watched Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a young kid back in the 80s on VHS. I rented it from my local video store and watched it three times in one weekend. I remember actually being out of breathe after watching Marilyn Burns's Sally pursued through the woods by Leatherface. Even now, 20 odd years later, it still retains the power to shock. Unlike with The Haunting, I didn't mind the Marcus Nipsel remake (it kind of washed over me, if I'm honest), but it only served to show just how raw and nasty Hooper's original was — and remains.

American Gangster

Walking out of American Gangster I found myself very conflicted. It's an epic story well told with some great performances but — and it turned out to a big but — it didn't excite me. (It also didn't feel like a Ridley Scott film, but that's a different matter entirely.) Perhaps it was because I've seen its story of a drug dealer's meteoric rise (and eventual fall) plenty of times before in other movies that I left the cinema strangely muted. It's not that American Gangster is a bad film. Far from it, in fact. A lot of time, effort and money has been poured into this project and that craftsmanship is certainly all up on the screen. Shortly afterwards, however, I started to see internet soothsayers start talking about it as an Oscar cert, a definite Best Picture nomination, and I thought, okay, maybe it's just me. Then Todd McCarthy's Variety review appeared and I realised it wasn't. __"American Gangster," McCarthy writes, "wants to be a great epic crime saga so badly you can feel it. The true story at its core -- of the rise, fall and redemption of a '70s-era Harlem drug lord — is so terrific, it's amazing it wasn't put onscreen long ago, and it would be difficult today to find two better actors to pit against one another, as hoodlum and cop, respectively, than Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. With so many elements going for it, this big, fat Universal release is absorbing, exciting at times and undeniably entertaining, and is poised to be a major commercial hit. But great it's not. Memories of numerous classics hang over this film like banners commemorating past championship teams — The Godfather, Serpico, Prince of the City, Scarface and Goodfellas, among other modern-era crime-pic landmarks. Like most of those, this is a quintessential New York story, one you feel could have been the basis for a Sidney Lumet masterpiece. But while American Gangster is made with consummate professionalism on every level, it just doesn't quite feel like the real deal; it delivers, but doesn't soar."

Friday, 26 October 2007

Scary movies

With Halloween swiftly approaching, and people's thoughts turning to all things scary, I figured I'd join in the ghoulish fun and share a few of my favourite fright moments between now and then, beginning with Robert Wise's 1963 classic The Haunting which I first watched only about seven or eight years, late one Friday night on TNT, and which scared the bejesus out of me. Unlike the bloated Jan De Bont remake, Wise's film relied on minimal (if any) special effects and the power of suggestion. In fact, I don't think I've ever been as frightened as an adult watching a movie as I was watching this.

LFF: Island Of Lost Souls

A Danish kids fantasy adventure directed by Nikolaj Arcel, this is similar in tone to Disney’s original Escape From Witch Mountain but with better special effects. Teeanger Lulu (Sara Gaarmann) has just moved to a quiet coastal town with her recently separated mother and annoying younger brother. When the little twerp becomes possessed by a member of a secret lodge who fought against evil more than a century before, the spiritually-obsessed Lulu, together with new friend Oliver and local paranormal investigator Richard, find themselves charged with freeing souls trapped on nearby Monk Island and battling an age-old necromancer with the future of mankind at stake. Without the budget of a Harry Potter at its disposal, this opts instead for a more old-fashioned approach, but features arguably the creepiest scarecrow you're ever likely to see.


USA Today has just published this latest AVP2 shot and suddenly I'm not so convinced.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

LFF: Lions For Lambs

Directed by and co-starring Robert Redford, the preachy and wordy Lions For Lambs marked its world premiere in London on Monday with an appearance from both the Sundance Kid and Tom Cruise who spent much less time working the crowds outside the cinema than normal. As for the film itself, it’s a dull, talky piece of political grandstanding that, while intended to bash Bush — and clearly ascribing to Redford’s liberal tendencies — also tries to appease the other side too, having its “characters” represent the differing sections of the “war on terror” debate and allowing them time to espouse their varying viewpoints. Some might call it balanced, others a case of the film trying to have its cake and eating it too. (Time Out suggested it should be retitled Politics For Dummies which made me laugh.) And so we have Cruise turning on the charm as the hot shot young Republican Senator giving some one-on-one interview time to Meryl Streep’s unconvincing TV reporter to talk up a new, more aggressive military policy in Afghanistan. A policy that’s playing out as they speak with US soldiers Michael Pena and Derek Luke trapped on a snow-capped Afghan ridge with enemy troops closing in. Meanwhile, Redford’s laidback Californian university professor — who, we discover, once taught Pena and Luke — has called in one of his current (and most promising) students Todd (Andrew Garfield) for an early morning chat in an effort to rouse him from his world of privileged (political) apathy. Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, scripter of The Kingdom, Lions For Lambs is far too self-important and muddled to really convince, and apart from the odd moment in the Cruise/Streep tete-a-tete, none of the intended verbal sparring truly sparks, the film coming across as a heavy-handed lecture that will, most likely, send audiences to sleep rather than stimulate debate.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Because you asked...

The Australian/New Zealand publication date for the Sweeney book is February 5, 2008 with copies shipping towards the end of November.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Less is more for Sweeney Todd

A new trailer. For your delectation. And much better too.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Sweeney book update

My Sweeney Todd book has officially left for the printers. Finished copies should be ready by the end of November and in shops soon after. I hope to have the cover up on this site at the end of the month.

Deborah Kerr RIP

Most commentators talking about Deborah Kerr, who died yesterday aged 86, have tended to focus on her roles opposite Yul Brunner in The King And I, Cary Grant in An Affair To Remember, and that clinch on the beach in Burt Lancaster in From Here To Eternity. They may be her most famous, but for me, Kerr's best and most memorable performances were in Powell and Pressburger's The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (in which she had three roles) and Black Narcissus, as well as in Jack Clayton's The Innocents.