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...