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.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Out and About

On set of The Young Victoria today, hosting BAFTA Q&A with Jessie James director Andrew Dominik tonight. More soon...

Wednesday 17 October 2007

LFF: Eastern Promises

Am I the only one who misses the old David Cronenberg? That’s not to say I didn’t love A History Of Violence (I did), but watching the Canadian filmmaker’s latest, the London-set, Russian mafia-centric Eastern Promises, I found myself pinning for the Cronenberg of Scanners, The Brood, Videodrome, even The Dead Zone, all of which I found more affecting than this flawed thriller. Sure there’s plenty to send squeamish viewers hiding behind their hands — throats are slit, fingertips clipped off, and a switchblade poked in an eye — as well as another extraordinary performance from History star Viggo Mortensen. But Eastern Promises feels like compromised Cronenberg not the work of the transgressive, body obsessed director who once had James Woods insert a living, breathing videotape into a vagina-like slit in Debbie Harry’s stomach. Written by Dirty Pretty Things’ Steve Knight, the movie centres on midwife Anna (Naomi Watts) who pockets the diary of a young Russian prostitute who died in childbirth, then asks restaurant-owner/crime boss Semyon (Armin Muller-Stahl) to translate it in order for her to track down the girl’s family; a decision that has life-changing repercussions for all concerned. Touted for its bone-crunching bathhouse battle between Mortensen’s tattooed, naked Nikolai and two Chechen rivals, the film, as you’d expect from Cronenberg, is impeccably crafted, but Knight’s script, which has someone walk out of a central London hospital with a newborn baby hidden in a bag, feels a little obvious, too concerned with exacting moral retribution and tying everything up in a cozy bow.

A long time ago...

... I would have been doing cartwheels at the news that George Lucas is making a Star Wars TV show. That time would have been prior to 1999 and the release of the Phantom Menace. I have never been one of those who claim Lucas "raped my childhood", only that he made three very bad movies which I cannot bring myself to ever watch again. I feel the same about Return Of The Jedi too, to be honest.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Lucas has "just begun work" on the series which will not include Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. "The Skywalkers aren't in it, and it's about minor characters," said Lucas who apparently wouldn't reveal any more details but joked that the series would be about "the life of robots". Which kind of makes sense cos he was never any good at directing humans.

Monday 15 October 2007

Monday musing

The London Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday and I'll be trying to squeeze in as many screenings as possible into what's already turning out to be a rather busy week. I saw I'm Not There this lunchtime (and will write about it as soon as I have had time to mull the thing over) and have Eastern Promises down for Wednesday. There's also 30 Days Of Night on Friday which I'm very excited about.

Saturday 13 October 2007

Ten Bad Dates With De Niro

May I draw you attention to the recently published Ten Bad Dates With De Niro, a profoundly entertaining book of alternative film lists featuring contributions from the Coen brothers, Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Macdonald, Mike Figgis, David Hare, DBC Pierre, Mavis Cheek, George Pelecanos and, er, me.

It's a vast and varied collection, ranging from Ten Films To Avoid On Medication (or Within Reach Of A Cutlery Drawer) to Ten Baddest Hair Days In Film to Ten Best Goals Scored In Movies. My contribution is a list of my top ten Steadicam shots (I have a thing for Steadicam shots, you see), but my favourite list comes courtesy of my mate Nev Pierce, editor of Total Film magazine, whose Ten Great Films I Haven't Seen is a shocking confession (no Double Indemnity, no Duck Soup, no Nashville, no Seven Samurai etc) but a very funny one.

You can find out more at if you fancy owning a copy, head to

Friday 12 October 2007

Love it

Simon Pegg to play Scotty in the new Star Trek film. Genius.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Flippin' heck

Doug Liman has yet to let me down: Swingers, Go, Mr & Mrs Smith, heck, I even think his Bourne movie is the best of a very fine bunch. The word on Jumper, however, was "troubled". They replaced the original lead actor with Anakin Skywalker a week or so into shooting and I must admit I wasn't too clear on the whole concept when reading the trade stories. But now, having seen the trailer at I know exactly what the film's about, and boy does it look, well, cool is the appropriate word. And expensive.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

More Blade Runner

For those wanting a detailed breakdown of the differences/changes in Blade Runner: The Final Cut, take a gander at this article on aintitcool That man sure knows his Blade Runner, although some of the added violence in the Final Cut was, I think, always present in the International Cut of the 1982 version which was, of course, slightly different to the original US cut (wow, that sounded very anal). But something that occured to me for the first time watching the latest version was the fact that Batty calls Deckard by name during the climax in Sebastian's apartment. How does he know that?

Another day, another remake (announcement)

They seem to have been remaking John Woo's The Killer for the longest time. Back in the early 1990s I remember buying a script for a US remake (by Walter Hill I believe) that I gave up reading after about ten pages. (I think I've still got it somewhere; I might have to dig it out and give it another go.)

I love The Killer. The excitement of seeing the film for the first time back in 1990, even on badly dubbed video, was truly papable. You knew you were watching something genuinely amazing and I saw it several times over the course of a few days, then tracked down a copy of A Better Tomorrow. Woo became a cinematic God in my eyes, a view compounded by Hardboiled a couple of years later, and I remember watching Bruce Willis indulging in a bit of slow-mo two-handed gunplay in The Last Boy Scout and realising Tony Scott was a fan too.

According to a story on Hollywood Reporter, Woo's longtime producer Terence Chang has finally set up the remake which will be relocated to Los Angeles with the action moving through Koreatown, Chinatown and South Central, a Korean star instead of Chow Yun-fat and Korean-American director John H. Lee in the hot seat. "I ask myself why they chose me and whether I can top it," said Lee. "But then I realize it's not about making it better. It's about making my own version. My strength is dealing with human emotions, austerity and elegance." I wish Lee the best of luck. It's a tough act to follow.

Recently, after the disappointment of Shoot 'Em Up, I rewatched Hardboiled. It's still an amazing film and it makes Woo's Hollywood sojourn even more dispiriting. What happened? Hard Target was trashy fun, Broken Arrow had moments, Face/Off was ridiculous but hugely enjoyable, and I'm even fond of his own American Once A Thief remake, but then there came M:I:II (which did have a great trailer, admittedly), Windtalkers, and — gulp — Paycheck...

Here's hoping Woo's latest Red Cliff marks a return to form.

Friday 5 October 2007

Trailer thoughts?

Be great to know what everyone thought of the trailer. Please feel free to post a comment...

Thursday 4 October 2007

Sweeney trailer

Is up at Now please excuse me while I go watch.

Looks familiar

Watching the latest Alien Versus Predator: Requiem trailer the other day I couldn't help but notice several similiarities between it and the Alien and Predator movies of the past. In fact, I was convinced that one shot had been lifted wholesale from Aliens, so sure was I that I was seeing Ripley and Newt again. Well, the good folks at have posted a series of screen grabs from said trailer, alongside the scenes they're, um, homaging, and you can see how I might have been mistaken. Indeed, in many ways it plays like a greatest hits compilation of cool Alien/Predator moments. With Christmas music.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

The Kingdom

The Kingdom begins, quite literally, with a bang, or, to be more precise, a biggish bang followed by an almighty one. After a suicide bomber claims the lives of more than a hundred US citizens who live, work and play ball in an American-owned oil compound just outside Riyad, Saudi Arabia, a gung-ho team of FBI investigators (Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) blackmail their way into the country to find those responsible. Interestingly the US government doesn’t want Foxx’s team there, nor do the Saudis, and initially the quartet find their every move questioned and/or countermanded, their valiant forensic efforts thwarted, until local investigator Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (the excellent Ashraf Barhom) intervenes on their behalf and doors suddenly start opening.

While Peter Berg’s movie shares some of edgy, paranoid tone of Paul Greengrass’s Bournes, it owes its biggest debt to Michael Mann, certainly in terms of its style and substance. One of the film's producers, Mann’s name has been heavily trumpeted on all the advertising which has pitched this as a hi-octane, slambang actioneer. Certainly that’s part of its cinematic DNA, but The Kingdom really wants is to be taken seriously, and flexes its political and ideological muscles right from the start with a stellar opening credit sequence that offers a rapid run-down on the history of the region and its importance to the West. But Syriana this ain’t, and about two-thirds of the way through, the film mutates into Black Hawk Down (not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily), with Foxx and co dodging bullets and rocket launchers on a Saudi backstreet, before heading inside an apartment building for some vicious hand-to-hand combat and bloody retribution. Loud, explosive and faintly ridiculous, it’s also expertly staged and unapologetically patriotic. (The sight of Garner kicking butt brings back fond memories of Alias, even if Sydney Bristow never had to resort to knifing a baddie in the skull.) Foxx, Cooper, Garner and Bateman all do solid work, although you can’t shake the feeling they’re treading water, and the less said about the jingoistic ending — which has all four Americans survive while the locals get it — the better.

Here's one they made earlier

Found this alternate ending to Rob Zombie's Halloween on youtube and I think I prefer it to the one I saw yesterday.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Halloween (2007)

I was a huge John Carpenter fan growing up. Halloween, Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog, Escape From New York, The Thing, Christine, Prince Of Darkness, Starman, these were all seminal works for my movie-addicted brain. I had the posters for his films on my bedroom wall, along with a signed photo of the man I wrote away for and was thrilled to get back. I even recorded the whole of Assault off of the TV and on to cassette (this being the days before home video), then listened it over and over again until I memorised the entire script. But then, something tragic happened, a John Carpenter film wasn’t an event anymore, and as disappointment followed disappointment, I began to pine for the good old days when I could claim him as my favourite director. [I’m actually not sure what’s bothered me more, the dodgy remakes of Carpenter classics (The Fog, Assault) or the dodgy originals (Ghosts Of Mars, Vampires, Escape From LA.]

When it was first announced that Rob Zombie was remaking Halloween my heart sank. The original remains a sublime piece of filmmaking, pitch perfect and hugely influential, with, perhaps, the greatest theme of the last 30 years. There seemed no reasons to mess with it, besides the obvious financial motives. Then, reading script reviews that started popping up on the web and hearing of Zombie’s take, his desire to explore the background and childhood of Michael Meyers, I really wasn’t sure. After all, finding out what made him evil didn’t work for Hannibal Lecter. Now, having seen Zombie’s Halloween, it doesn’t work here either.

Strangely, the best section of this remake is actually the first 30/40 minutes detailing Michael’s white-trash upbringing, his dysfunctional family, his stripper mom, his drunken, abusive stepfather, his slutty sister. Not because it represents a side of Meyers that necessarily needed telling, but because it’s here that Zombie seems wholly in charge of his material, his characters, their white-trash world, their bile and invective. But this could be poor kid’s story. I was happy with Michael being simply The Boogeyman. The physical embodiment of pure evil. I don’t want him humanised. I want to sympathise with him. I don’t want to know he killed rats and cats as a kid and had a malicious stepdad. Making him human doesn’t make him any more scary; the opposite in fact.

That said, right through until Michael kills his family, the film is grim, nasty, and suitably creepy, and I liked the thing Zombie does when he shakes the frame. Thereafter, with Michael first in the nut house, making masks, then escaping, the weakness of the character and the script shows itself. And so by the time Michael finally arrives in Haddonfield, and concerns himself with Laurie Strode and her gal pals, Annie and Lynda, Zombie has nowhere to go except a condensed carbon copy of Carpenter’s film. Except we don’t know these girls like we did before, and so we don’t care what happens to them. While Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie was smart and resourceful, the prototypical scream queen, Scout Taylor-Compton’s doesn’t make much of an impression. Moreover, Zombie doesn’t have Carpenter’s subtlety, nor his grasp of tension and tease. This Halloween is happy to bludgeon the audience into submission, mainly so we don’t ask the obvious questions: how come Michael transformed from such a scrawny kid into the Hulk, and how come he knows about his sister’s new identity in the first place (this issue, an inane consequence of Halloween II, always struck me as nonsense).

It’s certainly not the worst remake I’ve ever seen and there are a few nice moments (having Lynda and her bloke make out in the old Meyers house being one of them) but every time Zombie uses Carpenter’s original music I couldn’t help but wish I was watching his Halloween instead…

Monday 1 October 2007

National Movie Awards

When it comes to Film Awards there are rather a lot of them to go around. You've got the biggies like the Oscars, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes, then you've got the National Board Of Review, the various regional critics awards, the SAG Awards, the DGA Awards, the WGA, the MTV Movie Awards, the People's Choice Awards, plus things like the Empire Awards. And then, of course, you've those that relate to the four main film festivals (Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and Venice) as well as the literally dozens and dozens and dozens associated with film festivals around the globe that fill the movie calendar year in, year out. In light of all this, it takes a brave sort to launch yet another event, much less pull it off. While the BAFTAs haven't got anything to fear from this uncritical upstart, I wish to doff my metaphorical hat to those behind the inaugrual National Movie Awards, which aired on ITV on Saturday night, for a (reasonably) entertaining show and a respectable turn out (Helen Mirren, who amusingly chastised the event for calling itself "movie" rather than "film", Dustin Hoffman, Jamie Foxx, the Potter posse). If you didn't see it, the winners (as voted for by the public) were pretty evenly split between HP5 and 007 21.

Monster House

I know I'm waaay behind the times on this one, but I finally caught up with Monster House last night. The DVD had been sitting on my shelves for a very long time, looking at me, begging to be watched, but, Sunday evening, we were in the mood for something short and fun, and in it went. Wow. Let me say that again. WOW. What an amazing film, inventive, creative, imaginative, with great animation, wonderfully "drawn" characters, and dazzling camera moves that took my breathe away. And creepy too. I kept glancing at the DVD sleeve to check that it said PG. How did that happen? A house that lives. And eats. Toys. Dogs. Babysitter's boyfriends. Cops. (I know they'll all fine come the end but...) Anyways, I adored it. I just wish I'd seen it on a big screen. In 3D. No wonder director Gil Kenan is Zemeckis and Spielberg's protege. The guy's supremely talented. If I hadn't been so tired, I would have happily watched it again there and then.

Blade Runner: The Articles

If you love Blade Runner, you'll love the new Final Cut that's getting a brief theatrical release in the US (and hopefully UK) before hitting DVD in December. The media merryground is in full swing and there are interviews/features popping up all over the shop.

The Wired website has the full transcript of its Ridley Scott interview at

The LA Times has a piece at,1,267100,full.story?coll=la-entnews-movies

The NY Times' article can be found at