Thursday, 31 July 2008

Le Doulos

Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos has long been one of my favourite films. I have a framed original French poster at home (one of the big ones) and a NTSC video which cost me a small fortune — $50 — when I bought it in New York more than a decade ago. Now, I have a spanking new Criterion DVD edition to look forward to, with the following extras:

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Selected-scene audio commentary by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris
Video interviews with directors Volker Schlöndorff and Bertrand Tavernier, who served as assistant director and publicity agent, respectively, on the film
Archival interviews with Melville and actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Serge Reggiani
Original theatrical trailer
New and improved subtitle translation
A new essay by film critic Glenn Kenny

It's out October 7. If you haven't seen it, now's your chance

Outdoor movies

Drive-ins never really made it to the UK, and it remains one moviegoing experience I've yet to sample. But watching a movie outdoors, with a rapt and eager crowd, can be a glorious thing. I've enjoyed several open air cinemas over the years — in Locarno, Spain, and even here in the UK.
The Film4 Summer Screen season at Somerset House in London has become a welcome fixture on the movie calendar and kicks off tonight with a People's Premiere of Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I shall be there. And I'm hoping it doesn't rain.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Harry Potter 6 teaser

This is the first Harry Potter film I haven't either visited the set of or read the book. But I liked what David Yates did with the last one. And this looks promising. And dark.

New Stephen King

I'm back...

... but still in post-holiday funk so I'll be treading light in these pastures for a day or so while I acquaint myself with the Comic-Con coverage I missed while I was away and get my head around The Dark Knight numbers which are looking Titanic.

I was going to wait until I saw it again to weigh in on TDK but who knows when that's going to be.

I think Chris Nolan's one of the most talented (and nicest) filmmakers currently working, and I'm pleased for him that the movie's doing such amazing business, and it is hugely entertaining.

But — and just to throw a little oil on the fire now I'm back — it is too long, the third act's messy and overly complicated (did anyone really care about all that stuff on the boats or the hostages-dressed-up-as-terrorists mobile phone vision action sequence?) and the movie just isn't as good when Ledger's not onscreen.

Is it better than most superhero movies? You bet. Is it better than most summer blockbusters? Most definitely. Is it better than Batman Begins? I'm not sure. I need to see it again.

Venice looks very promising. As I've said before, it's my favourite film festival and I shall be spending some time on the Lido again this year.

Saturday, 19 July 2008


I'll be recharging my batteries for the next ten days, so don't expect any postings for a while. Be good while I'm gone, and chat amongst yourselves, should you feel so inclined.

The Dark Knight briefly

Was The Dark Knight as amazing as I wanted it to be? Not exactly. But it is very good indeed. Terrifically entertaining with some great, realistic action and a truly amazing performance from Heath Ledger as The Joker who was so good that I never once thought while watching the film that he is sadly no longer with us. Now is not the time to go into too much detail. All I will say is, if you get the chance, see it in IMAX.

Friday, 18 July 2008


It’s been more than a decade since the legend “A Nicolas Roeg film” last appeared on screen. Twelve long years in the wilderness for one of Britain’s greatest ever filmmakers and a personal favourite of mine. I’ve known Nic for several years and have had the pleasure of visiting him at home a number of times, sitting in his book-lined study and listening to this visionary talk and talk and talk. Believe me when I say when you speak with Nic you understand why his films are so fractured, his brain leads him on flights of conversation that are never to be repeated.

A former cinematographer, Roeg moved into directing with the remarkable Performance, co-directed with Donald Cammell, following it with a streak of films — Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth and Bad Timing — that earned him hallowed status. Since then, his output hasn’t met with as much critical acclaim , but there’s always moments in them that make them worth watching.

Puffball, adapted by Dan Weldon from his mother Fay’s novel, sees Roeg back behind the camera, and while this preposterous tale of fertility rituals and strange goings on in the Irish countryside starring Kelly Reilly, Miranda Richardson and Rita Tushingham, is, let’s be honest, something of a disappointment, it’s good to have him working again.

Watchmen mania

So that crappy looking Watchmen trailer went dead pretty quickly yesterday but here it is in all its glory, together with EW's cover story.

This is going to keep me happy until I see The Dark Knight in IMAX tonight.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Watchmen trailer

Alan Moore might not wanna know what Zach Synder's been up to, but I sure as hell do. is meant to have the official debut of this tomorrow. For now, this is going to have to do. After many, many years of waiting and dreaming and missed opportunities and various disappointments, Watchmen is finally a movie. It's just a shame we have to wait till next year to see the whole damn thing.

Body Of Lies trailer

A new Ridley Scott film is always cause for excitement but I'm not sure what to make of this.

Gotta love him

There's an Alan Moore Q&A up at that begins:

EW: Don't you have the slightest curiosity about what Watchmen director Zack Snyder is doing with your work?

AM: I would rather not know.

EW: He's supposed to be a very nice guy.

AM: He may very well be, but the thing is that he's also the person who made 300. I've not seen any recent comic book films, but I didn't particularly like the book 300. I had a lot of problems with it, and everything I heard or saw about the film tended to increase [those problems] rather than reduce them: [that] it was racist, it was homophobic, and above all it was sublimely stupid. I know that that's not what people going in to see a film like 300 are thinking about but...I wasn't impressed with that.... I talked to [director] Terry Gilliam in the '80s, and he asked me how I would make Watchmen into a film. I said, ''Well actually, Terry, if anybody asked me, I would have said, 'I wouldn't.''' And I think that Terry [who aborted his attempted adaptation of the book] eventually came to agree with me. There are things that we did with Watchmen that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can't.

EW: Do you think that any good can come of comics movies?

AM: I increasingly fear that nothing good can come of almost any adaptation, and obviously that's sweeping. There are a couple of adaptations that are perhaps as good or better than the original work. But the vast majority of them are pointless.

To read the rest, click here.

Terminator: Salvation teaser

I'm actually looking forward to this.

Kubrick at 80

Last night I watched Jon Ronson's documentary Stanley Kubrick's Boxes which kicked off More4's season of Kubrick movies on Tuesday, celebrating what would have been the late filmmaker's 80th birthday on July 26. Offering a fascinating glimpse into the great man's working methods as well as his obsessive nature, it helped put to rest several myths relating to the "reclusive" genius, and featured never before seen behind the scenes footage of Kubrick directing Full Metal Jacket and engaging in a "debate" about the British crew's need for tea breaks. Having just watched Zodiac: Director's Cut three times in the last few days, listened to both commentary tracks and seen all the extras, it would be fair to say that Fincher is probably the closest we have to Kubrick today, his obsessive desire for detail mirroring that of the great man.

If you didn't see it, click here.

The Spirit trailer

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Hoodie horror

Eden Lake, written and directed by James Watkins, is the first of a wave of so called "hoodie horrors" coming your way. And boy does it deliver. Disturbing, terrifying and unrelenting, it's a Deliverance meets Straw Dogs, a modern nightmare torn from today's headlines, and is, quite simply, the best British horror film since The Descent.

Nursery teacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) escape London for a weekend away, camping at a remote lakeside beauty spot where he plans to propose. But their romantic time is shattered when a gang of kids whose obnoxious behaviour turns decidedly nasty. Compelling, unsettling and downright nasty, the controversial ending will have the Daily Mail up in arms.

Eden Lake opens Frightfest on August 21 and will be released in the UK in September 5.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Monday musing

I'm seeing The Dark Knight in IMAX later this week and I'm terribly excited.

Before then there are more films to watch (Eden Lake being one), DVDs to review (Zodiac: Director's Cut, The Neverending Story), Blu-Rays to go gaga over (I wouldn't normally watch Starship Troopers 3 as much as I liked the first one, but they sent me the Blu-Ray of it and it looks so cool), pieces to write (a TF Loves... among others) and scripts to read (yes, like everyone else I've got a copy of Inglorious Bastards). It's going to be a busy week.

Interestingly, it seems batlash has started over The Dark Knight, certainly in the States where New York magazine's David Eldstein claims "Nolan appears to have no clue how to stage or shoot action". (Ouch!)

While David Ansen in Newsweek is decidedly mixed.

"Nolan dispenses with the stylized Gothic sets we're accustomed to in the series," Ansen writes. "He makes no attempt to hide the fact that Gotham City is modern Chicago. Gone, too, is the antic sense of humor that Tim Burton brought to the show. There's not a touch of lightness in Bale's taut, angst-ridden superhero, and as the two-and-a-half-hour movie enters its second half, the unvarying intensity and the sometimes confusing action sequences take a toll. You may emerge more exhausted than elated. Nolan wants to prove that a superhero movie needn't be disposable, effects-ridden junk food, and you have to admire his ambition. But this is Batman, not Hamlet. Call me shallow, but I wish it were a little more fun."

And if, like me, you're also looking forward to X Files: I Want To Believe, may I suggest you read this.

Oh, I saw The Duchess last week.

But I have to go now, so my thoughts on that another time. The wigs were good though.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Exterminators the TV series

Regular readers will know of my passion for Simon Moore's wonderfully icky comic The Exterminators. Well, according to today's Hollywood Reporter, the Vertigo monthly is becoming a Showtime series. Described as Six Feet Under in the world of pest control, The Exterminators is way more fucked up than that. This will be interesting.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Where be The Mist?

For months I have had the Region 1 DVD of The Mist sitting in my basket. I read and hugely enjoyed the Stephen King novella from which it's adapted when it was published in his Skeleton Crew collection, and I had been looking forward to Frank Darabont's long-mooted movie version for many years.

The film came out in the US late last year and has been out on DVD for a few months. Normally, I would have snapped it up straight away but I really wanted to see it on the big screen. When circumstances made me miss every single press screening, I figured I'd see it opening weekend in the UK but thanks to rather peculiar release strategy of The Mist's UK distributors I found every single local cinema (and a number further afield) playing it late night on Friday and Saturday and... that's it. I mean, WTF is that all about? Does Darabont know his film is getting such treatment?

Looks like I'm going to be buying that DVD after all.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Frightfest 2008

Apologies, should have put this up a while ago. For any horror fans out there, may I direct your attention to this year's Frightfest line-up which is as good as ever.

Personally, I preferred the old Shock Around The Clock event that Frightfest organiser Alan Jones used to programme. Twelve films. One night. You had to stay awake or you'd miss whatever was playing at 2am or 6am. Often, if you crashed, that was it, you never got to see it again, such was the video/pre-net era.

Still, this is the next best thing. See you there.

Monday musing

Been AWOL for the last few days, the consequence of meetings, work and watching movies (among them Hancock, Diary Of The Dead and Sorcerer). Hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule this week so please bear with me. In the meantime, couldn't let this moment pass without reference to a few things.

1) Variety's rave of The Dark Knight. I got my invite in the post on Saturday but the screening still seems too far away.

2) The poster for the BFI Southbank's Comic Movie Season was drawn by the legendary Brian Bolland. I asked. He said yes. Hurrah!

3) Tickets for August's comic book movies are now available.

4) This is brilliant.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Mirrors redband

Cue much nastiness...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Best poster yet

Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector's Edition

The inspiration for countless movie cops and 80s action heroes, as well as our very own Judge Dredd (who truly adopted the character’s judge, jury and executioner schtick), Clint Eastwood’s San Franciscan Homicide detective Harry Callahan aka Dirty Harry is one of cinema’s most iconic and quotable creations. Produced at a time when America was fighting a losing war in Vietnam, Dirty Harry (1971, ****) tapped into a nation’s fears and frustrations, specifically pertaining to a perceived erosion of justice at home and a mollycoddling of the criminal. “People were so sick of worrying about the accused,” recalls Eastwood in The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry documentary, “what about worrying about the victims for a while.” In that regard, Callahan was the perfect conduit, a decisive anti-hero more interested in justice than the letter of the law.

Eastwood himself was undergoing something of a career shift at the time, both as an actor — moving away from the western that had made his name — and filmmaker — he’d recently made his directorial debut with Play Misty For Me — although Dirty Harry’s pistol-packing, taciturn, no-nonsense loner was, essentially, just an urban cowboy in cool shades and a three-piece suit, cleaning up the streets of San Francisco instead of Dodge.

While celebrated critic Pauline Kael called the film fascist, Dirty Harry proved hugely popular, although, in deliberate response, the first sequel, Magnum Force (1973, ****), flipped the coin, focussing on what happens when you take vigilantism too far, with Harry facing off against a group of sharp-shooting traffic cops who, to his mind, had crossed the line. The Enforcer (1976, **) revealed a slightly mellower Callahan taking on a group of revolutionaries trying to hold San Francisco to ransom, but the script had already begun to lapse into parody, and it was another seven years until Callahan, now greyer and saddled with a comic mutt, actually got to utter the immortal line “Go ahead, make my day” in Sudden Impact (1983, ***), although the complex I Spit On Your Grave style revenge plot showed something of a return to the values of the original with Harry finding a likeminded soul in Sondra Locke’s serial killer. Alas, the series’ swansong The Dead Pool (1988, *) was a poor, dispiriting affair with Eastwood’s aging action hero having already been userped by a new generation of onscreen cop.

While some extras in the chocolate box collection — a 30th anniversary documentary and vintage Making Ofs — have been carried over from the previous box set, the majority are new, including two informative if dry chat-tracks from noted Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel. Ironically, the best commentary is for the worst movie, as Dead Pool producer David Valdes’ longstanding working relationship with Eastwood makes for an illuminating look into Clint’s processes, revealing him to be a smart, loyal, immensely likeable man, a view echoed by several of the well-crafted accompanying documentaries spread across the six discs. It’s just a shame Clint’s own contribution extends only to a talking head here and there. That said, Dirty Harry hasn’t looked better, the deep blacks of Bruce Sturtees’ night photography looking particularly crisp, even if the same can’t be said of The Enforcer, which shows signs of wear.

If you’re a Dirty Harry fan, this collection, while not without flaws, will definitely make your day.

* originally published in DVD & Blu-Ray Review