Friday, 29 February 2008

Seriously tough

This item will be meaningless for readers outside the UK, but the titantic battle that was this year's Masterchief had me hooked to the sofa last night for the grand final as it had for the weeks leading up to it. This year's competition really was the toughest yet (to use the overused phrase of judges John and Gregg) and any of the three finalists — single dad Jonny, astonishingly gifted 18-year-old Emily and eventual winner James — would have won in any other year, it's just a shame that two of the three had to lose. You always have your favourite and the precociously talented Emily whose inventive dishes constantly left John speechless (or with a tear in his eye) was ours. When the camera followed her back home at the start of last night's show, and revealed her skill at painting, her talent all made sense. She's an artist, plain and simple, be it with watercolours or food. It was a shame she lost, but I have a sneaky suspicion we'll be seeing more of her.

The summer begins here

New Iron Man trailer.

Oh. My. God.

Click. Headline. And. Marvel. Geddit? Marvel... as in Comics.

Oh, never mind. Just enjoy.

Cannes flicks

For those heading to Cannes this May, two films that look set to unspool on the Croisette are Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull and the Coens brothers' Washington-set comedy/drama Burn Without Reading starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand, which sees Joel and Ethan working for the first time in an age without their usual cinematographer Roger Deakins. He's been replaced by Emmanuel Lubezki, who's no slouch behind the camera, with credits including Sleepy Hollow, Ali, A Little Princess, Children Of Men and The New World. He's also, officially, the nicest man in the world. Take it from me.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Forey's Monsters

It seems I missed this milestone yesterday, but Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine turned 50 years old. Created by Forrest J. Ackerman, Famous Monsters was the bible for a whole generation of horror movie fans, many of whom went on to create movies and books of their own, as well as helping nuture many literary careers, including that of his childhood friend Ray Bradbury. I'm a child of Fangoria rather than FM, but Forry's legacy is legendary. Once, many years ago, on a trip to LA, I visited Forry at his famous Ackermansion (the original one), which was not far from the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house that featured in Blade Runner, spending the morning interviewing him for Empire magazine. Later, we went to lunch at a local smorgasbord with some of his friends, and then I spent the afternoon wandering the rooms of his mansion with several others (it was a Saturday and he used to welcome visitors weekly), pouring over his amazing collection of books and horror and science fiction memorabilia. I remember particularly geeking out over a letter from a ten-year-old aspiring writer called Stephen King and part of the model ship from Silent Running.

Pride And Glory

There's an interesting struggle developing between New Line chief Bob Shaye and Pride And Glory writer-director Gavin O'Connor who, together with the film's stars, Colin Farrell and Ed Norton, has voiced his dissatisfaction with the film's release being delayed. Apparently Shaye doesn't like the film and wants to off load the $30 million production, and in retaliation O'Connor is reportedly refusing to deliver a script he owes the studio whose future is said to be under discussion. Click the headline to read Variety's story. Whatever the exact circumstances behind the delay, it's just a shame for audiences because the trailer looks promising and the cast is a cool one.

More Sweeney books

On the right, the Japanese edition of my Sweeney book. On the left, a mini 36-page version that will be packaged inside the Sweeney Todd DVD release on sale April 1.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Lost: Eggtown

Another flash-forward episode, this time centring on the lovely Kate with one heck of a sting in the tail. The quality level for this season continues to amaze me, even if this felt a little like a place holder episode for the real mindblowing stuff to come. Again, references abound. A Philip K. Dick novel (Valis) right up front. Then Daniel Faraday's mind reading card trick ("what do you remember?" asked Charlotte) seems to indicate there's some time travel/time rip stuff coming. And did we also find out the identity of one more member of the Oceanic 6, namely baby Aaron whose mere presence seems to be preventing Jack (the pre-bearded not yet wanting to go back to the island version) to get jiggy with it with Kate. Plus, when Jack took the stand as a character witness for Kate during her trial, he made reference to the cover story of what supposedlly happened to Oceanic 815 — ie. that it sank with only eight survivors — which means whoever we're dealing with has the resources to sink an airliner simply as a smoke screen. Think about that for a second... That's pretty bleedin' trippy, right. There's a pretty illuminating interview with Lost executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse on (click the headline to link to it) in which they spill a few beans about the future direction of the show, including their decision to reveal who was in the coffin before the season's out.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Oscar round up

So, the Oscars are over for another year and we can now get back to obsessing over summer blockbusters for the next few months. Before that, however, a few thoughts to leave you with. All in all it ran the way it had been predicted, although there were a few surprises, not least the fact that all four acting awards went to Europeans (how that must have hurt), the Coens brothers walked away with six awards between them, Sweeney picked up the Oscar for Best Production Design (justified but unexpected), and PT Anderson left empty-handed after having created a film for the ages (There Will Be Blood picked up two in total), as did Diving Bell And The Butterfly and Roger Deakins (perhaps undone by having two nominations). Bourne, on the other hand, won three awards. My favourite winners of the night were Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, for Best Original Song (Falling Slowly) from Once. I loved their speech, I loved the audience's reception to their victory, and I loved the fact that they allowed Marketa back in stage to finish what she had to say. I'm not how that happened but I'm sure glad it did. (My second favourite speech belonged to Javier Bardem.) Congrats too to Brits Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman who won the Short Film (Animated) category with their version of Peter & The Wolf.

The Winners

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood

Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose

Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men

Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton

Juno Written by Diablo Cody

No Country for Old Men Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

The Counterfeiters Austria

Taxi to the Dark Side Alex Gibney and Eva Orner

Ratatouille Brad Bird

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Art Direction: Dante Ferretti Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

There Will Be Blood Robert Elswit

Elizabeth: The Golden Age Alexandra Byrne

Freeheld Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth

The Bourne Ultimatum Christopher Rouse

La Vie en Rose Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald

Atonement Dario Marianelli

Falling Slowly from "Once" Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Peter & the Wolf Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets) Philippe Pollet-Villard

The Bourne Ultimatum Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg

The Bourne Ultimatum Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis

The Golden Compass Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Oscar night

I shall not be live blogging the Oscars because, well, I'm not going to stay up and watch them. As with last year, I will be recording the show, then watching it on fast forward in the morning, stopping only for the relevant and/or amusing bits. Good luck to all the nominees. And may the winners' speeches be sparkling and short. My fingers remain firmly crossed for Roger Deakins and Casey Affleck, but, to be honest, I just hope that, as with the BAFTAs, the love and the little gold men get spread out among the various parties. Enjoy the show if you're watching it live, otherwise I'll see you tomorrow.

Smells like Indie Spirit (Awards)

I was pleased to see that screenwriter Scott Frank's directorial debut The Lookout picked up the award for Best First Feature at yesterday's Independent Spirit Awards. It's the cracking tale of a former high school ice hockey star (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) suffering from intense memory lapses as a result of a serious car incident now working as a janitor in a small Midwestern bank who's drawn into helping rob the place. If you missed it, it's out on DVD. Otherwise it was Juno's night, picking up Best Feature, Best Actress and Best First Screenplay, although The Diving Bell And The Butterfly nabbed Best Director and Best Cinematography. For full details, click the headline.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Year of Bond

This year marks not only the release of a new Bond movie but the centenary of the birth of his creator Ian Fleming. Both events are celebrated in Total Film's latest issue which comes in 21 different covers featuring every Bond movie, my favourite being the gold-edged Goldfinger edition that's available only to subscribers.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Oscar (sort of) watch

I have purposely kept this an Oscar free zone of late, for reasons previously outlined. But the continual blanket coverage of what will be this year's biggest media event (outside of the Olympics that is) has worn me down some what. I've been particularly intrigued by the supposed last-minute rallying of Juno as a possible Best Picture winner from certain quarters. The same quarters that predicted a win for Little Miss Sunshine last year and we all remember what went of to win then. No Country For Old Men has been the favourite for so long now, picking up virtually every critics and guild award going en route to O-Day, that it always seemed impossible that it wouldn't win despite the overwhelming love that's out there for There Will Be Blood. But suddenly the Oscars soothsayers are predicting an upset. Or rather one of two upsets. Because the current "wisdom" is that No Country and There Will Blood will split the vote and allow Juno to win. Or maybe Michael Clayton. Depending on who you believe. Now, I liked both Juno and Michael Clayton very much indeed. The former was in my top twelve films of the year, the latter was a bubbling under. But, to me, neither is a Best Picture winner. If you pushed me to pick a winner, out of the five nominated films, I'd have to give it to There Will Be Blood. I love the Coens, and I love the movie, but I have certain problems with it that I don't have with TWBB.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Vantage Point

Barry Levy's script for Vantage Point sold for a lot of money, and it's easy to see why. On the page, this Presidential assassination thriller with a gimmicky pseudo-Rashomon structure probably read like gangbusters. Onscreen, however, the film, directed by Pete Travis, is something of a disappointment. Set during the visit of the American President (William Hurt) to Salamanca, Spain, for an anti-terrorism conflab, the film posits several different viewpoints of his (or rather his double's) assassination — including tourist Forest Whitaker, Secret Service agents Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid, and local cop Eduardo Noriega — and the subsequent hunt for the assassins. After the initial set up, the film rewinds 23 minutes to show us another person's POV, slowly revealing "vital" pieces of information as to the killers' identities and motives. But after the third or fourth rewind you find yourself shuffling in your seat — like most of the audience I saw it with — caught up in a cinematic version of Groundhog Day, willing it to end. There are several surprises en route, although the Presidential double is revealed in the trailer, while the goodie who's really a baddie is obvious from the get-go. Towards the end the film gives up its subjective viewpoint for a denoument, including a high octane car chase through the Salamanca streets, that's seems to be many people's POV and feels like a bit of a cheat. Travis is a Paul Greengrass protege, having directed the Greengrass-produced/co-scripted Omagh, but he lacks his mentor's eye for action and ability to propel you (the audience) into the maelstrom of realistic chaos. The last shot, too, features one of the worst pieces of CGI (a helicopter and landscape composite) I've seen in a studio movie.

Double whammy

Yesterday saw two announcements that had rwm's cinematic heart all aflutter. First, David Fincher has signed on to direct an adaptation of Charles Burns' excellent graphic novel Black Hole co-written by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary.

Secondly, Warner Bros. seems to be finally moving ahead with not one but two live action Akira movies under the direction of debutant Ruairi Robinson who nailed the gig on the strength of his short films The Silent City...

and the Oscar-nominated Fifty Percent Grey...

rwm will be following the progress of these two projects very closely.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Keira Knightley and Joe Wright: Mind readers

Here's the start of another one of my creative duo pieces that's in the LA Times' The Envelope magazine. Again, click the headline to read in full. There are also pieces on Ellen Page and Jason Reitman, the Coen brothers, George Clooney and Tilda Swinton, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe.

LONDON -- "ON-SCREEN chemistry between two actors is rare," says "Atonement" star Keira Knightley. "I think creative chemistry between actor and director is even more rare -- and for some reason Joe and I have that."

The Joe of whom she speaks is, of course, Joe Wright, who directed Knightley in "Atonement" and 2005's "Pride & Prejudice," for which she received a lead actress Oscar nomination. Wright chalks up the bond with his leading lady to a kind of shorthand the two have developed. "I can look at her or she could look at me and we'd know what each other was thinking -- in terms of the filmmaking," he says.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp: Made for each other

Here are the first two paragraphs of my piece on Tim and Johnny, one of several creative duo features from the LA Times's current issue of The Envelope.

LONDON -- GONE are the days when Tim Burton had to fight to cast Johnny Depp. For "Edward Scissorhands," the studio wanted Tom Cruise; for "Sleepy Hollow" the name in the frame was Brad Pitt. The turning point came when "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" went mega, earning Depp not only an Oscar nomination for lead actor but also a place on the A list. When it came time for Burton to cast Willy Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," the studio had a suggestion -- what did he think of Johnny Depp?

"Most of the times we've worked together he's had to go into great big battles to get them to hire me," Depp says. "I feel so lucky to be along for the ride, more than a couple few times. For a lot of reasons. No. 1, Tim is a filmmaker I admire, but he's much, much more than that. Without embarrassing him, he's a true artist, which is something I wasn't sure was possible in today's cinema. But he's the real thing. He's a visionary, an auteur, totally uncompromising."

Click the headline for the link and the rest.

Here's Rorschach...

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Just saying...

Although reel world matters is, predominently, a film related site, I felt this absurb piece of news couldn't pass without some kind of comment. The British Government, it was reported yesterday, are to scrap oral tests from foreign language GCSE examinations because they're considered as being "too stressful" for pupils. I don't know about you, but, to my way of thinking, not being able to speak a language kind of negates the whole point of learning it in the first place.

Now there's an idea!

You're a young movie starlet. But your career's not doing so well of late. Worse, you're now more famous for your partying than your acting. So, what do you do? Well, if you're Lindsay Lohan, then your idea of a comeback is to strip off and pose naked just like Marilyn Monroe for New York magazine. The idea of getting Bert Stern, the last photographer to snap Monroe nude, and have him replicate his shoot with Lohan is, on one hand, a stroke of genius. But if should anything happen to Ms Lohan in the near future along the lines of Ms Monroe... well, yikes. Click the headline if you, er, fancy more.

Monday, 18 February 2008

The Cottage

British writer-director Paul Andrew Williams made quite a splash last year with his mightily impressive low budget thriller London To Brighton. His eagerly anticipated sophmore effort, horror-comedy The Cottage, hits UK cinemas on March 14 and US DVD on April 29.

Lost: The Economist

Things are getting murkier and murkier in Lost land. Thanks to Sayid's flash-forward we now know that not only is he one of the Oceanic 6 (joining the already confirmed Jack, Kate, and Hurley thus far) but he's turned into some kind of super assassin wiping out names on a "list" for boss man Ben who has also escaped said island (is he number six?) and seems to be running a Berlin vet clinic while masterminding a global conspiracy. Phew! Those Lost writers sure know how to pack a lot into 40 odd minutes of screen time. Throw in the fact that the island seems to be 31 minutes behind the rest of the world; that Sayid maybe an hitman but he's a hopelessly romantic, too, falling for his intended target who also turned out to be a hit lady (what are the odds, eh?); that Jacob's cabin has uprooted itself and gone walkabout, putting to question Locke's psychic link to the island; that Ben's hidden stash of passports (the one name we saw: Dean Moriarty from On The Road) and money (including Euros) suggests his ability to hop to and from the island at will; and that his power over Sayid seems to be good old-fashioned emotional blackmail (''Do you want to protect your friends or not?''), and we have another puzzling — for starters, who's the RG inscribed on Naomi's bracelet, a bracelet that looked awfully similar to the one Sayid's lady friend was wearing? — but hugely entertaining episode.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Caught up with Jumper this morning and, I must say, those lacklustre reviews weren't wrong. Doug Liman's films typically have a zip and a verve that's scarcely evident in this empty-headed adolescent actioneer that revolves around Hayden Christensen's "jumper" who teleports himself to various tourist spots around the globe — financing his hedonistic lifestyle with the odd spot of bank robbing — until white-wigged "Paladin" Roland (Samuel L Jackson) tries to kill him on religious grounds. Jamie Bell brings a spot of fun to the dour proceedings as a fellow "jumper", but I'm not sure what's more depressing, the fact that it's not that exciting, despite the copious CGI-enchanced bluster and elaborate set pieces, or that the script, such as it is, is credited to no fewer than three top screenwriters (David Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg). Disappointing.

Friday, 15 February 2008

The Art Of Spain

Andrew Graham-Dixon's three-part BBC Four series The Art Of Spain was a terrific if whirlwind tour around that country's artistic, architectural, political, spiritual, religious and cultural history. Last night's final show was the best of the three, covering, as it did, so many of my favourite artists: Goya, Picasso, Miro, Dali and Bunuel, although part two was partly shot in my mum's home town of Toledo and featured the work of El Greco who made his reputation there. Cramming Spain's artistic triumphs into just three hours inevitably meant some glossing over, but the end result was both spectacular and masterful, and made me want to visit again soon.

The Happening

M. Night Wotsisname lost me somewhere around the third act of Signs, just before the aliens turned up. I was a big fan of The Sixth Sense, and although I didn't warm to Unbreakable on first viewing, it's really grown on me since then. The Village had its moments, but I couldn't even bring myself to see Lady In The Water. Clearly I wasn't the only one. And yet, the idea of Night doing something adult and scary again has me very excited.

Watching the Watchmen

While Fox and Warners squabble over ownership rights regarding Zack Synder's Watchmen movie, the official site has unveiled a Synder Q&A in which he answers a host of fan questions, among them matters relating to The Black Freighter storyline and Rorschach’s mask. Check it out by clicking the headline.

Even more Page. Which, let's face it, is a good thing

Having already signed on for Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell and Drew Barrymore's directorial debut Whip It, Juno star Ellen Page has added a third film to her increasingly busy schedule, Peacock, co-starring Cillian Murphy. According to Variety, the title is derived from the name of the tiny Nebraska town where Murphy's character, a split personality, fools the town into believing his two alter egos are man and wife. Page plays a struggling young mother who holds the key to his past and sparks a battle between the personalities. After the damage Page inflicted on Patrick Wilson's snapper in Hard Candy, I don't envy Murphy one little bit.

If there were any justice

Casey Affleck should walk away with the Best Supporting Oscar. But, of course, life doesn't always work like that. Lovely ad, though. Very in keeping with the movie.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Doug Liman interview

Have yet to see Jumper but am hoping to get to it either later this week or early next, even though the reviews have been mixed at best. There's a good interview with its director Doug Liman about the film and his unorthodox, shall we say, working methods in the current New York magazine. Click the headline to read.

Happy Valentine's Day

And what better way to celebrate it than watching the trailer for Indy 4? Okay, I admit, there are far, far better ways. But since today's the day the trailer for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull goes live, and since there's going to be no escaping it, one might as well embrace the old fella and get all nostalgic...

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Lost: Confirmed Dead

Well, episode 2 continued to pull few punches, offering up even more tantalising glimpses of an even bigger picture without providing one single answer. But what a show. We had fake footage of Oceanic 815 on the seabed, four new arrivals dropping from the sky — psychic Miles, physicist Daniel, pilot Frank and anthropologist Charlotte — who, it transpired aren't even after the survivors (they want Ben) plus a prehistoric polar bear skeleton wearing a Dharma collar. Now, I like my Lost a great deal, and, having come thus far, am determined to see this play out to the very end. However, I'm not, like, a complete obsessive. What I like doing, though, after every episode, is to take a gander at the opinions and theories of writer and major Lostie Jeff Jensen who's paid to examine the show in minute detail, and so does all the heavy thinking so that we don't have to. His postulations on episode two were, as usual, most interesting. "I am utterly convinced Charlotte Staples Lewis has been to the Island before," he writes. "Maybe it was her giggly delight as she splashed about in the Island's inland waters. There was something to her reaction — something that reminded me of another fantastical tale about an enchanted homecoming. The book is Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis, the sequel to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The story starts with a chapter called The Island, in which the Pevensie kids return to Narnia via a mysterious island marked by ancient ruins and odd creatures. First thing they do: play in the water. Maybe I'm just fishing again. But if you think I'm wrong, then you owe me a better explanation why Charlotte Staples Lewis has been assigned a name so conspicuously similar to the author's unfurled handle, Clive Staples Lewis." Priceless stuff.

Just because...

Coens cop Chabon

The Coen Brothers are adapting Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union for producer Scott Rudin. I wish them luck. Chabon's a terrific novelist but his books aren't the easiest to adapt. Then again, Curtis Hanson did a pretty fine job with Chabon's Wonder Boys which I just adore. In fact, it was my second favourite film the year it was released after Memento. Now, if only Rudin could get Chabon's Kavalier & Clay off the ground.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Dust settling

So, the story of the BAFTAs was one of spreading out the honours relatively evenly — with Michael Clayton, Juno, Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Control and This Is England all picking up one each — although I kinda felt There Will Be Blood was, perhaps, the unluckiest of the bunch, with only Daniel Day Lewis winning for Best Actor. In numerical terms La Vie En Rose was the biggest recipient with four in total, followed by No Country For Old Men with three. To me, it wasn't a great surprise that Atonement won Best Film, but the fact that it only claimed one other award from its 14 nominations was. Tilda Swinton's Best Supporting Actress clearly came as a shock to her, but, for me, the night belonged to Marion Cotillard who was delightfully (and visibly) overwhelmed at winning the award for Best Actress.

Roy Scheider

Rewatching Marathon Man not so long ago, I was struck all over again by the quiet genius of Roy Scheider who has died aged 75. So much a part of my formative moviegoing experience thanks to his starring role in Jaws ("we're going to need a bigger boat"), the minimalist delivery, cool cynicism, and iconic quality that Scheider possessed in abundance only truly impacted me as I grew older. He was terrific in The French Connection, Sorcerer, and Klute, and turned in a wonderfully creepy performance in Cronenberg's Naked Lunch. (I didn't know until today that he was offered the lead in The Deer Hunter but turned it down to honour a commitment to star in Jaws 2.) I loved him in the much under-rated 2010 (and still remember watching the scene in which his character uses a laptop on the beach in awe; it was 1984 after all). But if you're after one masterpiece Scheider performance to watch, may I recommend his role as self-destructive/womanising choreographer/director in Bob Fosse's autobiographical All That Jazz. Wonderful.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

And the BAFTA went to

BEST FILM Atonement


THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer for their First Feature Film Matt Greenhalgh (Writer/Control)

DIRECTOR Joel Coen/Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men)


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Ronald Harwood (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly)



LEADING ACTOR Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)

LEADING ACTRESS Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)

SUPPORTING ACTOR Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)

MUSIC Christopher Gunning (La Vie En Rose)

CINEMATOGRAPHY Roger Deakins (No Country For Old Men)

EDITING Christopher Rouse (The Bourne Ultimatum)

PRODUCTION DESIGN Sarah Greenwood/Katie Spencer (Atonement)

COSTUME DESIGN Marit Allen (La Vie En Rose)

SOUND Kirk Francis/Scott Millan/David Parker/Karen Baker Landers/Per Hallberg (The Bourne Ultimatum)

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS Michael Fink/Bill Westenhofer/Ben Morris/Trevor Wood (The Golden Compass)

MAKE UP & HAIR Jan Archibald/Didier Lavergne (La Vie En Rose)

SHORT ANIMATION Jo Allen/Luis Cook (The Pearce Sisters)

SHORT FILM Diarmid Scrimshaw/Paddy Considine (Dog Altogether)


Comment and analysis tomorrow. For now, goodnight.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Awards apathy

It's the BAFTAs on Sunday, with the Oscars (supposedly) a fortnight later. And yet it occured to me just the other day that, for once, I don't actually care who wins or not. Usually there's one film, maybe two, that I'm cheering for and desperately want to win. (Last year it was Children Of Men — and boy was I disappointed.) But this time around, I'm feeling a trifle, well, disinterested in it all. Predications are that it's between No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood for the Best Picture Oscar. Both are brilliant films. Both would be worthy winners. Do I care which one? Not really. (Atonement, perhaps, has the edge over the pair of them in the BAFTAs but who knows for sure. Certainly not me.) I'm sure my apathy is partly to do with Sweeney's lack of recognition on both sides of the Atlantic, the virtual shutout on Jesse James (come on Casey!) and with Zodiac having being ignored completely. And yet, I'd dearly love to Depp to pick up the Oscar. On the bright side, it probably means that I won't be staying up through the night to watch it.

When money's no object

I always look forward to Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue. This year's magazine doesn't arrive in Britain until next week, so I've been making do with the various spreads that have thus far appeared online, including a number of their Hitchcock recreations.

Click the headline for a behind the scenes look at their creation. It's the kind of thing that makes British magazine editors green with envy.

Catching up

This week has, for all intents and purposes, been a wash out due to illness, which meant I missed several screenings I'd been looking forward to seeing (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, Rambo). But being laid up at least allowed me the chance to catch up on a few new DVDs (Weirdsville and Chaos among them) as well as several movies that had been taking up space on my Sky+ planner (including Hammer's horror comedy The Old Dark House which has a weird double credit: "directed by William Castle" followed by "produced and directed by William Castle", the Terry Savalas/James Mason Nazi Gold heist "thriller" Inside Out), my favourite of which was Douglas Sirk's Sleep My Love, a terrific film noir from 1948 starring Claudette Colbert as a wealthy heiress whose husband (Don Ameche) tries to drive her mad (and to suicide) so he can live the high life with his femme fatale mistress, played by the smouldering Hazel Brooks. Wonderfully atmospheric, with a great opening, some stylish set pieces and a real Hitchcockian flair for suspense, it's apparently only available on German DVD, but if it turns up on TV, I urge you not to miss it.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

In the meantime...


For my absence of late. I was struck down on Tuesday by some kind of stomach bug which was a tad unpleasant, to say the least, but which — fingers crossed — seems to be on its way out. Normal service will, one hopes, be resumed shortly.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

We all fall down...

Maybe I've seen too many horror flms but the story in yesterday's Guardian (click headline to read) about scientists having created a mouse that can catch the common cold gave me chills.

Currently reading...

Interactive Sweeney book

Not sure how long this is going to be up, but either click the headline or go to for a very cool interactive version of the Sweeney Todd book with film clips, virtual tours of the sets, plus behind-the-scenes footage. It's fun.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Lost: The Beginning Of The End

Lost season 4 premiered last night on Sky One and it certainly lived up to my expectations. We had Hurley's flash forward with the beefy lottery winner back in a mental asylum after seeing Charlie's "ghost", later telling Dr Jack, who's taken to drinking Vodka in the morning with his OJ, that: ''I don't think we did the right thing, Jack! I think it wants us to come back! And it's going to do everything it can...'' Back on the island we had Hurley discovering Jacob's house which appears to be a ghostly as its occupant. (And while we're at it, who the hell was that inside?) On the bright side, we finally had confirmation that six survivors of Oceanic 815 — the Oceanic Six as they are famously called — made it off the Island. Three we know: Jack, Kate and Hurley. We know one winds up dead. But not who? And who, exactly, are the remaining three? We had Locke killing Naomi with a knife in the back and the survivors splitting into two factions: one led by Locke, the other Jack. We had the latest arrival from the freighter rescue team (Jeremy Davies). And we had another new character, the strangely named Matthew Abbaddon (played by Lance Reddick from The Wire) who claimed he worked for Oceanic but clearly doesn't and was dead scary to boot. (Abbaddon apparently means ''the angel of the abyss" in the Book of Revelation.) "Are they still alive?" he inquired of Hurley. Dead scary. In short, we had few answers and even more questions than before. What is it the survivors aren't able to talk about regarding the island and their escape? Why did Hurley apologise to Jack for having sided with Locke back on the island? And what is the significance of the shark on the blackboard behind Hurley in the asylum? Welcome back Lost. How I've missed you.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe..."

This week has turned into one of me playing catch up. Having finally watched the two Grindhouse movies a few days ago, yesterday I cracked open the shrinkwrap on my Blade Runner five-disc tin (a Christmas present, no less) and spent the best part of the afternoon and evening geeking out. I love my Blade Runner. I wouldn't necessarily say it's my favourite film, but it's certainly up there. Definitely top ten. Possibly top five, depending on the day of the week. In fact, I've lost count of how many times I've seen it in its various forms, on the big screen, on video and now on DVD. Having watched the Final Cut back in September at the Venice Film Festival, I thought I'd start with restoration director Charles De Lauzarika's stellar three-and-a-half hour documentary Dangerous Days which covers the making of the movie in exhaustive detail and features interviews with almost everyone connected with the project, including Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, Sean Young (yikes), producer Michael Deeley, the film's financiers, and numerous special effects technicians, and even the key grip and gaffer. It's an amazing achievement (although author Paul M Sammon, another talking head, covered the process in even greater detail in his book Future Noir which has just been reissued in an expanded form). So good is the documentary that I feel churlish even complaining about it, but I would have liked more information on the discovery of the workprint and how that led to 1993's Director's Cut. Plus it would have been nice too to see the deleted scenes presented separately rather than incorporated into the whole. (They may included be elsewhere on the set, but the back cover listing doesn't seem indicate it and I haven't watched everything yet.) Those minor quibbles aside, the documentary is a boone for any BR fan. Particularly eye opening was the special effects segment which reveals the pre-CGI, pre-digital methods employed. After that, there was no way I wasn't going to watch the film again and popped in the legendary workprint which is one of five different cuts included herein. As Ridley Scott says in his filmed intro, the picture quality isn't the best (it looked like I watching it on VHS) and after 20 minutes hit eject and slipped in the Final Cut and watched that instead. I'll get to the workprint soon enough, along with the commentary track featuring screenwriters Hampton Francher and David Peoples, as well as the 1982 original cut replete the happy ending and Ford's narration. I'm with Guillermo Del Toro (interviewed on the documentary) in that I've never minded the voiceover, and, strangely enough, still hear it in my head when I watch the film. This set is going to keep me happy for a long while yet.