Friday 30 May 2008

Best ad ever?

Probably not but bloody fantastic nevertheless...

Cumming soon

Burn After Reading trailer

Here's the red band trailer for the Coens' latest, so if you don't like swearing or comedy violence look away now.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Sydney Pollack RIP

I never had the pleasure of interviewing Sydney Pollack who died yesterday aged 73 from cancer. All the tributes I've heard and read today have tended to talk about his directing career in terms of Out Of Africa and Tootsie but while they may be his most famous films, his credits also include They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were, The Yakuza, The Firm, and, my personal favourite, Three Days of the Condor. Ironically, he was probably more famous outside of the industry thanks to his many movie roles, starring in Eyes Wide Shut, Michael Clayton, Husbands and Wives as well as his own movies, while as a producer (and recently in collaboration with his late partner Anthony Minghella) his credits included Sense & Sensibility, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Talented Mr Ripley. Here's a nice piece by Jeff Wells.

Indy 4 in brief

I, like half the cinema going world, went to see Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull this weekend. Going in, I really wanted to like it, but I came out underwhelmed and disappointed. While it had moments, they were too few and too far between. I purposely didn't read a single review prior but went online after to check out what others were saying and found many of a like mind. I think AICN's Moriarty, who enjoyed the film much more than I, said it best when he wrote: There's no awe here." And that in a nutshell was the problem. I could go on and on about the preference for CGI over real stunts, the stagebound feel and look of the thing, the lack of a real story, or characters to believe in, the reams of expositional dialogue, the fact the skull seemed to lose its power when a cloth was draped over it, but I think I'll go and watch Raiders Of The Lost Ark again instead...

Friday 23 May 2008

Wanted trailer. In Russian

What is it with foreign trailers today. Check out this Russian spot for Wanted then pick your jaw up off the floor.

That Benjamin Button trailer. In Spanish

It looks amazing. And totally unlike anything Fincher's done before. I see Oscars...

Cannes 2008: Synecdoche

So Screen likes it: "Charlie Kaufman is a past master of ingenious conceits and wild flights of fantasy as witnessed particularly in Being John Malkovich and Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His talent has always been filtered through the vision of a sympathetic director but with Synecdoche, New York he assumes the director's role for the first time. The result is a film of staggering imagination, more daring in content than form as it explores the unbearable fragility of human existence and the sad inevitability of death. Flashes of comic genius and melancholy insight into the human condition are woven into an increasingly elaborate canvas in which the boundaries between artifice and reality are slowly erased. Mainstream audiences are likely to find it simply too weird and unfathomable for their viewing pleasure but surely nobody expected Kaufman to make What Happens In Vegas? Fans of his previous work, admirers of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and open-minded curiosity seekers should be enough to give the film a fighting chance of box- office returns on a level with previous Kaufman screenplays."

Variety's not so keen: "Like an anxious artist afraid he may not get another chance, Charlie Kaufman tries to Say It All in his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York. A wildly ambitious and gravely serious contemplation of life, love, art, human decay and death, the film bears Kaufman's scripting fingerprints in its structural trickery and multi-plane storytelling. At its core a study of a theater director whose life goes off the rails into uncharted artistic territory, it's the sort of work that on its face appears overreaching and isn't entirely digestible on one viewing. As such, it will intrigue Kaufman's most loyal fans but put off fair-weather friends on the art house circuit, where a venturesome distrib will have its work cut out for it to move the film commercially beyond cult status. Unusually for a first film, the strangely titled opus feels more like a summation work, such as 8 ½ or especially All That Jazz, as it centers on an artist who battles creeping infirmity and deathly portents by plunging into a grandiose project. On the most superficial level, many viewers will be nauseated by the many explicit manifestations of physical malfunction, bodily fluids, bleeding and deterioration. A larger issue will be the film's developing spin into realms that can most charitably be described as ambiguous and more derisively will be regarded as obscuritanist and incomprehensible."

To any Americans out there

Apparently the trailer for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is playing before Indy at the moment in US cinemas. If you've seen Indy or are planning to this weekend, do tell what's it like...

Thursday 22 May 2008

Cannes 2008: Che and more

Apologies for having been AWOL for the last few days. Nothing mysterious to report, simply had a bunch of other stuff to do that totally consumed my attentions. In the meantime Cannes has been ticking along with Clint Eastwood's latest Changeling (or The Exchange or whatever it's called today) winning some good notices, and a rave from Variety's Todd McCarthy. The big event last night, other than the Champions League Final, was the unveiling of Soderbergh's monumental epic which has certainly split the critics into those who are proclaiming it a work of genius and those who say it's a mess, so much so that a debate is raging as to whether this version of the film will ever be shown again. Anne Thompson proclaimed it a noble failure; Todd McCarthy was less kind, writing: "No doubt it will be back to the drawings board for Che, Steven Soderbergh’s intricately ambitious, defiantly nondramatic four-hour, 18-minute presentation of scenes from the life of revolutionary icon Che Guevara. If the director has gone out of his way to avoid the usual Hollywood biopic conventions, he has also withheld any suggestion of why the charismatic doctor, fighter, diplomat, diarist and intellectual theorist became and remains such a legendary figure; if anything, Che seems diminished by the way he’s portrayed here. the pic in its current form is a commercial impossibility, except on television or DVD." Jeff Wells, on the other hand, was blown away. "I know I predicted this based on a reading of Peter Buchman's script, but the first half of Steven Soderbergh's 268-minute Che Guevara epic is, for me, incandescent — a piece of full-on, you-are-there realism about the making of the Cuban revolution that I found utterly believable. Not just 'take it to the bank' gripping, but levitational — for someone like myself it's a kind of perfect dream movie. It's also politically vibrant and searing — tells the 'Che truth,' doesn't mince words, doesn't give you any 'movie moments' (and God bless it for that). It's what I'd hoped for all along and more. The second half of Che, also known as Guerilla, just got out about a half-hour ago, and equally delighted although it's a different kind of film — tighter, darker (naturally, given the story). But I've been arguing with some colleagues who don't like either film at all, or don't think it's commercial. Glenn Kenny and Kim Voynar feel as I do, but Anne Thompson is on the other side of the Grand Canyon. Peter Howell is in the enemy camp also."

Meanwhile, matt j's been trekking up and down the Croisette for the best part of a week now. Here are a couple more of his reviews:

A contemporary mafia movie done the Italian way. Matteo Garrone's multi-stranded mob pic switches between four young boys and two middle-aged men on the fringes of the mob and their resistance or attraction to the criminal life. Based on the infamous Neapolitan Camorra families who exert a stranglehold on not only Italian interests but worldwide too, this is more an Italian Goodfellas than another Godfather, as it traces the mis/fortunes of the lower ranks — foot soldiers, money runners, teenage wannabes, and crooked toxic waste disposal contractors. The myriad strands and characters and their relationship to each other is often difficult to keep track of but fans of Roberto Saviano's source novel will no doubt get more out of it.

Johnny Mad Dog
A 'platoon' of young soldier kids roam the Liberian countryside killing, raping and terrorizing villagers before besieging an unnamed city. The brutality of their atrocities is outweighed by their apathy an callousness. Their adult general has brainwashed them to think of their guns as their parents and any sign of parental longing results in execution. They have been stripped of their childhoods and their humanity allowing them to act without empathy or guilt. The camera-work is frenetic and intense, the soundtrack blisteringly loud, the young cast totally convincing. This year's City of God.

Monday 19 May 2008

Monday musing

On set all day. Should be fun. And hairy...

Sunday 18 May 2008

Raiders of the fastest blog

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull screened in Cannes today at 1pm local time. The film, I believe, is over two hours long, so I was wondered how quick it would before the first review popped up online. And so I have to take my proverbial hat off to Jeff Wells who got his first impressions — "lots of eye-filling thrills and acrobatic derring-do but with an almost cartoonish emphasis on slapstick foolery" — up on his site using his iPhone, sitting in Palais' salle de press conference, waiting for the Indy press conference to start.

The speed at which people are posting nowadays is quite alarming. There's simply no time for reflection or contemplation as everyone — online journalists and print media alike — rushes to be the first to have their thoughts aired. The second but last time I covered Cannes for Premiere I was posting every second or third day. And that seemed like a lot at the time. The problem with today's need for speed, going live with a review almost as soon as you've left the cinema, is that you actually spend less time seeing films which, call me old-fashioned, is one of the joys of attending a film festival like Cannes...

UPDATED: It seems even Jeff Wells was "outdone" by one Eric Kohn who was live-blogging during the actual screening. WTF? I'd call that disrespectful to both the filmmakers and those sitting near you...

Cannes 2008: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

At last, a good Woody!

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a sexy, funny divertissement that passes as enjoyably as an idle summer's afternoon in the titular Spanish city," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "With Javier Barden starring as a bohemian artist involved variously with Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Rebecca Hall, pic offers potent romantic fantasy elements for men and women and a cast that should produce the best commercial returns for a Woody Allen film since Match Point. And, in the bargain, if Barcelona wants even more visitors than it already attracts, this film will supply them. Just as London did when Allen went there for Match Point, the Catalan capital serves as an evident stimulus for the director. Even if the film provides a strictly tourist's view of the city (a perspective justified by the scenario, in fact), and one just as upscale and heedless of money as ever for Allen, VCB is by several degrees more hot-blooded than his usual norm, thanks especially due to the palpable chemistry of Bardem and Cruz in the second half."

Incidentally, today's Observer is claiming Rebecca Hall as the great British discovery of Cannes. Don't get me wrong, I think she's great. And gorgeous. But didn't they see her in The Prestige or Starter For Ten. It's always annoying when your Sunday newspaper of choice writes something so dumb.

[photo "borrowed" from Jeff Wells's Hollywood-Elsewhere]

Friday 16 May 2008

John Phillip Law RIP

John Phillip Law, star of Danger: Diabolik and Barbarella has died aged 70. Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas shares some memories here.

Blindness: a different view

The reviews filtering out of Cannes for Fernando Meirelles' Blindness have been mixed at best, with the general consensus that it was too much of a downer for an opening night movie. matt j has a different take on it. "If you can buy into the high concept 'world gone blind' premise then there's much in the flick to enjoy in Fernando Meirelles' arresting and stylish studio pic," he writes. "Meirelles confines most of the action to an isolation hospital with nameless characters who rapidly devolve into basic human archetypes according to their moral standpoints. The human degradation and coarse politics are brutally depicted, often shocking but exquisitely photographed by César Charlone. He sets up unforgiving tableau reminiscent of Lucian Freud's paintings in their 'warts & all', flesh & filth depiction. What could have been a generic B-movie disaster pic in the hands of a lesser director is elevated to A status by Meirelles, his technical team and an outstanding cast."

Cannes pix

[photos by matt j]

Cannes 2008: Three Monkeys

I remember being blown away by Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Uzak (Distant) when I saw it at Cannes in 2003. His latest, Three Monkeys, is his third film to be shown in the Official Competition. I can't wait to see it.

"An ostensibly routine noir-style psychological thriller vaults into the realms of high art in competition contender Three Monkeys," writes Screen's Jonathan Romney. "Cannes has been kind to Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan in the past, with Uzak and Climates establishing his auteur credentials here in 2003 and 2006. His new film represents a bold departure from his past style: it's best described as introspective melodrama, yet both visually and tonally, it's still quintessential Ceylan. For the first time, Ceylan really involves himself in narrative complexity, spinning a subtly-twisty yarn with echoes of such crime writers as Simenon and James M. Cain. Three Monkeys will consolidate Ceylan's reputation among art-house cognoscenti, but should win him new fans too. Its genre bent should give it a niche crossover appeal for export, in ways that Uzak and Climates never quite reached."

Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells calls it "a quietly devastating Turkish family drama about guilt, adultery and lots of Biblical thunderclaps. It's about people doing wrong things, one leading to another in a terrible chain, and trying to face or at least deal with the consequences but more often trying to lie and deny their way out of them. I was hooked from the get-go — gripped, fascinated. I was in a fairly excited state because I knew — I absolutely knew — I was seeing the first major film of the festival. Three Monkeys is about focus and clarity in every sense of those terms, but it was mainly, for me, about stunning performances — minimalist acting that never pushes and begins and ends in the eyes who are quietly hurting every step of the way. It's a very dark and austere film that unfolds at a purposeful but meditative (which absolutely doesn't mean "slow") pace, taking its time and saying to the audience, Don't worry, this is going somewhere...we're not jerking around so pay attention to the steps."

Thursday 15 May 2008

Cannes 2008: Waltz With Bashir

"Ari Folman's animated documentary could easily turn out to be one of the most powerful statements of this Cannes and will leave its mark forever on the ethics of war films in general," writes Screen's Dan Fainaru of competition entry Waltz With Bashir. "Dealing from a very personal point of view with the Israeli incursion into the Lebanon in 1982 and culminating with the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacre, which the Israelis did not perpetrate but surely tolerated, this is not only a tremendously potent anti-war movie but also a formidable moral indictment of Israeli conduct at that time."

"A subject that might, had it been made conventionally, have repped just another docu about a war atrocity, is transmuted via novel use of animation into something special, strange and peculiarly potent in Waltz With Bashir," says Variety's Leslie Felperin. "Israeli helmer Ari Folman's fourth feature spotlights a drawn version of Folman himself on a quest to remember what transpired during the 1982 massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon where he served as a soldier. Although less immediately accessible than Persepolis, another mature-aud-skewed cartoon with which this is bound to be compared, Bashir could dance nimbly round arthouse niches offshore."

"Waltz With Bashir is animator Ari Folman's ingenious attempt to bear witness to an atrocity committed during his stint in the Israeli army," writes Xan Brooks in The Guardian. "Bedevilled by false memories and mental blocks, Folman opted to interview as many participants as he could round up and then converted their testimonies into a rotoscope cartoon, replete with dream sequences and dramatic reconstructions, homing in on the 1982 slaughter of Palestinian civilians by the Christian militia in Lebanon. Stylistically, the film has the woozy, weightless intensity of Richard Linklater's Waking Life, while it circles its central horror in the same mercurial, questioning manner adopted by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five. Waltz With Bashir is an extraordinary, harrowing, provocative picture. We staggered out of the screening in a daze."

Still angry

And no, I'm not talking about the remake of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant which I happen to think is a really bad idea, despite Herzog directing it. Click here for a little more smash and grab.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

The other side of Cannes

On one hand you've got new films from the heavyweights of arthouse cinema, and on the other you've got stuff like this...

Cannes 2008: Blindness

"The problem with Fernando Meirelles' Blindness, which screened this morning at the Cannes Film Festival, is that the milieu of the story, which is based on a novel by Jose Saramago, is bleak and confining," writes Jeff Wells. "It's more than just the milieu, actually. The second and third act of this film delivers a kind of lockdown vibe."

"In Blindness, Fernando Meirelles valiantly attempts to pin down Nobel laureate Jose Saramago's largely metaphorical work of fiction for the big screen: by giving the audience eyes on a world suddenly hit by a plague of blindness," notes Screen's Fionnuala Halligan. "The result makes for a traumatic viewing experience, but never does Mereilles convincingly illuminate the wrenching fear of his source material."

"The personal and mass chaos that would result if the human race lost its sense of vision is conveyed with diminished impact and an excess of stylish tics in Blindness, an intermittently harrowing but diluted take on Jose Saramago's shattering novel," writes Variety's Justin Chang. Despite a characteristically strong performance by Julianne Moore as a lone figure who retains her eyesight, bearing sad but heroic witness to the horrors around her, Fernando Meirelles' slickly crafted drama rarely achieves the visceral force, tragic scope and human resonance of Saramago's prose. Despite marquee names, mixed reviews might yield fewer eyes than desired for this international co-production."

Cannes 2008

Cannes kicks off today with Fernando Meirelles' Blindness and reviews should start hitting the net by lunchtime. In the meantime, here's Variety's Anne Thompson's interview with him. The New York Times has an interesting piece on the uncertain future for Cannes films in the US, while NYT critic AO Scott muses on the different colour-coded press badges that cause so much consternation and angst for critics in Cannes. In fact, such a hot topic is the badge colour issue among journos that Variety has pulled together several stories on the subject. (The last time I went for Premiere I had a pink one with a yellow dot, in case you were wondering.)

The same as last year, I will be collating the various thoughts of the critical fraternity about what's showing in Cannes, and there will be contributions too from reel world matters' regular matt j who took these photos.

More soon.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Monday 12 May 2008

Head scratching

I remain deeply puzzled at the reaction to Speed Racer from both critics and public alike. In the US the film made a "disappointing" $20 million this weekend, while in the UK the film pulled in less than $800,000, a poor return that couldn't even be blamed on the glorious weather we've been having for the last few days since Iron Man, in its second weekend, made more than $4 million. And while I continue to encounter other film journalists who responded to the film the way I did, the overall critical consensus is that the film sucked. Total Film gave it two stars (out of five), Empire managed one more, Anthony Lane in The New Yorker called it "Pop fascism" — not that I expected Lane to like it but even so — while currently on Rotten Tomatoes it's running at a low 36%. Go figure.

Edinburgh in June

This year's Edinburgh International Film Festival has moved from its usual August slot to June but still has come up with the goods in regards to World Premieres and its championing of British filmmakers. Kicking off with John Maybury's The Edge Of Love, the festival with feature the world premiere of Vito Rocco's Faintheart starring Eddie Marsan and Jessica Hynes, as well Shane Meadows' latest Somers Town, Brad Anderson's Transsiberian. Pixar's Wall-E, Mark Doherty's A Film With Me In It, Matthew Thompson's Dummy, Charles Martin Smith's Stone Of Destiny and Kenny Glenaan's Summer. This year's event, which runs June 18-29, will also be putting the focus on cinematography with onstage talks from Brian Tufano and Roger Deakins who will interviewed by Seamus McGarvey, while Chris Doyle will be introduce the world premiere of his latest film as director Warsaw Dark. Other on stage interviewees will include Shane Meadows, Errol Morris and Ray Harryhausen. For tickets and more details visit

I want to believe too

The first five or so seasons of The X Files, I was hooked. I loved the movie too, particularly the scene in the bar where Mulder managed to condense the mythology (and plot) of the entire show into one brief monologue. It's been a while, though, since I've watched a single episode in its entirety but hearing the theme again immediately brought me back to that paranoid conspiracy/alien abduction place, and I so want this to be good.

Indy DVDs

“I was desperate when I made Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” says Steven Spielberg in a filmed introduction to the newly restored, remastered Raiders DVD. “I was coming off a movie that went wildly over budget and schedule – 1941. Close Encounters went wildly over budget and schedule. And Jaws, of course, went 100 days over schedule and was almost two-and-a-half times its original budget. I really was ready to turn over a new leaf. Raiders was my chance to prove to myself that I could make a movie under schedule and under budget. I was trying to make a movie that was fiscally responsible.”

Perhaps even more than that, after the trials and tribulations involved in the making of all three of those films, plus the critical mauling he’d only recently received for 1941, Spielberg just wanted to have a bit of fun again behind the camera. Raiders gave him that and more; not only the chance to work with his long-time pal George Lucas, but to direct a film that had the globetrotting of a Bond movie mixed with the breathless action and adventure of the very same Republic Pictures-produced Saturday matinée serials that had previously been such an influence on Lucas’ own Star Wars.

In the end, Spielberg’s desperate desire to prove himself and atone for his monetary sins brought Raiders in under schedule and budget, but the film’s legacy – along with Spielberg’s – can’t be counted solely in financial terms (even though it did end up as the top-grossing film of 1981). Along with Duel, Raiders remains the director’s leanest movie – two hours of pure, delirious, non-CGI-enhanced escapism. More so than Jaws, more so even than Jurassic Park, it still stands as Spielberg’s most rip-roaringly perfect popcorn movie, in a career dominated by damn-near-perfect popcorn movies.

Even though it was set in 1935 – one year prior to Raiders – second entry Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom was more sequel than prequel, carrying over a number of sequences (including the mine cart chase) penned for Raiders but scrapped for budgetary reasons. The movie also marked Spielberg’s first attempt at a franchise (he’d turned down Jaws 2) and, at the insistence of Lucas (following the Empire Strikes Back blueprint), was conceived as a much darker, edgier, tougher film. “I wasn’t OK with it,” says Spielberg on the movie’s introduction, “but George was tenacious.”

As it turned out, Spielberg’s instincts were on the money. Temple Of Doom was the least commercially successful of the trilogy and received the worst reviews. The public outcry over its inclusion of a gruesome heart-ripping scene even led to the introduction of a new category – PG-13 – in the US. Even more of a rollercoaster ride than Raiders (the standout mine cart sequence is exactly that), Doom featured yet another series of neverending virtuoso stunts and set-pieces, although Kate Capshaw’s screaming showgirl Willie Scott still feels like a comedown after Raiders’ tough, spunky Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen).

By Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, the novelty was beginning to wane, with Lucas’ idea of a Holy Grail-hunt feeling a tad familiar. But what continues to lift the film is Spielberg’s typically energetic direction and the script’s emphasis on character over action (although there’s plenty of the latter) – most notably the father/son dynamic that forms the spine (and heart) of the film. Spielberg based Jones’ estrangement from his dad on his own paternal relationship, then delivered a masterstroke: hiring the original Bond, Sean Connery, as Henry Jones Sr. Despite such casting genius, by the time Indy literally rode off into the sunset audiences genuinely felt this was the last we’d ever see of our Fedora-wearing friend. How wrong we were…

The trilogy made its DVD debut in 2003 in an impressive four-disc set that packaged all three films together plus a bonus spinner yielding three hours of docs. What initially makes the arrival of these Special Editions so goosebumpy is that, for the first time since VHS’ heyday, each film’s available to buy individually as well as collectively. But look closer and you might feel a twinge of disappointment…

For those who own the previous set, there’s little here to justify double-dipping. There’s still no commentary from the perennially chat-track-shy Spielberg – or even the more jabber-friendly Lucas. Gone from the boxset is the earlier bonus disc with its feature-length behind-the-scenes retrospective and four standalone featurettes. It’s replaced by a handful of concise mini-docs that tick off the trilogy’s locations, melting faces, creepy-crawlies and baddies, not to mention a round table chat with Indy’s ladies: Allen, Capshaw and Last Crusade’s Alison Doody.

OK, so it’s a nice nugget that Indy IV co-star Ray Winstone cried at the end of Last Crusade, but it doesn’t compare to a bruise-by-bruise breakdown of the still-staggering truck chase from Raiders (see the ‘Stunts’ extra on the previous boxset). With Crystal Skull around the corner, it’s the perfect time to revisit the trilogy, which remains as entertaining and benchmark-setting as ever. (How about a featurette on all the (pale) imitations that have followed?) But we might have to wait till Kingdom come before we get a definitive boxset.

[written by me, originally published in Total Film]

Saturday 10 May 2008

Twilight trailer

Apparently this trailer is set to pass more than four million hits in one week which is some kind of record. I haven't read the Stephenie Meyer book the movie's based on, but clearly somebody's interested in this Anne Rice-lite/teenage vampire romance. One question, though, since when were vampires able to walk around during the day? Other than Blade, of course...


Thursday 8 May 2008

What the %$*&

My old Premiere pal Glenn Kenny has had his position at terminated, making him yet another casualty of the axe that has been decimating film critics of late. Glenn is one of the most knowledgeable, erudite, passionate film writers I know and I hope he finds another outlet for his talents tout suite. What Glenn's exit means for the future of itself, I do not know.

Elsewhere, Warner Brothers has closed both its speciality divisions, Picturehouse and Warner Independent.

What a day...


It's been a long while since I was remotely interested in anything by Oliver Stone, but W has "must-see" all over it.

Blu is the colour

In a piece of news that has gotten DVD geeks like me all in a tizzy, Criterion has announced that from October they will be producing some of their titles on Blu-Ray. The first batch of releases will be The Third Man, Bottle Rocket, Chungking Express, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Last Emperor, El Norte, The 400 Blows, Gimme Shelter, The Complete Monterey Pop, Contempt, Walkabout, For All Mankind and The Wages of Fear. As a HUGE Nic Roeg fan, I am particularly excited by the inclusion of two of his titles in the first batch. Plus, Criterion has stated their Blu-Ray releases will be the same price as the standard def editions which is almost too good to be true.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

In brief

This debut feature from photographer turned filmmaker Sean Ellis has been hanging around for some time now. I remember trying to arrange a visit to the set back when Sunshine was shooting (they were filming near to each other) but the schedule didn’t work out. I’d been keen to visit because I’d really liked Ellis’ soon to Oscar-nominated short from which this has been “expanded” — even if the central idea of its lead character stopping time (plus several others too) seems to have been lifted from Nicholson Baker’s much superior book The Fermata. But when I finally saw this, a couple of years ago now, I was not only hugely disappointed but felt strangely cheated too, because rather than take the characters and situations from his short and do something new with them, Ellis actually includes it in its entirety in the feature, bookending it with new material that doesn’t enhance or add to it in anyway. Do yourself a favour and track down the short instead.

I enjoyed Neil Marshall’s werewolves versus soldiers debut Dog Soldiers but, unlike many others, didn’t think it was the second coming. The Descent, however, remains one of the greatest horror films of the last decade and, for me, represented an enormous step forward in his evolution as a filmmaker. Which is why, I think, I found Doomsday so disappointing. Not that Marshall’s third film is badly directed or even boring, far from it; he’s too talented for that. Rather Doomsday simply cannibalises all the best bits from some of his (and my) favourite movies — Escape From New York, Mad Max 2, 28 Days Later, Excalibur — for a post-apocalyptic action movie that, rather unfortunately, is never as good as the films it’s paying tribute to. (I spent much of the time it mentally ticking off the references and making a note to myself to watch the originals.) Set mainly in Scotland where the Reaper virus wiped out the vast majority of the population 25 years before, the film was shot mostly in South Africa, making for one of the strangest, most dislocating viewing experiences in an age, as Rhona Mitra’s heroine travels from dusty, sunny Savannah to green, overcast Highlands and back again.

Speed Racer
I’ve been surprised by some of the sniffy reviews for the Wachowski brothers’ latest which have taken it to task for not having much depth. It’s a kid’s movie for Christ’s sake, and a terrific one at that. It’s about cars that go very very fast. It’s colourful and energetic and dazzling and exciting. For me, part of what didn’t work for me with the two Matrix sequels was that the special effects technology didn’t exist then to fully realise the Wachowskis’ seemingly limitless imagination and so parts of Reloaded looked too much like a videogame. Here, it’s meant to look like a cartoon. For little kids it might be a little long, and the whole corporate shenanigans will go over most of their heads. But for a big kid like me, it was terrific fun. As I said before, I can't wait to see it again.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Tuesday thoughts

Iron Man made in excess of $200 million worldwide. Which means a sequel is inevitable. And it seems Marvel have announced their slate for the next few years, with Iron Man 2, Thor and The Avengers to come next.

I thought I'd missed the Nick Fury cameo at the end of Iron Man last week when I ducked out as soon as the credits rolled but it seems the coda wasn't attached to press prints. Here it is for anybody else who didn't stay.

Preparing to interview Paul W.S. Anderson last week for his Death Race reimaging, it occurred to me that I first interviewed him 15 years ago which made me feel very old. (It was before even Shopping was released in the UK.) I've always liked him, despite the fanboy community's near maniacal hatred of him and his films. I remember interviewing him at Twickenham Studios when he was mixing Event Horizon, as well as on the set of both Resident Evil and AVP.

The new Dark Knight trailer took fans by storm (I've watched it far too many times), with much online speculation raging over the exact cause of Harvey Dent's facial injuries. Was it acid or, as the footage seemed to suggest, the result of petrol?

I know there are people for whom this kind of stuff is crucial, but, common on people, hasn't Nolan earned our trust by now. The guy knows what he's doing.

I realised, too, watching trailers for both of these recently, that I have zero interest in seeing either Sex And The City or Mamma Mia this summer.

Sunday 4 May 2008

Saturday 3 May 2008


I'm still not completely convinced about Hancock, although, by and large, Will Smith has a nose for commercial material. (I'm sure even Wild Wild West seemed a good idea at the time.) The Hancock teaser left me a little cold but this trailer has its moments, and co-screenwriter Vince Gilligan did write some cool X Files episodes, so we'll see.

Currently reading...

I'm not a big fan of how to write screenplay books. I've probably bought two in my life and didn't finish either them. This, however, is a different kettle of fish entirely, a collection of 25 articles from Script magazine that detail the process behind 25 recent movies, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, A Simple Plan and The Hours among them. Talking to the screenwriters involved in each movie, Cohen expounds on their development process, whether the script was rewritten, if so, how much and by who, and how the script compares with the finished film. It's a fascinating and informative read, particularly for anyone interested in writing scripts. Nobody sets out to make a bad film but the law of averages reveals that the majority are, if not bad, then, average. Some scripts start out great and then have the life beaten out of them by development and rewriting, some find purpose in revision, some just don't translate from the page to the screen.

Friday 2 May 2008

To boldly go where no Star Trek has gone before

“I feel like this is so unlike what you expect, so unlike the Star Trek you’ve seen," JJ Abrams recently told the Associated Press having just wrapped his Star Trek movie . "At the same time, it’s being true to what’s come before, honouring it. I can say the effects for Star Trek have never, ever been done like this.… I can only tell you the idea of the universe of Star Trek has never been given this kind of treatment.”

Thursday 1 May 2008

Not good

Things aren't looking too promising at the moment regarding the Screen Actors Guild's deal with the studios, as this Variety story points out. "With the SAG talks going nowhere fast, the majors have gone on the offensive by criticizing the guild's demands as unreasonable and unrealistic. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers made the assertion at midday Wednesday in a negotiations update to members titled 'Setting the record straight' posted on the AMPTP website. Though the language was more measured and respectful than the harsh tone often employed by the majors during the writers strike, the AMPTP's message was clear: Unless SAG backs off its demands on DVD and new media soon, it can forget about a deal even if thesps go on strike." For Hollywood, dealing with the WGA walking out is one thing, but the actors. Enjoy the movies while we have them folks, because if this thing blows...