Monday, 30 April 2007

The Exterminators

Doing for the exterminator trade what TV's Six Feet Under did for the undertaking profession, writer Simon Oliver's twisted Kafkaesque Vertigo series The Exterminators has joined Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets as DF's current favourite comic, a sick, twisted, sometime hilarious trawl through the life of ex-con Henry James and his fellow workers at Bug-Bee-Gone as they take on the LA's creeping pestilance one cockroach at a time. Smartly written by Oliver and illustrated by Eisner-nominated artist Tony Moore, this features super bugs, corporate lesbians and, in the second trade, Insurgency, the Libarius Fantasius where, to quote, "the intellectually aroused come to play out their literary fantasies". Insanely good.

Stardust trailer

Meant to be seeing this soon. Liked the book. And all credit to director Matthew Vaughn for pulling together such an impressive cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Mark Strong etc. I interviewed Vaughn last year while he was editing and he showed me about half an hour of footage. I must say, I liked what I saw then, but this fantasy/romance/comedy mix is hard to pull off. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Say what?

Were my ears deceiving me or did Jonathan Ross really ask Tobey Maguire on his TV show last night when was the last time the Spidey star had masturbated? How does he get away with it? Seriously.

Harsh Times DVD

The directorial debut of Training Day screenwriter David Ayer, this searing, rage-fuelled, incendiary powderkeg features yet another sensational transformative performance from Christian Bale. Plagued by nightmares of his time in the Gulf, clearly disturbed ex-US Ranger Jim (Bale) spends his days either south of the border with his Mexican fiancĂ©e, for whom he promises to procure an American visa, or riding around South Central LA with his childhood friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) getting wasted, busting heads, and ripping off the local dealer’s stash. Jim talks of a career in law enforcement, but a suspect military record rules him out of a position with the LAPD. Mike, meanwhile, just wants to find a job to please his yuppie wife (Eva Longoria) but finds it increasingly difficult to resist his buddy’s corrupting influence — with the inevitable, sticky consequences. When Jim’s eventually offered a post with Homeland Security, policing drug cartels in Columbia, he must choose between being a Fed and being with his mamisita. Bale chalks up yet another American psycho after Patrick Bateman and Batman, bringing palpable depth, even occasional tenderness to this mentally unstable, angry young vet (Travis Bickle anyone?) whose violent tendencies are liable to erupt at the slightest provocation. Ayer, who reportedly remortgaged his home to the finance the film after being turned down by every studio, grew up on these mean streets and it shows in his disquieting script — written before Training Day and sharing similarities in tone, narrative and setting — and uncomfortably visceral direction. He goes for the jugular at all times — once, quite literally — the grainy, handheld camerawork adding to the already scuzzy authenticity. Not much in the way of extras but this DVD is a worthy purchase nevertheless. Out April 30.

Friday, 27 April 2007

So now it's two movies

It was announced today that Grindhouse is being split into two in the UK. Quentin Tarantino's extended cut of Death Proof, which will premiere in competition in Cannes, will be released on September 21 while Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is to be released at a later date still to be confirmed. So now you know. Ok, so when's the DVD out in the US?

Digital Filmmaking by Mike Figgis

Whatever you think of his films, Timecode director Mike Figgis has always been at the cutting edge of the DV revolution and in this short but practical book he provides a very useful how-to guide to the possibilities afforded by digital technology. Recommended for both professionals and wannabe filmmakers alike.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Harry Potter 5 trailer

I spent a couple of days on the set of the Order Of The Phoenix last year interviewing all the main players in front and behind the camera. As a fan of director David Yates' TV work, particularly State Of Play and Sex Traffic, I was always convinced he'd do a tremendous job on the fifth Harry Potter film and this trailer seems to bear that out.

Monday, 23 April 2007

East End Film Festival

Andrew Macdonald, the talented producer of Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and the forthcoming 28 Weeks Later, is this year's Producer in Residence for the 2007 East End Film Festival. I'll be interviewing Andrew on stage at the Genesis Cinema in Mile End at 7pm on Wednesday April 25 as part of the 3 Mills Studios Masterclass Series. See for more details.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Happy 70th Jack

There's a Tim Burton interview of mine included in the Observer birthday tribute to Jack Nicholson who's 70 today. Find it at:,,2062647,00.html

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Fangoria 263

Out now. With my 28 Weeks Later cover story (a Robert Carlyle interview) and loads more besides.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Spidey 3 thoughts

Better than the first, not a patch on the second. Entertaining enough with several breathtakingly thrilling action sequences but one too many villains and an overly stretched and tangled plot that feels too much like the webslinging franchise is treading water this time around. A slightly disappointing start to this year's threquel-packed summer movie season.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Don't blame the movies...

The recent events at Virginia Tech were unbelievably sad and tragic. There were, clearly, many contributing factors behind Cho Seung-hui's horrific actions. Yes, some of his poses in the home video he sent NBC news seem to echo scenes in Park Chanwook's Oldboy. But is Oldboy responsible for this man's crime? I would argue, no, it's not. Let's not blame the movies. Nor restart the case for censorship of violent movies that arose in the days after Jamie Bulger's murder.

A wise man once said that most killers claim that God told them to do it, but no one ever advocates the Bible be banned. So let's not go that way with movies.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Total Film 128

Out now. With my Spider-man 3 cover story. It's a good read, if I say so myself. And I do.

28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later does exactly what it says on the tin (or the poster, in this case). It’s bigger, gorier, more violent, more action-packed, though not necessarily better than the original. There’s some fantastic imagery — the napalming of Docklands, the night vision sequence on the Underground, the helicopter splatter scene — but I’d have liked some more character development. And a little more humour. And the odd respite from the chaos and carnage that the first film had. I felt like I was on a blood-splattered rollercoaster ride. And I mean that in a good way.

Monday, 16 April 2007

BFI Southbank

Took a trip inside the new look BFI Southbank the other day. Very chic. Lots of glass. And black. A new bar. Book shop. Many people pounding away at their laptops utilising the free wifi. An extra cinema. The NFT was always a good place to watch films. Now it looks even better.

Norton is the Hulk

I liked Ang Lee's Hulk movie. Really liked it, in fact. Despite the weird ending. I remember telling Eric Bana that at the London premiere and him looking at me somewhat oddly. But if they're going to remake/reboot/retool the franchise which they are, then you may as well get yourself a great actor to play Bruce Banner. And they've got themselves one of the best in Ed Norton. I was a fan, too, of director Louis Letterier's two Transporter movies which were mindless fun. (On a side note, I always thought Transporter star Jason Statham would have made an interesting Bond). Shooting begins this summer for release next year.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

The Squid And The Whale DVD

Noah Baumbach's autobiographical low budget indie The Squid And The Whale is bitter, black, acidic, and heart-breaking. Brilliantly performed and crafted, this earned Baumbach an Oscar nomination for best screenplay but deserved so much more. Wry, dry and really quite wonderful.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Very excited

First look at Iron Man. And it's a good one.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Sunshine: Danny Boyle Q&A

Out today in the UK.

A space movie with smarts. Sumptuous photography. Breathtaking imagery. Great looking sets. A cast you can't take your eyes off. (Well, Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne and Michelle Yeoh, certainly). A script that mixes philosophy, psychology, with techno babble and scares, 2001 with Solaris, Event Horizon with Silent Running and a dash of Dark Star. Okay, so the first two thirds are terrific and then it goes a bit too Freddy Krueger towards the end. But do yourself a favour and check this one out. A big-budget British science fiction film. How often can you say that?

Here's a Q&A with director Danny Boyle.

What was it about Alex Garland’s SUNSHINE script that attracted you?

I’m a great believer in continuity and I felt that we should follow up 28 Days Later by working together again, and the premise of the script was so intoxicating. I think it’s true, nobody’s made a movie about the Sun, and it is the single thing that more important than any other thing. If it blinks out, we’re all dead in eight minutes and yet nobody’s made a film about it. And I thought, That’s fantastic. Obviously there’s also the idea of the psychological effects of that on these people and what they see as they draw close to the source of all life in the universe, which always got me.

Are space films a genre that interests you?

I love space films. I’m not a Star Trek kind of movie type person, but I am what I would call more elegant space films. I found myself at Contact and I found myself at Alien 4 when it opened.

What you and Alex did so successfully with 28 Days Later was take the horror genre and put your own spin on it. When you’re making a space film, a genre that has produced such classics as Alien, 2001 and Solaris, how do you, as a filmmaker, go about making it your own?

I don’t think about them that much when I’m making the film, even though we’re looking at them and we screened them, we screened Alien, we screened all sorts of films. You try and set off as innocently as possible and occasionally you collide with films and you think, Better not do that or Oh yeah, that would be good to actually gesture towards it. So you suffuse yourself in them and then you try and leave them behind a bit. The stricter premise, the reference premise is more what our production designer Mark Tildesley says, “It’s that 50 years thing.” Fifty years ago in London there were red buses, and you still see red buses today, and yet the place is completely different. And so there’s enough in the film that you feel familiar with, it’s not gone Star Trek, and so we based our research on NASA’s more kind of out reach programme, and so the Icarus II has plants to give oxygen, because that’s one of the biggest issues of space travel, how will we create oxygen to sustain life in space or on other planets, and that’s plants.

How did the film’s “more NASA than Star Wars” approach develop?

We did everything from meeting specialists, like our scientific consultant Brian Cox, to Richard Seymour whose a futurist designer, he’s a blue skies thinker for people like Ford and Phillips, and he invented the cordless kettle 20 years ago and he’s invented stuff that he thinks in 20 years time will be as familiar to us as the cordless kettle has become. He gave us an image of the future, a kind of 50 years image of the future, we went to meet him, Andrew, Alex and I went to meet him, and we talked to him and he showed us stuff and then he talked to the actors about it. Mark designs it but you steep yourself in lots of stuff from everybody and you steal stuff occasionally, and gradually things begin to emerge. This idea of the shield came out of very basic thinking about protection and then NASA research about materials and how you’d protect yourself from heat, from radiation, and that was gold leaf. It’s no good protecting yourself with solid lead, it would just melt straightaway, whereas gold leaf dissipates the heat away from the ship behind it. I remember that being a big discovery that seems terribly obvious, and then that lead to the space suit, you think that’s got to be gold, it wouldn’t be white like the NASA suit and then you develop, then you get courage from that and you think, Let’s change the helmet.

I am right in thinking that Moondust, Andrew Smith’s marvellous book about the Apollo astronauts, became something of a bible for you?

Oh yeah, I made everybody read that book; just wonderful. There’s one thing in it that’s in the film which is, one of the astronauts, when they landed on the Moon, said when they opened the door there was this burst of tiny little rainbows and it was atmospheric dust and condensation trapped in the door that got released as the door was opened. So there’s this moment where they open the door to go out and there’s all these condensation particles, that’s directly from his book and from an astronaut that told him that. I love stuff like that, that detail.

What did you learn from your visit to a nuclear submarine?

Obviously Das Boot was a big influence and initially we’re thought we’d make the Icarus II quite claustrophobic, but we didn’t make it claustrophobic in the end in the way Das Boot is, because your instinct tells you no, these guys are going to be out there for three years, they wouldn’t let them live in the conditions of Das Boot where in order to get past anybody you have stand up, they wouldn’t quite do that, but you wanted a feeling of that anyway. And when we went to look at the nuclear sub it wasn’t as bad as Das Boot because that’s 50, 60 years ago, so we kind of let it breathe a little bit, but you try to give it a sense of confinement as well within it, and to make them pasty faced and all that kind of stuff. But that was great. The biggest thing I found out on the nuclear submarine which was absolutely extraordinary — and there’s no direct way of getting this into the film but you tell the actors and hope it affects them mentally — when a crew goes on a nuclear submarine they have to make a choice before they leave, and the choice they have to make is, Do they want to be told bad news or not? And I just thought, psychologically, what an amazing thing. Because communication is basically one way, you can’t communicate back, nothing changes the mission, no individual, someone going mad is just locked up, somebody dies, the body’s put in storage, nothing changes the mission. They go out, they don’t know where they are, only three people on board know where they are, so they have to make this decision that if their wife or child dies or is really ill, do they want to know or not? They have to make that decision and I thought that was just incredible.

How sound is the science in SUNSHINE?

It’s pretty sound, obviously they’re not going to award the film a Nobel Prize because you have to abandon it sometimes, but the principle of it is sound though. Alex is very sound, obviously reads a lot of science, and it was basically sound and anything that wasn’t Brian Cox would tell us about and we would decide, we’ll follow that or change it to be like that or we’ll leave it to be like that, you know.

One of the themes of the film for me is, how arrogant science is, necessarily arrogant as well, thinking they can affect this thing. It’s insane, they can’t, but scientists really do think that at some point they will be able to. You talk with Brian Cox enough and you get this slight sense of they can do anything. And this Collider, this particle accelerator that they’re building in Geneva, they clearly think that they can find this particle that existed after the Big Bang. He said there is a less than ten per cent chance that it could create a black hole and you think, Wouldn’t that mean we’re all dead? And he said you won’t know anything about it, nobody will know anything about it, the whole galaxy will collapse into this black hole if it happens. He said it’s probably not going to happen, and anyway, when they exploded the first atom bomb they told Congress there was a small chance they could set the world on fire, the whole planet, and they decided to go ahead anyway. So you have to be vainglorious in that way.

Can you talk about the use of light in SUNSHINE.

It’s trying to find a way of representing the Sun and give the audience that sense of its power. And some of that power is through its whiteness. We tried to do that early on in the film, so you got a sense of its power, and then you just got the odd reminder and that was mostly through the character of Searle and the rest of the time we mostly kept it yellow. It was a big decision to keep it yellow and so we stripped the film of that hue, everything, designwise, you make sure there are no yellow note books lying around, that all the light is different from that yellow light, so you get starved of that yellow/red colour, that range, until you hit it, and then it’s overwhelming. It’s just a trick you do to try and come up with the enormity of it, the incomprehensibility of it. You want to overwhelm people, wash them in it. That’s what happens to the characters and then it’s about how they are psychologically affected by it.

Unlike most space films, there aren’t endless shots of the spaceship going by.

I wanted to do that just to focus on the eight people and although we didn’t use the claustrophobia of Das Boot, we wanted to create a sense of being trapped, hermitically sealed inside this unit, this ship, and they’re sealed inside it, and when you do step outside it, it is not an everyday thing. You’re meant to have every eight minutes the ship goes by, and I didn’t want to do that, so when you went outside, boy did you go outside and something very special was there. So again, you starve people of it in the hope that when they get it, when you get to eat it, it’s special.

The film raises some big spiritual and philosophical issues about the nature of the universe and our place in it, about the notion of man hurling himself out into the void only to journey into his own mind.

It’s a science versus God argument, if you like, in its essence, as a guy who explodes his bomb and literally stands inside his bomb as he explodes it, and he defiantly argues that he can change the universe, whereas God argues you can’t, this is my universe, if you like. The character of Pinbacker is meant to be there and not there, really. You could argue that’s he not there at all, that he’s an embodiment of the struggle in their own minds as they get close to the star.