Tuesday 31 July 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni RIP

What the hell is going on? First Bergman and now this. Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian director of Zabriskie Point, Blow Up, The Passenger and L'Avventura among others died at his home in Rome on Monday evening. This is very, very sad indeed. Antonioni was one of the masters of not just European cinema but world cinema. L'Avventura is one of my favourite films; a sublime experience, with the delectable Monica Vitti (pictured above with Antonioni).

I saw Antonioni at Venice a couple of years ago. It was at the press conference for Eros, the three-film collaboration between himself, Steven Soderbergh and Wong Kar-wai. I didn't think much of Antonioni's segment, it felt like the work of a filmmaker who was a shadow of his former self, but I still felt a frisson of excitement when Antonioni was wheeled into the room in his wheelchair. Everyone knew they were in the presence of greatness and it took a while for the room to recover. I remember Soderbergh saying he agreed to do the film so he could have his name on a poster with Antonioni. That's reason enough if you ask me.

Rest in peace maestro. And thank you for your art. Ciao.

Monday 30 July 2007

Ingmar Bergman RIP

My knowledge of Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) is, I have to admit, not my strongest suit, and besides, there are many fine, fitting tributes and obits currently online that are worth checking out. But, clearly, it was not hard to recognise the genius of one cinema's finest ever exponents. By all accounts, he lived a full and rewarding life. His films will, needless to say, live on.

Random thoughts...

Ingmar Bergman is dead, aged 89. The Simpsons made $72m in the US this weekend. Comic-Con's over for another year. Depp's playong Hunter Thompson again. They're remaking The Long Weekend. And my Ace In The Hole DVD still hasn't shown up.

Sunday 29 July 2007

A tad more Blade Runner

If the thought of waiting until December for the BR:FC DVD set is causing you pain, yahoo.com have got a trailer for one the DVD's documentaries, plus a selection of clips, including Deckard's gunning down of Zhora complete with her new, digitally enhanced face. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1800037822/video/#3485021

Saturday 28 July 2007

For Losties...

While we wait for season four, here's the new Dharma film. As revealed at Comic-Con.

Dark Knight teaser

Comic-Con is in full swing. I'll be back later with a round-up of the latest news but for now, check out www.whysoserious.com for The Dark Knight teaser — with emphasis on the tease — in snazzy Quicktime. Or else click here.

Friday 27 July 2007

Sweeney Todd poster

This glorious poster popped up online last night following its appearance at Comic-Con and it looks fabulous.

Call me biased regarding Tim Burton, if you like, on account of my long-standing relationship with the man forged through my many years of interviewing him for my book Burton On Burton, but I'm the first to admit I disliked most of his Planet Of The Apes. That said, I love almost everything else he's made, even Mars Attacks which, to my mind, is a work of subversive genius that will, in the not too distant future, finally get the recognition it truly deserves.

There's been some carping in certain online quarters about how Burton's lost it, and about how this is going to be a disaster. Wrong. Wrong. WRONG. I'm not really at liberty to say much about Sweeney, but, take it from me, this is going to be something very special. People are going to be surprised and really blown away when they see what Burton, Depp and co are serving up this time around. Trust me.

Thursday 26 July 2007

Blade Runner: The Final Cut DVD

Variety is reporting that the long-awaited Blade Runner: Final Cut DVD will be released on December 18 and will feature no less than than five different cuts of the movie. "The film will be available in both HD formats and in three different DVD editions, with the final cut also receiving select theatrical playdates in New York, Los Angeles and the Venice Film Fest," writes Stephen Saito. "Originally conceived as a two-DVD set with seamless branching of additional scenes and separate audio tracks for Ford's narration, the project has taken on near-mythological levels, requiring DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika to sort through 977 boxes of negative and even supervising a day of reshoots involving Joanna Cassidy and Harrison Ford's son Ben, who synched up a scene at Abdul Al-Assan's snake shop that has long irritated fans. The final set arrives in a briefcase containing five different versions of the film (including the workprint that started it all) and a three-hour documentary, giving fans license to choose their favorite take." I'm not sure the world really needs five different versions of Blade Runner but I'm very interested in seeing the legendary workprint after reading about it for so long. I saw a badly scratched print of the original theatrical version at the Nuart in Los Angeles about five years ago and so it'll be nice to finally get my hands on a pristine DVD copy, complete with laconic narration and happy ending.


Saw Ratatouille last night and am still basking in the joy of it all. Brad Bird's follow-up to The Incredibles is an utter joy, a delight from beginning to end. Inventive, witty, warm, engaging, touching and damn funny. It's one of my top films of the year, and I can't wait to see it again.

Comic-Con 2007: Beowulf

Those not lucky enough to have scored a ticket to the 3D footage screening last night will have to make do with this www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/beowulf/. It's hard to make a proper judgement based on a Quicktime trailer watched on a MacBook, but while the realistic nature of the humans certainly appear to be an improvement over those in Polar Express, I'm still not completely convinced. David Poland was clearly impressed by the San Diego footage. "This sneak peek stinks of greatness," he writes on www.mcnblogs.com/thehotblog/. "The footage is beautiful and compelling. It is a kind of shock to the system, watching something so real and so drawn-looking at the same time and being drawn into the performances like normal. And you are." I'll be seeing the 3D Comic-Con footage myself next week.

Comic-Con 2007: Watchmen casting

To be honest, I never thought Watchmen would ever happen. There have been so many disappointments down the years regarding this project and while I'm psyched to see what Zach Synder's going to do with it, there's a part of me that would still like to have seen the Paul Greengrass version. Still, one should be grateful that they're actually making the thing, and after weeks of casting speculation the first official announcement has been made. Namely: Billy Crudup (Dr Manhattan), Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl), Matthew Goode (Ozymandias), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) and Malin Akerman (The Silk Spectre). Considering earlier reports had Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise and Jude Law down for parts, it looks like Synder's preference is to spend his money on screen rather than in massive pay cheques.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Like buses...

Here's the trailer for Ang Lee's latest Lust Caution. Politics and sex always makes for intriguing viewing, and Lee's got a near flawless track record. http://www.focusfeatures.com/viewer.php?f=lust_caution&c=trailer&ext=mov&w=480&h=260

Tuesday 24 July 2007

So it's good then

I am seeing Bourne Ultimatum next week and the days can't go by quick enough. Especially when I read the reviews that have been popping up online raving about it, such as Variety's which begins thus: "If they could bottle what gives The Bourne Ultimatum its rush, it would probably be illegal. The third and purportedly final installment in the mountingly exciting series is a pounding, pulsating thriller that provides an almost constant adrenaline surge for nearly two hours. Worldwide B.O. will be terrific and likely surpass that for each of the previous two pictures, which combined pulled down more than $500 million. In setting Jason Bourne on the home stretch of his search to discover who and what made him the killing machine he is, director Paul Greengrass has outdone himself, creating a film of such sustained energy and tension that the infrequent pauses for breath seem startling in their quietude." Nuff said.

Not long now...

"Criterion's package is just about everything Ace lovers could have wished, and more," writes Premiere.com's Glenn Kenny in his review of the Ace In The Hole DVD, my copy of which should be with me any day now. "A superb, razor-sharp version of the film, with a dry but informative and thorough commentary by Wilder scholar Neil Sinyard. A second disc features an engaging 1980 documentary on Wilder, Portrait of a 60% Perfect Man, in which formidable critic Michel Ciment interviews the director. There are a few additional archival interviews and a nice afterword from Spike Lee, who speaks of his admiration for the picture (which he once tried to remake) and shows off his lobby card for the retitled version, signed by both Wilder and Douglas." http://www.premiere.com/dvdreviews/3950/draw-this-ace.html

Trick 'r Treat trailer

I really like the feel of this trailer for the directorial debut of X2/Superman Returns co-writer Mike Dougherty. Cos of the associations of John Carpenter's horror classic, filmmakers have been shy of tackling Halloween directly. This seems to nail it. Unlike the one for Rob Zombie's Halloween remake/reinvention. http://www.derbyfilms.tv/trickrtreat.mov

Tea for three...

A Wes Anderson movie is always a treat, even if the last couple haven't, on initial viewings at least, rocked my world the way Rushmore did the first time I saw it. The trailer for Anderson's latest, The Darjeeling Limited, has just popped up online. There are some lovely Wesian lines but overall it feels a triffle underwhelming, like Anderson is not exactly treading water but at least playing in a familiar thematic sandpit. Which is all well and good if you like that particular sandpit. Which I do. But still... I feel another Rushmore viewing coming on. http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox_searchlight/thedarjeelinglimited/trailerb/index.html

The Simpsons Movie

And so, after 18 years, TV's longest running dysfunctional family finally makes its debut on the big screen. Has it been worth the wait? Well, almost. It's not that The Simpsons movie isn't funny, it is, and at times is hysterically so. The problem is one of scale and whether giving you something that's free on TV each week will work at the cinema without substantial retooling. It's something the film addresses with a nice gag near the beginning when Homer speaks to the audience directly, asking "Why would I pay to watch something I can see for free at home?" Why indeed. And I'm not sure the filmmakers answer that question fully enough. There's some very fine animation, and some jokes that certainly wouldn't be allowed on a weekly episode. But while the quality of the wit and humour is mostly up there with what's come before (although it doesn't reach the heights of the great, great episodes, that's for sure), I wanted more. I wanted more than a longer Simpsons episode with cooler animation. I wanted something along the lines of what South Park achieved when it went Bigger, Longer and Uncut. I wanted a film. And as funny and inventive and smart as The Simpsons movie frequently is, I'm not sure it's that.

Comic-Con 2007

Alas I will not be one of the 150,000 braving San Diego for this year's Comic-Con (unlike my pal Simon Furman who'll be there signing all sorts of Transformers stuff — if you see him, say Hi!) but there's bound to be much news and interesting tidbits unveiled over the next five days. I'll do my best to fill you in and/or link to all the coolest stories. Enjoy yourself if you're going. I just hope Simon brings me back as many freebies as I've requested.

Friday 20 July 2007

A short film in which the Icarus II crew get killed

Best watched after seeing Sunshine itself. Because of spoilers, obviously.

SuperBad is supergood

Saw this Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg scripted comedy last night. Haven't laughed so much in ages. Very, very funny. Like American Pie, only raunchier. And with more dick jokes. The name McLovin will be one you'll be hearing a lot of soon.

Please note...

Sunshine opens in selected US cities today. If you haven't seen Danny Boyle and Alex Garland's smart, spooky and effective space thriller, then you must.

Great openings

Following on from The Guardian's piece about great movie beginnings, here are some of my favourites:

Betty Blue: bonking on the bed
2001: apes to bone to spaceship
Jaws: below the surface terror
Raiders Of The Lost Ark: serial thriller
The Godfather: like a movie in itself
The Player: great use of movie references
Reservoir Dogs: great table chat
Trainspotting: great characters/great editing
Once Upon A Time In The West: great everything
Memento: Polaroid in reverse
Alien: ship s-l-o-w-l-y waking up

Now, I know there aren't many old films on that list, so I'll have to trawl my brains (or at least look at my DVD shelves) for great openings in films released prior to 1968...

Thursday 19 July 2007

Screenwriters talk

At the recent Screenwriters Festival in Cheltenham, I spoke to five screenwriters for a feature that can be found in this week's Time Out. Due to space considerations, however, the piece was edited down to just two questions/answers each, but the full transcript can be found at http://www.timeout.com/film/features/show-feature/3200/cheltenham-screenwriters-festival.html. I urge you to check it out, not least for Diana Ossana's work regime — "In my bedroom, in my bed, in my pyjamas. I sit on top of the duvet with my laptop. And my puppies in the bed" — but also for Harry Potter And The Order of The Phoenix's screenwriter Michael Goldenberg's ode to Galaxy Quest, a film that we both agree is a work of much overlooked genius.

Wednesday 18 July 2007

Why am I not surprised...

In an interview with the Daily Express newspaper in the UK, new Bond Daniel Craig spilled a bit of gossip regarding the machinations behind 007's next outing. “They [the producers] just want more gags," Craig is reported to have said. "The next one’s going to be a lot funnier. Octopussy and Pussy Galore style gags. They’re all great names — but that’s the thing, the Bond jokes will be flipped on their heads." Having beefed up the series with Casino Royale — of which I was not a fan despite its overwhelming critical and commercial success — it seems producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson want to make it more Moore-like than macho. No wonder original director Roger Michell bailed over creative differences. Can't wait to see what Marc Forster makes of the "lot funnier" vibe.

Fade in...

A good beginning is always essential. Be it for a novel, a magazine article or a movie. To coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Seventh Seal, The Guardian have run a list of top ten movie beginnings (http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,,2128073,00.html) which, clearly, isn't exhaustive, though it's not a bad start even if it doesn't feature either Trainspotting or Shallow Grave which are two of the most compelling and propulsive openings I can think of off the top of my head. (Danny Boyle has no trouble starting his films; it's the endings he finds tricky.) I'll post a fuller list later.

Homer Giantacus

This rather cool Simpsons' promotion has apparently upset the Pagan Federation who have promised to conjure some rain to wash away the giant white painted Homer erected near the Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset, England. Like we haven't had enough already this summer... Rain, I mean. Not giant Homers.

Richard Franklin RIP

The death of Australian director Richard Franklin was announced last week but I was away and never got a chance to post. Franklin may not have been a household name but his filmography includes several gems for lovers of horror/fantasy, namely Patrick, FX2 or my particularly favourite, the suspense-filled Roadgames which starred Jamie Lee Curtis as a hitchhiker who accepts a lift in Stacey Keach’s semi. An aficionado of Hitchcock — Roadgames was very indebted to the Master — Franklin actually got the chance to emulate his idol when he was handed the unenviable task of directing a sequel to Psycho. The result was so much better than anyone dared to expect and, if I remember correctly, was actually rather good. For more on Franklin check out http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22091835-16947,00.html

Thursday 12 July 2007


For a few days. See you back here next week.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Potter musings

So here we are at Harry Potter 5 and while Alfonso Cuaron's third film remains the best of the series so far, David Yates' movie is energetic, well-acted, wonderfully crafted and a darn sight better than the flabby last instalment. The script by Michael Goldenberg does a great job of distilling the 900-page book into managable size and Yates' naturalistic directing style sets the film apart from all that have come before. This is still a Harry Potter film but it feels different, not just because the themes are getting bigger and darker and more political, but because Yates gives the magical world a more realistic context. Dan Radcliffe is a more rounded, more emotional Harry, even if Imelda Staunton steals the show as nightmare in pink Delores Umbridge.

Trailer trash

Today's grand discovery is the very marvellous www.trailersfromhell.com in which steeped-in-geek folk like Joe Dante, Edgar Wright, John Landis and others talk you through their favourite trashy trailers which can be seen with or without commentary. Wright chats about Danger: Diabolik, Dante talks you through The Terror and The Unearthly while Landis chews over The T.A.M.I. Show whatever the hell that is. Well worth a gander.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Damn you JJ!

I've got to hand it to JJ Abrams. I loved Alias. I love Lost. I thought his Mission film was the best of the three. And now this Cloverfield thing has really gotten its teeth into me. Since they posted the quicktime trailer on apple yesterday I've been watching it religiously. Plus I've spent too long playing around with the photos posted on www.1-18-08.com seeing if I can find some meaning in them. And I've been spending way too much time looking around the web for more clues, checking out various feedbacks. It's driving people nuts. It's the numbers! Those two girls are one and the same! It's this... It's that! Damn you JJ. This is great stuff. GREAT STUFF. Let's hope the movie lives up to it.

Monday 9 July 2007

That's a lot of money...

Didn't Transformers do well, earning $152 million and change in its first week in the US. For those that care about this stuff, apparently that's the third biggest opening of the summer and the second best July 4 opening ever, after Spider-Man 2. Better yet, that's the seven-day record for a nonsequel, knocking Spider-Man off that particular perch. It's a lot of money whatever way you look at it. Clearly it's a hit. So congratulations to all concerned. As I said here a few weeks back, I enjoyed Transformers enormously. It's a huge amount of fun. The robots are, without question, the best CGI I've ever seen, while watching car that transform into big robots that beat the crap out of other big robots is a thrill that tingles my inner fanboy. That said, there are problems. Michael Bay still can't hold a shot for longer than three seconds. And. Some. Times. It. Would. Be. Nice. If. He. Slowed. It. Down. A. Little. The plot too has major, well, plot holes. Why, oh why, knowing there's an army of bad robots after them do the good guys take the All Spark into a DENSELY POPULATED CITY rather than out into the desert? The continuity is all over the shop. It's at least half an hour too long with at least one too many subplots to resolve. I could go on... BUT it's still worked for me in a way that Spidey 3 didn't. Shia Labouef is so charismatic, Megan Fox lives up to her name and, for most of its running time, I sat rivetted to the screen, jaw hanging open, loving the robotic mayhem unfolding before my eyes. And, let's face it, Bay knows how to blow shit up and make it look cool. He just can't tell a story too well. Or maybe he's not interested. This really is a check your brains at the door and go with the flow.

Harry Potter interview: Imelda Staunton

My interview with Imelda Staunton ran in yesterday's LA Times. You can find it at: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-ca-staunton8jul08,1,7699183.story?coll=la-entnews-movies

Friday 6 July 2007

Consider me hooked

The mystery of Cloverfield deepens.

I've got to say, this Blair Witch meets Wars Of The Worlds thing has really got me hooked. And now there's a website too, with one pic. Bookmark http://www.1-18-08.com/ cos there's bound to be more to come.

Thursday 5 July 2007

Bart's weiner

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, was in London last night for an onstage Q&A and a screening of the first ten minutes of the upcoming Simpsons movie which revealed, among other things, Bart's bits. Yep, the bright yellow dervish can be seen onscreen sans pants ie. naked — a state of undress that's sure to upset some folks but which had us Brits chortling in the aisles.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Some good news for a change

I wake up every morning to the news on the radio and, inevitably, it's almost always bad, such are the times we live in. Today, however, I woke up to the news that the BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston has been released after more than 100 days as a hostage. Now that's what I call good.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Just because...

It's Monica Bellucci. And I'm kinda looking forward to this one. The trailer looks suitably over the top in a John Woo kind of way. Bullet porn, anyone?

Write stuff

The second International Screenwriters Festival kicks off today in Cheltenham and runs through Friday. Last year's inaugral event managed to be both informative and a lot of fun and they've got another great selection of guests. I'll be there later in the week, and if you fancy going, there are still a few tickets left. Visit http://www.screenwritersfestival.com/ for more details.

Monday 2 July 2007

Today's tasty morsel

"If you really want to know what Transformers feels like, think of a hundred-and-thirty-five-minute, hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar retread of Herbie Goes Bananas." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

That's Bullock's

I first met Sandra Bullock way back in the early 90s when she was promoting Speed and later for While She Was Sleeping. I liked her. She was nice. And smart. And funny. In fact, she's one of the few actresses that's not disappointed me on meeting them. Another being Cate Blanchett. Anyway, I disgress. Back to Bullock. And Speed, which launched her career and made her a star. She did the sequel (rubbish), a John Grisham adaptation (okay, and her character drove a nice old Porsche 356, my favourite) and While You Were Sleeping which I saw in New York and liked it rather more than I perhaps should have. Since then I've not really seen much of her work. Wasn't interested in the Miss Congeniality movies and so she kind dropped off my radar. With this in mind, I approached the DVD of Premonition with both interest and trepidation. It had gotten mixed reviews and the plot seemed a bit hackneyed. But, guess what, it wasn't half bad. Bullock plays a hapless housewife and mother of two adorable moppets whose husband (Julian McMahon) is decapitated in a car accident one day but then appears alive the next. It's enough to send anyone a bit bonkers and so Bullock spends the movie in an unsmiling state until she figures out the intricacies of time-bending plot and realises her week’s scrambled. To change the future (or past?) she has to amend the past or something to save the life of her hubby who was about to doff a hottie from work and so maybe she should let him die. The space/time continuum is played stuff dead straight and Bullock gives a sombre, dedicated performance. It's not the most original of films, but at least the ending doesn't go the way you'd expect.