Wednesday 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

My thanks to everyone who's stopped by this last year and especially to those who've taken the time to comment. There's a lot of stuff on the net and I appreciate you choosing to spend time here.

Best wishes to you all. Here's to a healthy, happy and wonderfully cinematic 2009!

My favourite films of 2008

Favourite rather than best, and with the proviso that this isn't the final, official list because due to a combination of work, family matters, and a nagging cold, I've not be able to see everything I have wanted to before completing it. But seeing as it's the last day of 2008, I figured I should put something up here.

There have been some glaring omissions in my viewing this year and that's reflected by the absence of several titles that you might have assumed I would have picked (Let The Right One In for starters.) I've also discounted anything I saw last year (Sweeney Todd, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood) that was released in the UK in 2008 because I included them last time. There are, I admit, some surprises.

And so, in reverse, order.

21) Wall-E

20) Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired

19) Che

18) Hellboy II: The Golden Army

17) Frost/Nixon

16) Valentino

15) Rachel Getting Married

14) Slumdog Millionaire

13) Revolutionary Road

12) Speed Racer

11) Gone Baby Gone

10) Doubt

9) Son Of Rambow

8) Hunger

7) Dean Spanley

6) [REC]

5) Iron Man

4) The Wrestler

3) In Bruges

2) The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

1) Man On Wire

Brilliant Billy

If I had to choose my favourite Billy Wilder movie, it would probably be The Apartment which I watch at least once a year and which seems to get better and more caustic each time. Here, the New York Times' A.O. Scott salutes Wilder's alternate festive flick.

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Watchmen war

How depressing is this?

Surely Fox won't scupper Wolverine's chances with the geek crowd by delaying Snyder's movie.

They wouldn't... would they?

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Tis the season to be jolly

Here's wishing a very Merry Christmas to one and all. Eat well, be well, and treat your friends and family with love and respect. And may Santa bring you exactly what you wish for.

Between now and the New Year, reel world matters will be taking things easy, but I promise to have my films of the year up before the end of old. Until then...

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

End of an era

The once loved but now maligned VHS tape is no more. For today's youngsters for whom watching a movie means either downloading it from Hula or one of those file sharing sites, or else sticking a shiny platter into a DVD player or PS3, this won't mean a thing. But for those of us who grew up in the 80s, for who so many of our formative cinematic experiences arrived on VHS, this is a very sad day indeed. When I moved earlier this year, I gave away hundreds of old movies on VHS to a charity shop although I did keep a rather large box of films you either can't get on DVD (Static, for starters) or stuff I'd recorded off the telly years before. Compared to Blu-ray, compared to DVD, VHS sucked — poor quality image, lousy sound — but I still remember seeing Texas Chainsaw three times in 24 hours after renting it from my local video shop, or watching Reservoir Dogs every single a day for about three months in the Empire office when that film was banned on video. Sure they were bulky and cumbersome and you had to rewind the damn things, but I loved them nonetheless. VHS, RIP.

Monday 22 December 2008

Comic book movie of the year

Iron Man, without question. Slick, stylish, witty, with a shit-eating grin of a lead performance from Robert Downey Jr, I actually wanted to see it again as soon as it ended, although it only just pipped Guillermo Del Toro's superior sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army to top spot.

As for The Dark Knight... I know there's plenty of love out there for that film, and while I thought the opening heist was brilliantly executed (I've watched it several times since being sent the film on Blu-ray) and Heath Ledger's performance made it into my best of the year, I still prefer Batman Begins. For me, when Ledger's offscreen, the film deflates. I'd also argue that it's too long, has one too many villains and a third act that's too messy and convoluted for it's own good but if you like the film you're not likely to listen. If the movie had ended with the lorry flip and didn't try to shoehorn Two-Face into the story, only to kill him, I probably would have liked it more. As it is, I know I'm in the minority, but that's okay.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Performances of the year

I'm sure I've missed some — and I've yet to see The Visitor or Changeling — but these are my favourite performances of 2008. If any of them pick up an award or two, cinematic justice will have been served.

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road

Michael Fassbender in Hunger

Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Benicio Del Toro in Che

Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading

Thursday 18 December 2008

Getting there

Still ploughing through my stack of DVDs in an attempt to fill as many wholes before settling on my films of the year. Going to give myself till Monday as a deadline to see what I can before finalising my list. It may still be incomplete but it will be a list. (BAFTA wise I still have a few more weeks until the end of the first round of voting.)

Monday 15 December 2008

Dave Gibbons talks Watchmen

Tomorrow night at the Apple Store in London's Regent Street, Watchmen co-creator and Hugo Award-winning illustrator Dave Gibbons will be in conversation with yours truly.

Among the topics under discussion will be the Watchmen Motion Comic, Dave's Watching The Watchmen tome and the movie itself. Hope you can join us.

The event is free and begins at 7pm. Directions and details can be found here.

Friday 12 December 2008

Times bestseller author

According to The Times, my Sweeney Todd book was the fourth bestselling film and theatre book of 2008 which is, like, brilliant. My thanks to all who bought it and to Adam at Titan for pointing out this delightful piece of news which has really made my day. I am, as they say, suitably chuffed.

Microbudget movies

Here's the link to a piece I wrote for today's Guardian newspaper on how microbudget movies might be one possible future for the British film industry.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Those Golden Globes nominations

I don't want to be unkind about the Golden Globes because, for those nominated, it's a big deal, as a friend of mine was a couple of years ago. And yet it's a show driven by stars and ratings and the nominations tend to reflect that, with the gongs themselves dolled out by a group of foreign journalists nobody has heard of whose opinions and votes have, in the past — how shall I put this delicately? — been easily susceptible to outside influence. Having said that, it's great to see In Bruges being nominated in several categories, although the absence of both Richard Jenkins for The Visitor and Benicio Del Toro for Che from the Best Actor list shows what a strong year it is.

Still the man

I've never interviewed Clint Eastwood, much to my chagrin, although our paths crossed briefly the year he was president of the Cannes jury. Clint was coming out of the Majestic Hotel, I was strolling in. It was a beautiful moment. For me, at least. Clint didn't even notice. Then again, he was talking to Catherine Deneuve at the time. So who can blame him. Clint is a star unlike any other. Seems I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Got Milk

Fresh from its victory at the NY Critics Awards, I decided to watch Gus Van Sant's Milk last night and was glad I did. After a glorious experimental phase that produced Gerry, Elephant, Last Days and Echo Park, Van Sant returns with a more conventionally told tale of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), the self-styled Mayor of Castro Street in San Francisco who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US and who was later gunned down by a disgruntled former colleague, Dan White (Josh Brolin). Penn, who all but disappears into the role, excels as the eponymous activist, Brolin, who picked up the Best Supporting Actor award from the NY Critics to go with Penn's Best Actor award, makes the most of the uptight White (arguably the most thankless role in the story), and the film brilliantly uses archive footage both to tell the story and to save on expensive recreations. A worthy tale well told.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Random matters...

The new Terminator: Salvation trailer is here. Consider me officially excited.

The New York Times interviews Doubt writer-director John Patrick Shanley. I really wish Warners would release a special edition DVD of Joe Versus The Volcano — I adore that film.

Bill Willingham's terrific comic Fables looks like it might finally be coming to TV. If you haven't read his modern day spin on fairy tales and folklore, it's well worth checking out.

And the LA Critics choose Wall-E as their film of the year, stemming the Slumdog tide. But for how long...

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Oliver Postgate RIP

For generations of children Oliver Postgate was the man. Creator of Bagpuss, Ivor The Engine and The Clangers among other shows, Postgate, who has died aged 83, delighted many millions of British kiddies, myself included, with his wonderfully idiosyncratic brand of entertainment and animation. He may be gone but his creations live on. The Clangers were always my favourite.

Wallander on DVD

Out on December 26 via and available here. If you're in the US, you'll need a region-free DVD player. But it's worth it.

Monday 8 December 2008


Anybody out there watching Wallander with Kenneth Branagh as the Swedish cop and loving it as much as me? Wonderfully matter-of-fact in its storytelling and not at all sensationalist despite its often gruesome subject matter, Branagh is superb as the thoughtful detective, weighed down with the worries of the world, and the show looks terrific too; the first part having been shot by Anthony Dod Mantle with the second sticking to Dod Mantle's visual template.

DC Critics pick

Following last week's win from the National Board Of Review, the Washington DC Film Critics have also got behind Danny Boyle's Oscar frontrunner, Slumdog Millionaire which I watched for a second time the other night and. have to say, enjoyed as much as I did the first time. Good to see Mickey Rourke getting some love too.

Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Best Actress: Meryl Streep (Doubt)
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Best Supporting Actress: Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married)
Best Original Screenplay: Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Animated: Wall-E
Best Documentary: Man on Wire
Best Foreign Film: Let the Right One In
Best Ensemble: Doubt
Best Breakthrough: Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Films Of The Year preamble

At some point in the next couple of weeks I'll be compiling my films of the year list. I have been steadily making my way through my pile of BAFTA screeners and yet I have a sizeable list of titles still to see. To be frank, it hasn't been what I would call a vintage year for movies, certainly I haven't seen anything on a par with Zodiac or The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford from last year, films that I came out of on a cinematic cloud, films that I'd happily call masterpieces and defend them against all comers. And yet, there have been a handful I would consider to be very, very good indeed, bordering on excellent. I have a sneaking suspicion I know what my top film is already, but, like I said, I have a number of potential candidates yet to watch, any of which could throw a spanner in my list.

Following Fringe

Ever since Sky One was reintroduced to my Virgin TV package I've been hooked on Fringe. Alas, I've missed episodes 2-4 but every one I've seen thus far has kept me gripped. Sure it wears its influences loud and clear (X Files, Alias) but I'm loving the spooky science and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo nevertheless. I just wish they'd give Joshua Jackson's character Peter Bishop more to do, but I figure that's coming. And Lost returns soon...

Saturday 6 December 2008

Forrest J. Ackerman RIP

It's sad to report that Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine and coiner of the term "sci-fi" has passed away at the age of 92. As I wrote here a while back when news of his ailing condition was announced, I once had the good fortune of visiting Forry at his Ackermansion in LA, spending the best part of a day with him, being treated to lunch at his favourite smorgasbord and then rooting around the treasure trove of his stellar collection of film memorabilia and books, holding part of the ship from Silent Running and geeking out at the sight of the letter Stephen King wrote to him aged ten or so. While Starburst and Fangoria were my bibles growing up, being too young for FM in its heyday, Forry and Famous Monsters were, nevertheless, a source of inspiration for me as well as generations of horror and fantasy film fans worldwide, he "discovered" his good friend Ray Bradbury, and was always generous in sharing his tales and knowledge. Many tributes have popped up online. Aint It Cool News has some here and here's the LA Times' obit.

[Forry photo: Mark Berry]

Friday 5 December 2008

It's a good name

Many years ago I interviewed Smallville co-creator Miles Millar after he had sold his script Mango (about a talking orangutan) for a million dollars. Miles is English but had moved to LA to pursue his dream of being a filmmaker. Since Mango, he's not only created Smallville with his writing/producing partner Al Gough but scripted a bunch of movies on his way to his ultimate dream of being a director. Well, according to this Variety story, that dream is a little closer with the pair making their directorial debut for Disney on a supernatural tale called, yes, Salisbury.

Thursday 4 December 2008

A tad more Terminator

Is it me, or is Terminator: Salvation looking more and more promising?

Tuesday 2 December 2008


Apologies for the paucity of posts in recent days, I've been balancing a mix of family stuff and work commitments that have prevented my presence here of late.

Last Thursday, however, I had a cinema to myself as I basked in the majesty of David Fincher's magnificent The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button prior to chairing a BAFTA Q&A with the great man himself that evening. It was the first time I'd actually met Fincher although I interviewed him for an Empire cover story back in 1995 for Se7en and in person he's as charming and smart as you imagine him to be, but also incredibly funny.

As for Button, ignore those reviewers who claim Fincher's movie is cold and unemotional. I cried buckets at the end and Pitt's performance is quite brilliant, his finest to date. While it's a character made possible by special effects, it's so much more than a technical exercise as Pitt not only captures the heart and soul of Button but superbly conveys the duality of the role — externally one age, internally another — to such a degree that you immediately ignore the makeup and amazing CGI and concentrate entirely on this man and his epic journey.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Happy Turkeygorging Day...

... to all non-vegetarian American readers.

I'm a breast man, in case you were wondering. (And you can all stop sniggering right now...)

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Mamma bleedin' mia

Day one sales of Mamma Mia! have beaten Titanic's record to become the fastest selling DVD of all time in the UK, according to screendaily. Sales reached 1.669 million copies, following its launch on November 24. The previous record for day one DVD sales was held by James Cameron's nautical blockbuster which sold 1.1 million copies on its first day of release in 1998 in the UK. Mamma Mia! also holds the record for the highest-grossing British movie of all time in the UK, having so far taken a whopping £66,995,244 at the UK box office.

I haven't seen it. Nor do I want to. It's not that I've got anything against Abba per se. I have been known to dance, occasionally, to Abba at weddings and birthday parties and the like. But I do this occasionally. Refuse to see the movie everybody has seen. A case it point, it took me an absolute age to see The Full Monty. In fact, I only relented when I had to interview one of its stars for the video release. (Wow, video. Showing my age now...) Otherwise I would have held out for even longer.

Just because...

Gotta love it...

This is cool.

Monday 24 November 2008

Jeff Bridges' snaps

In addition to being a terrific actor, Jeff Bridges is a damn fine photographer, shooting mainly in black and white, on film, with a camera known as a Widelux. Bridges takes it wherever he goes, always shooting while he's working and presenting the crew of whatever film he's starring in with a book of behind-the-scenes photos as an end of shoot gift.

Back in the day, Premiere used to run a selection of his work for every film. And because of his amazing pictures, I desperately wanted a Widelux of my own, finally buying one about six years ago for a small fortune. I've never taken a single photo with it as good as his, although I did ask for tips when I interviewed him for Premiere once.

Now that Premiere's gone, the best way to see Bridges' photos is in his superb book Pictures By Jeff Bridges or on his website, which features his Iron Man pictures here.

Back in Blighty

Firstly, apologies for so many days of non-posting. I flew back from Los Angeles at the end of last week but it's taken more than a few days to get my head in gear although the jetlag was much easier to cope with at this end than the other. Certainly, coming from record temperatures of 91F in Downtown LA last Monday to snow in London yesterday is enough to send one's body in a spin.

I barely had more than a few hours' of consecutive sleep the whole time I was there despite the ridiculously comfy nature of my huge hotel bed. One night, for instance, I was kept awake by the, ahem, activities of the guests next door and, in particularly, the woman's obviously enthusiastic responses, although, to be honest, it was when, at 2.30am, as part of their post-coital endeavours, they decided to watch TV, loudly, that I actually banged on the wall and asked them to turn it down...

I've purposely kept reason for my LA trip a secret thus far and it has to remain so, certainly for the immediate future, although I'm sure some of you might have already guessed. When I'm at liberty to spill, I will.

For now, however, a few reminiscences of my recent time there. I have, in my time as a journalist, meet many famous people. It's part of the job. You chat. You ask them questions. You remain professional at all times. Which means no photos. Even if they're heroes of yours. Occasionally, though, you'll encounter a "celebrity" or a "famous person" outside of the professional environment. In LA, it's almost a given you'll bump into one. Or two. Like seeing Kirstie Alley at the mall or Pedro Almodovar by the pool or Kylie Minogue in the lift.

This trip was no different. Except this time I saw Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford, up close and personal. And Donald Sutherland waiting for his car outside my hotel. (And yes, I did stop and chat, about Nic Roeg.) Matt Groening was in my cabin on the plane home. (Along with Mickey Rooney, no less, although they weren't traveling together.) I even saw Wall-Edirector Andrew Staunton.

As for the weather, LA's air pollution is crap at the best of times but the black and orange gash across the sky as I walked along the beach from Santa Monica to Venice on Sunday morning as a result of the wildfires was both beautiful and frightening. Then there was the ash that rained down steadily from the cloudless sky, coating everything in a grey layer throughout the early part of last week.

And finally, I didn't see Twilight while I was there. (I left before it opened.) Although its $70million opening weekend tally means many, many others did.

It's back to the real world for now. This afternoon I'm going to a 3D presentation of Monsters V Aliens presented by Jeffrey Katzenberg who I was once introduced to in a LA restaurant. But that's another story...

Tuesday 18 November 2008

LA fires

The fires are still raging here and the effect is being felt all over, even miles away from the actual flames. Driving today, I could see smoke on the horizon while ash rained down constantly from a bright blue and cloudless sky, coating everything and everyone in a fine, grey layer. The air pollution in LA isn't good at the best of times and this certainly isn't helping matters, burning the back of one's throat and making breathing a tad more difficult. That said — and I mean this without any disrespect to those who have lost their homes in the fires — the sunset last night in Santa Monica sure was colourful and pretty.

Twilight premiere

Twilight is premiering in LA tonight and fans have been camping out since last night to catch a glimpse of the stars. Variety has a live feed of proceedings. If you're interested in that kind of thing.

Star Trek trailer

Alas, I missed JJ Abrams when he rocked up in London last week and unveiled four scenes from his Star Trek as well as this trailer which is certainly action-packed and more or less smells right, although I'm not sure about the opening bit with Kid Kirk.

Monday 17 November 2008

A tangled web

Wondered what was the latest with that Fox Watchmen lawsuit? The Los Angeles Times' John Horn does a great job at explaining the complex legal situation that Watchmen finds itself in. And it ain't pretty.

Now that's what I call a teaser

You've got to hand it to Roland Emmerich, he gives good trailer. (As for the movies themselves, well...)

I have no idea what his latest, 2012, is about, but having just seen the teaser I'm suddenly interested in finding out.

Sunday 16 November 2008

Greetings from LA!

Arrived in Los Angeles last night, stepping off my Virgin Atlantic flight into a higher than seasonal temperature of 28C at 7pm and an atmosphere heavy with acrid smoke, courtesy of the wild fires that are currently burning out of control in various parts of the state.

I'm here for a few days' work, and while my schedule is, I suspect, going to be rather hectic, I hope to be able to find the time to post some stuff.

And yes, I did watch some movies on the plane — X Files: I Want To Believe, Tropic Thunder, Street Kings — plus the pilot episode of Fringe which had me gripped.

Friday 14 November 2008

That Friday feeling

The Watchmen roadshow hit London this morning and I had the lucky task of chairing a Q&A with Zack Snyder and Dave Gibbons following the screening. The footage shown was the same as unveiled in LA and NY last month — it's fab by the way — plus the new trailer. Today was the second time I'd seen the footage — take my word for it, this is a going to be a BIG title on DVD, so dense and detailed is each frame. You can read Empire's report here.

Wednesday 12 November 2008


Michael Winterbottom, Britain's most prolific filmmaker, will direct a $13 million adaptation of Jim Thompson's novel The Killer Inside Me starring Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba.

A relentless psychological thriller, the film follows West Texas sheriff Lou Ford’s descent into violent psychosis. As murder victims begin to pile up in his town, suspicion falls on Lou. He will do anything to escape but he cannot escape what he is.

Tuesday 11 November 2008


First the good news: Joe Johnston is directing Captain America.

Now the disappointing: Brett Ratner is apparently directing Conan.

I wasn't too keen on those colour Star Trek shots that appeared recently, but these I like. Spock, in particular, looks great in moody black and white.

Monday 10 November 2008

And another thing...

I know this is not film related but it needs to be said: Laura White should never have been voted off this week's X Factor. Simon Cowell clearly thinks with his *&%$ while Louis Walsh is... well, let's not go there.

Laura from Bolton was the always the one to beat in my book (with Alexandra a close second) and now the show's not worth watching. Shame, cos Cheryl has been fab...

Monday musing

Am sitting at home without a working boiler or central heating, waiting for the boiler repair man to call back, and about to start re-reading Watchmen for the umpteenth time in preparation for something later this week.

Friday 7 November 2008

Never saw that coming

The pairing of Steven Spielberg and Will Smith is, of course, a no-brainer. Massive star. Massive director. I'm only surprised it hasn't happened sooner. But I never would have guessed that the project they'd connect on would be the remake of Oldboy. I love the original. I remember seeing it in Cannes and it blowing my mind. I later interviewed Korean writer-director Park Chan-wook for an extra on the UK DVD release. They've been talking about remaking it for a while now although I never really saw the point. Suddenly I'm cautiously intrigued, even though I'd rather Spielberg direct his long-mooted Lincoln project.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Dollhouse trailer

Joss Whedon's pretty awesome in my book. Buffy, Angel, Firefly. I mean, I love his shows (and Serenity) but I'm not one of those brown coat groupies or anything. I am, however, looking forward to his latest, Dollhouse, starring the lovely Faith herself, Eliza Dushku, although when we'll get it in the UK I have no idea. I haven't even seen a single episode of Fringe yet, but that's only cos it's on Sky One and I don't have it.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Michael Crichton RIP

Michael Crichton, the bestselling author of Jurassic Park, Disclosure, Sphere, and The Andromeda Strain, and creator of TV's ER, has died of cancer. He was 66.

Crichton wasn't what one would call a literary giant, although at six foot nine he was some kind of literal giant. His gift as an writer was his BIG ideas and insanely readable page-turning style that made him the ultimate airport blockbuster author, his books selling in the tens of millions.

“Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand,” his family said in a statement.

Crichton was, of course, also a prolific screenwriter, producer and director, with Westworld and Coma among his directorial credits.

“Michael’s talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of Jurassic Park," said Steven Spielberg. "He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the earth."

He did it!

Well done America. You did the right thing. Now he's got a job to do. And so have I.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Miller time

While we keep our fingers crossed that American voters do the right thing (and that the electorial process is abided by — ie the one with the most votes wins), here's a Frank Miller interview for you to read. It's a good one too.

Sunday 2 November 2008

He did it!

What a race. What a race. And boy did he leave it late. The last corner of the last lap of the last race of the championship. I'm only just getting my breathe back. Congratulations Lewis! The youngest Formula One world champion. Well deserved.

Flippin' heck

I know so many people who were planning to go and see Bond this weekend. But even so, this was still a surprise. That works out at around $8 million.


Quantum Of Solace, the 22nd James Bond adventure, has made Box Office history on its opening day in the UK, taking a staggering £4.94m and making it the biggest Friday opening of all time. This shatters the previous record held by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which took £4.025m.

Quantum Of Solace, the latest installment from the longest running franchise in film history, has also beaten the opening day figure for the last Bond movie, Casino Royale, which took £2.9m on its opening day.

Quantum Of Solace opened in 542 cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday 31st October and will release in the US on November 14th.

Produced for EON Productions by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, Quantum Of Solace is directed by Marc Forster and stars Daniel Craig as the legendary secret agent, James Bond. With a screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Oscar-winner Paul Haggis, the film picks up the storyline just one hour after the end of Casino Royale, marking the first direct sequel produced by EON Productions.

Friday 31 October 2008

Slumdog Millionaire trailer

Saw this yesterday and it is indeed a blast. Typical Boyle. Energetic, joyful, propulsive, brilliantly shot by Anthony Dod Mantle with a rush of colour and terrific performances from a mostly non-professional cast of kids, and offering an eye-opening view of life in India for both poor and wealthy alike. I don't think Boyle's ever made a bad film, but this is one of his best. Can't wait to see it again.

Happy Halloween!

I've decided to start Halloween earlier than I'd originally planned having managed to finish today's workload ahead of schedule. I'm currently watching E4's terrific Charlie Brooker-penned zombie show Dead Set which I've been recording all week and have a pumpkin to carve a little later and the new DVD of A Nightmare Before Christmas to check out. Not sure which film I'll watch tonight but I figure it might have to be Carpenter's Halloween. Predictable I know, but on today of all days I think that's allowed.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Halloween countdown: The Evil Dead

Hard to believe this was once banned in the UK as a "video nasty", Sam Raimi defended it in courts across the land, and when it was finally released for home viewing they cut the tree rape scene. How times change.

And the Oscar goes to...

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.

His is a monumental turn. Moving, powerful, subtle, nuanced, personal, fearless, funny, physical, magnificent. Clearly channeling issues from his own life, Rourke, under Darren Aronofsky's simple but brilliantly effective direction, gives his greatest ever performance.

The comeback is complete. Give this man more roles like this one. Give this man the Oscar. I told Rourke last night he deserved it. Let's hope others feel the same way...

Tuesday 28 October 2008


Off to see The Wrestler tonight, followed by a Q&A with Darren Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke. Should be entertaining.

The power of Bond

There are many reasons why the person who does the promotions for the Bond films gets an upfront credit. Here's one:

Halloween countdown: The Fog

I don't care what you say, it creeped me out when I first saw it.

Monday 27 October 2008

LFF: The Brothers Bloom

I was a huge fan of Rian Johnson's Brick and had been very much looking forward to his sophmore effort The Brothers Bloom which I finally saw this morning. It certainly didn't disappoint. A delightful, clever, engaging, intricate, and very knowing screwball comedy revolving around the titular siblings (Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo), a couple of con artists out for one last score, it confirms the promise Johnson showed with his dazzling high school noir debut and reveals he's no one trick pony. With globe-trotting locations, a pleasingly eccentric plot and enormously appealing turns from Brody and Ruffalo as well as Rachel Weisz and a near silent Rinko Kikuchi who utters just three words throughout, it rambles a trifle towards the end but has such charm, ambition and a surfeit of ideas, it's impossible to dislike. Romantic and funny, it's one of my favourite films of 2008.

Halloween countdown: I Walked With A Zombie

Thursday 23 October 2008

Watching The Watchmen

Went to the launch of Dave Gibbons' glorious new tome Watching The Watchmen (Titan Books) last night. A lavishly illustrated examination of the creative process behind his and Alan Moore's seminal comic, it's filled with preparatory sketches, thumbnails and much, much more, beautifully designed by Chip Kidd and Mike Essl, making it the perfect Xmas gift for any Watchmen fan and helping the wait for Zack Synder's movie that little more tolerable. Given that one of my biggest fanboy moments was standing in Gibbons' front room, holding Moore's original script for Watchmen issue one, you can probably tell I'm quite excited by this.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Transporter 3 trailer

I make no secret of my enormous fondness for The Transporter movies and so I'm very much looking forward to part three. Here's the trailer.

Tuesday 21 October 2008


... but I'm under a crunching deadline at the moment, meaning my time here will be limited for the next day or so. Sorry.

Monday 20 October 2008

Widescreen horror

In a recent interview with aint it cool news (a link to which I can't find at this moment), Blade screenwriter David S. Goyer was extolling the virtues of widescreen imagery in horror movies — saying something along the lines that all horror films should be shot in widescreen — with particular emphasis to Dean Cundey's amazing work on John Carpenter's Halloween.

In light of the fact that Halloween is almost upon us, here are a few examples of Cundey's creepy framing. Click each one for a bigger view.

* Screen grabs from dvdbeaver, a site well worth visiting.

Friday 17 October 2008

The film's Solace, Quantum Of Solace

A few immediate thoughts. It's a Bond movie unlike any other. Brutal and bleak. Fast and frenzied. Leaner and meaner. With unrelenting action sequences that are more Bourne than 007. Particularly the hand-to-knife fight. It's darker. More serious. With a bruised and brooding Bond out for revenge. Whatever the cost. To him. Or his career. It's more emotional. Less "fun" than what we've come to expect from a Bond. More talky too. With a tangled plot that defies easy summarising. That said, there's a cool opening car chase, and a brilliant sequence in an Austrian opera house during a performance of Tosca that's pure cinema. There are big explosions and fewer gadgets. And gorgeous women who can't act. And a running time of under two hours. I liked it much more than Casino Royale.

Counting down...

Less than seven hours to go till Quantum Of Solace. Am I excited? Hell, yeah.

The great Peter Weir

I love Peter Weir. Let me rephrase that, I love his movies. I haven't actually met the man, but his body of work is nigh on impeccable. The Cars That Ate Paris. The Last Wave. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Witness. The Truman Show. Gallipoli. The man's a cinematic god in my book. But Weir's also meant to be picky with his projects, having last directed Master And Commander in 2003. Well, now he's back. With The Way Back and I couldn't be more delighted.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Just saying...

Spent most of the afternoon working through the Hellboy II DVD (film and extras) and so I haven't managed to get my thoughts together sufficiently to write a full review of Frost/Nixon which I saw this morning. The few reviews that have appeared online thus far are mostly mixed although Variety's Todd McCarthy liked it more than most. For my part, I found it slick, entertaining and thoroughly engaging with a powerhouse performance from Frank Langella as the disgraced former US President and another excellent turn from Michael Sheen as the British chat show host.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Achtung, baby

About that 28 Months Later rumour...

Last week there was much internet chatter coming out of Stiges that Paul Andrew Williams, writer-director of the excellent London To Brighton and the less stellar The Cottage, had been selected to direct a second sequel to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later provisionally entitled 28 Months Later. The story, inevitably, spread like wildfire, even popping up in a national newspaper in the UK. I knew it was a load of baloney, but called Andrew Macdonald, producer of 28 Days Later, to get the official word.

Here's the link to my Fango story.

Monday 13 October 2008

Monday musing

The London Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday and it's a big week for screenings with Frost/Nixon, Synecdoche, New York and something called Quantum Of Solace among those scribbled in my Filofax (yes, I still use one of those).

It seems that Ridley Scott is intent on battling David Fincher for the title of director with the most cool sounding projects in development, having added Joe Haldeman’s 1974 science fiction novel The Forever War to a bulging slate that already includes Nottingham (his next, apparently), Brave New World, Child 44 and Gucci.

"I first pursued Forever War 25 years ago, and the book has only grown more timely and relevant since," Scott told Daily Variety. "It’s a science-fiction epic, a bit of The Odyssey by way of Blade Runner, built upon a brilliant, disorienting premise."

In terms of this weekend's US box office, however, Scott's Body Of Lies came a rather disappointing third behind new release Quarantine which benefitted from good reviews and a brilliant template, and last week's number one Beverly Hills Chihuahua which is clearly appealing to many, although heaven knows why.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Twilight trailer

This is going to be massive.

Friday 10 October 2008

LFF: Baader Meinhof Complex

Saw The Baader Meinhof Complex this afternoon, a thoroughly involving, powerful, and, yes, complex examination of the West German terrorist organisation, the Red Army Faction, from Downfall director Uli Edel. I want to let this one sit a while before commenting further, but if you get a chance to see this challenging movie when it screens at the London Film Festival, take it.

Thursday 9 October 2008

The Uninvited trailer

A Tale of Two Sisters was one of the best and creepiest of Korean horrors, and I have reason to believe the US remake, The Uninvited, might be better than the majority of its ilk because the hands steering the ship this time around are Tom and Charles Guard, aka The Guard Brothers, whose terrific short films earned them much acclaim in the UK and the inevitable "next big thing" tag. They've been a long time coming but, hopefully, they're here now...

Tuesday 7 October 2008


I don't claim to be an Oliver Stone fan. I've probably liked about half of his output (The Hand, Salvador, JFK, Platoon, NBK, Born On The Fourth Of July and U-Turn) but haven't actually been excited by anything he's done in years. Until now. And a film about a man I have no love for. But, goddamit, I can't wait to see W.

The US reviews have started to run and Variety and Hollywood Reporter are mixed although everyone seems to be raving about Josh Brolin's performance. The film's playing at the LFF so I'll have a chance to make my own mind up soon enough.

Let The Right One In trailer

I have heard nothing but great things about this Swedish vampire movie but have so far managed to miss every screening, be it at Edinburgh or Frightfest. It opens on limited release in the US on October 24 and in the UK not soon enough. Cloverfield's Matt Reeves is directing the American remake.

Matchstick Men

Yesterday's post about Ridley Scott made me uncrack open the cellophane on my Matchstick Men DVD last night, a film I hadn't seen since it played at Venice in 2003 and which I remember enjoying enormously. In many ways, a forgotten Scott movie, it's by no means a classic, but Scott's supreme skill shines through, the script is cutely knowing, and the performance by one particular cast member is quite remarkable. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil, but when I saw it in Venice this particular person wasn't familiar, which made the ending all the more surprising. I'm not convinced the film will have quite the same impact on newcomers but it remains a fine, engaging work from one of our most accomplished filmmakers.

A pair of Queens

I told you to expect more cast announcements regarding Alice. And so it is that the Hollywood Reporter reports that Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter are onboard as the White Queen and Red Queen respectively.

Monday 6 October 2008

Scott's New World

The great Ridley Scott, whose Body Of Lies opens in the US this week and in the UK in November, has talked more about his plans for adapting Aldous Huxley's Brave New World — although he doesn't yet have a script he's happy with. "We're still struggling with that one," says Scott. "I have 40 things on the go at once. But that's a very important one. And sometimes, some surface faster than the others. It's partly luck of the draw. Even with a good writer, he'll do it and screw up. So then you go back to the table and start all over again, it's hard. The hardest single thing is getting it on paper."

* hat tip to Steve Schmid

But what about Tintin?

The details of the DreamWorks/Paramount split have finally been made official but there's still no firm news on state of the Tintin trilogy. A couple of weeks ago, at a Taken screening at the BFI Southbank, Liam Neeson said that he and Spielberg were hoping they might finally get their long-mooted Abraham Lincoln project off the ground next year.

They speak!

I spent four days on the set of The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions some years back covering the production for Premiere but never got to speak to the Wachowski brothers. I walked past them a few times, stood (relatively) close to them while they were directing, but no words were ever exchanged. Which was a real shame because I was a huge fan of both Bound and The Matrix. And, as it turned out, I was one of the minority who really liked Speed Racer. Roger Ebert bumped into the guys at a screening of The Godfather in Chicago. Here's his report.

Sunday 5 October 2008

Comic recommendations

I don't read as many comics as I'd like, and have totally given up buying single issues, preferring to wait until the titles I follow are available in trade paperback (or occasionally hardback) editions. Recently I've enjoyed Mike Carey and Jock's Faker and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' stellar Criminal: The Dead And The Dying both of which I'd recommend, although if I had to point you in the direction of one, it would be Criminal, all three volumes of which are worth picking up.

Saturday 4 October 2008


According to the LA Times: Harrison Ford said Friday that momentum is building for a fifth movie in the Indiana Jones franchise and that George Lucas is already cooking up a suitable plot for a heroic senior citizen with a penchant for whips and fedoras. "It's crazy but great," the 66-year-old Ford said. "George is in think mode right now."

Missing in action

Interesting column from Variety's Anne Thompson about the problems faced by many once hot directors now considered past their prime. Joe Dante's got a couple of films on the go, but I'd love to see Phil Kaufman get back behind the camera again.

Friday 3 October 2008


Saw Rachel Getting Married this morning and it's terrific with a sensational performance from Anne Hathaway that will get her a lot of awards attention when that time comes. Alas, that's all I wrote for now, cos I've got a five-disc Bruce Weber DVD box set to review...

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Random matters...

It's been a while since I've posted anything of length here and for that I apologise. It's not that I've been idle this last week or so, rather I've been watching films and DVDs and Blu-Rays, interviewing directors and doing things I can't talk about just yet. Press screenings for the London Film Festival have begun, Raindance is upon us and soon the BAFTA torrent will begin in earnest.

For the record, this is a snapshot of some of my recent, work-related viewing:

Quarantine — a good horror remake
Import/Export — grim but absorbing
Eagle Eye — headache inducing
Taken — mindless action
The Broken — pretentious

Army Of Darkness (BR)
Jerry Maguire (BR)
Reservoir Dogs: Special Edition (BR)
The Messengers (BR)
District 13 (BR)
Cinema 16: World Shorts (DVD)
Wanted (DVD)
Felon (BR)
Black Emanuelle (DVD)
Emanuelle In Bangkok (DVD)

And yes, I did have to watch a pair of Black Emanuelle films for work. It's tough, I know.

Elsewhere, the latest trailer for The Spirit gives more of a sense of what Frank Miller's got in store for us...

... while the new trailer for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button looks just stunning.

I've noticed, too, that the Alice cast members are slowly being unveiled one by one, with Variety revealing Michael Sheen's presence today, and Matt Lucas confirming his participation on Friday's Jonathan Ross. Expect a few more...

Saturday 27 September 2008

So long...

Paul Newman has left us aged 83 after a long battle with cancer. He was not only one of the good guys but one of the greats.

Thursday 25 September 2008

It's official...

Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter. But we knew that already, didn't we.

Monday 22 September 2008

DVD review: Zodiac Director's Cut

When the history books remember the best films of 2007, There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men will be at the forefront by virtue of their victories at the Oscars. Quite how Zodiac missed out — not even scoring a single nomination — remains a miscarriage of cinematic justice akin to Ordinary People beating Taxi Driver to Best Picture. At the very least, Zodiac should have won for special effects (witness the supplementary featurette for an insight into the seamless digital work involved throughout, from adding blood to creating entire city blocks), although this extraordinary film deserved much more.

A triumph from David Fincher, who reined in his usual stylistic flourishes to present a simple, disciplined, study of the serial killer who terrorised the San Francisco Bay area during the late 60s and 70s but was never caught, Zodiac is a densely detailed police procedural, a meticulous, near obsessive examination of the murders and the subsequent investigation by San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) and homicide detective David Toschi (Ruffalo) that includes virtually every frustration, misstep and dead end, but which goes so far as to identify a prime suspect whose guilt is debated on the accompanying ‘His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen’ documentary. It’s a movie about obsession, too, and its consequences: particularly for Graysmith, whose two books about the Zodiac form the basis for the script, but also Fincher. Raised in Marin County, just across the bay from San Francisco, Zodiac was the bogeyman of his youth, and he spent three years checking every piece of evidence, tracking down every living person involved in the case to figure out “the closest thing to the truth” before shooting began.

This Director’s Cut is four minutes longer than the theatrical, with just a handful of new scenes, among them an audacious sequence where the screen goes black for a full minute and we hear a music montage that marks the passage of four years. Fincher shot Zodiac on HiDef, and the result, at the cinema, was astounding. Disappointingly on DVD, the picture appears a shade muddy and soft. Blu-Ray, clearly, is the way to go. Nevertheless, the film’s forensic attention to detail carries over to the extras which are both bountiful and a boon. Fincher’s typically measured and erudite commentary is again essential for anyone interested in the art of filmmaking; while the second, spliced together from separate chats with Gyllenhaal and Downey, and another with screenwriter James Vanderbilt, producer Brad Fischer, and novelist and “fan” James Elroy, makes for hugely entertaining listening.

The impressive behind-the-scenes documentary ‘Zodiac Deciphered’ reveals Fincher’s Kubrick-like quest for perfection, whether shooting 36 takes of Gyllenhaal tossing a notebook onto a car seat, helicoptering in trees to recreate a murder site exactly, or insisting on changing one line of thread in an executioner’s mask. Even better is the stellar feature-length ‘This Is The Zodiac Speaking’, a disquieting chronicle of the murders featuring crime scene photos, vintage news footage and interviews with many of those involved in the case, as well as surviving victims, Bryan Hartwell and Michael Mageau, all of whose lives seem forever altered. Sadly, there’s no contribution from Toschi or his SFPD partner Bill Armstrong. That minor quibble aside, this is a monumental package for what Elroy terms “a luminous work of art”.

Extras: Commentary by director David Fincher; Commentary by Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr, screenwriter James Vanderbilt, producer Brad Fischer and novelist James Elroy; ‘Zodiac Deciphered’ documentary; ‘The Visual Effects Of Zodiac’ featurette; ‘Previsualisation’ featurette; ‘This Is The Zodiac Speaking’ documentary; ‘Prime Suspect: His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen’ documentary

* originally published in DVD & Blu-ray Review.