Sunday 31 May 2009

Toy Story 3 teaser

I have yet to see Up, the reviews of which, as is the way with Pixar, have been stellar. But while I eagerly await its release, there's this to look forward to next summer. I don't know about you, but it's great to see the old gang back together again.

Friday 29 May 2009

Empire's 20th Anniversary Party

Last night I went to Empire's 20th Anniversary party which was held at the Paramount Club atop London's Centre Point, and offering the finest views of our fair city. The usual merriment was on the menu along with an auction of 16 photographs shot especially for the 20th anniversary issue — many of which were signed — the proceeds of which were being donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital. I had my eye on the Toy Story photo featuring Buzz and Woody, but that went for £750, too rich for my blood, although the highest bid of the night was the £2000 for the signed Spielberg shot.

Oh. My. Gawd.

Finally caught up with Lost season five's two-part finale, The Incident, which aired when I was away. Oh my freakin' gawd. Yes, we got many of the answers we'd been craving. We got to see Jacob. We saw a whole bunch of the castaways being touched by him. We saw The Man In Black. And now we know all it's all an elaborate game being played out between these two. Black versus white. Good versus evil. God versus the devil? But which is which? And presumably the nuclear explosion means time's been reset... But how will that play out? As is the way with Lost, answers came with even more burning questions. Season six can't get here soon enough.

And how could they do that to Juliet?

Where does he find the time?

In addition to directing The Hobbit films, producing a handful of other people's movies, developing a bunch of his own, Guillermo Del Toro has also found the time to co-write a trilogy of vampire novels with Chuck Hogan, the first of which The Strain is out next week. Mine's already on pre-order from amazon and in this Wired Q&A Del Toro talks about the series and the future of storytelling as he sees it. There's also a very cool photo of his "monstrous LA lair".

Drag Me To Hell

If you believe the hype, Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell is something akin to the second coming, the Spiderman director returning to the horror genre that made his name and knocking it out of the ball park. And while Drag Me To Hell is a hell of lot of fun (pun intended), it's no Evil Dead. Rather it's the kind of comic splatterstick that could fit easily into Raimi's oeuvre between Evil Dead 2 and Army Of Darkness and not feel out of place. Old fashioned scares, several icky, gross out moments, some animal carnage, Allison Lohman channelling Bruce Campbell, a camera that swoops and flies with vertiginous abandon, surprisingly cheesy looking production values, and yet nothing remotely surprising in terms of narrative or plot beats. Having said that, Drag Me To Hell does exactly what it says of the tin (apologies to non-UK readers for that very specific cultural reference). But, personally, I wanted (and even expected) a little more. Then again, I still think A Simple Plan is the best thing Raimi's ever done.

Here's Raimi on his Spiderman regrets.

Monday 11 May 2009


reel world matters will be taking a two week break. Be good while I'm gone.

"A bunch of guys on a mission movie"

The New York Times ventures on set with Tarantino.

State Of Play

How much does Last King Of Scotlandd director Kevin Macdonald love All The President's Men? Having seen State Of Play, I'd say quite a lot. A smart, complex, dense adaptation of the six-hour BBC series scripted by Paul Abbott and directed by David Yates, Macdonald's Russell Crowe-starrer takes the essence of Abbott's original, layers in the major issue confronting journalism today (ie. new media versus traditional, gossip versus hard news), and filters it all through a 70s movie sensibility a la President's Men or Three Days Of The Condor. Considering Crowe's famed dislike of the Fourth Estate, he nails the part of a hard-bitten, get-the-story-at-all-costs reporter with much success. Quite why it took three highly talented screenwriters — Matthew Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray — plus an uncredited Peter Morgan to compress the show's six hours into a two-hour movie remains a mystery, but the end result grips and twists and engages the brain, the action restricted to Crowe's investigative reporter and Rachel McAdams' blogger chasing down leads, making phone calls and, well, typing. Is it as satisfying as the original TV miniseries? No, but it's definitely well worth seeking out. If only to encourage the studios to continue making such adult-orientated material.

Kurtzman and Orci

It's great that Star Trek screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have been rolled out so much to press the flesh for the JJ Abrams-directed movie because so often writers are ignored come finished product time. Kurtzman and Orci have an impressive CV and I've been fans of theirs since Alias. Here's a good interview from my former Premiere colleague Anne Thompson.

Sunday 10 May 2009

DVD review: Martyrs (***)

While mainstream American horror seems determined to keep its scares not only safe but well within the limits of the PG-13 rating, the French are producing horror of such savagery and ferocity you have to wonder what’s they’re putting in the water across the Channel. But this latest Gallic New Wave reaches it’s splatterific peak with Martyrs, a film so extreme and so utterly uncompromising in vision and execution you won’t be able to rid your mind of it for weeks. Whether you find it repugnant or brilliant (or, even, brilliantly repugnant) will depend on many factors, not least your ability to endure prolonged scenes of torture.

The film begins with ten-year-old Lucie escaping from an abandoned factory where she’s been tortured by person or persons unknown. Flash forward 15 years and Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi), whose allegorical demons are manifested by a naked, blooded, dead twin with bad teeth, turns up unannounced at the home of a seemingly respectable family believing the adults responsible for her debasement and taking revenge — with a shotgun. But just when you’ve got a handle on where this is all going, Laugier pulls the rug out, as gal pal Anna (Morjana Alaoui) uncovers a hidden basement with a chained young girl, her eyes covered by a metal visor that’s been riveted into her skull.

To reveal much more about the plot would undermine writer-director Pascal Laugier’s unique — some might say pretentious — justification for the shocking scenes of depravity and Clive Barker-like flaying present in the second half as a mysterious group of people show up determined to uncover the ecstasy behind the agony, and the film reveals itself as more than a Hostel or Saw clone. Certainly Laugier can direct and, as evidenced by the comprehensive, feature-length Making Of which is more informative, honest, and reflective than most, his two actresses went beyond the call of duty to make it. “I was interested in making a film people could take a stand on,” he says in the filmed interview and there are some who will insist Martyrs is simply torture porn taken to the nth degree, while others will argue it’s a profound work of art and one of the finest horror films of the past decade. It’s a tough call. But it’s no surprise Laugier’s been hired to direct the Hellraiser remake.

* This review appears in the current issue of DVD & Blu-ray Review.

Friday 8 May 2009

Star Trek

I've not much to add to the pretty universal acclaim that JJ Abrams' reboot of Star Trek has engendered from both the fan community and the mainstream media. It's thrilling when it needs to be, funny once Simon Pegg's Scotty arrives, action-packed (perhaps too much), manages to put a red line through all those awful sequels, spin-offs and TV shows (how many people have I managed to offend writing that?) and brings it back to the original crew, albeit variations on the ones I watched as a kid on British TV (though not during the 60s, I might add). They're not exactly the same characters I loved as a child (okay, in Spock's case he is and he isn't) but it's a damn fine new beginning. So go see it if you haven't already. You'll have a blast. My only gripe, is why did it have to be so frenetic? And fast? Couldn't they have slowed things down just a tad. And did Kirk, exiled on that ice planet, really need to be chased by not just one, but two monsters before bumping into Spock?

More robots

Watching this...

And reading these...

Has, I have to admit, left me very excited.

Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist

Watched Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist on Blu-ray the other night. Fab-u-lous. Can't recommend it enough. Great soundtrack (I want it). A wry, funny, poignant script (kudos). And a career making turn from Kat Dennings. This girl is a star. Loved her cut out version of the movie that was one of extras. And I've just found her video blogs...

Thursday 7 May 2009

"I never got Star Trek"

JJ Abrams fesses up.


I finally got to see Coraline in 3D last night at a special preview screening at the BFI Southbank, followed by a terrifically entertaining Q&A with author Neil Gaiman and the film's writer and director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas and James And The Giant Peach). Wonderfully adapted from Gaiman's children's novel, this is a future classic, a vivid, highly imaginative, exquisitely crafted, frequently scary Gothic horror story for kids that harks back to the best of Disney (Snow White and Bambi and Fantasia), films that were frightening and funny and involving and emotional. There's been some debate in Britain recently about the need for kids to be scared, a notion that seemingly has been beaten out of Hollywood kids' films but which runs through the work of Roald Dahl, the Brothers Grimm et al. The stop motion is stellar and fluid, the production design extraordinary. The 3D, too, is spectacular, used mainly for spatial reasons, although there are several "boo"/pop out of the screen moments.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Empire 20th Anniversary issue

I'm late again with mentioning this but the current issue of Empire is a remarkable affair. Guest-edited by Steven Spielberg, it's a veritable feast of star names, great interviews, exclusive previews and a peak at past editors.

Speaking not just as someone who spent four years working for the magazine, but also as a film fan, it's a must read. Congratulations to all concerned.

A sampler of the treats in-store can be here.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Alice in Total Film

I forgot to mention, I have a small Alice article in the current issue Total Film, that's part of the magazine's 3D special that comes with a pair of blue and red specs.


Can't believe I forgot to say "May the 4th be with you" yesterday. But I suppose that's how little interest I have in Star Wars these days...

Loving Lost

Have I told you how much I'm loving this series of Lost? For a show now in it's fifth season and building towards its contracted end in two years time, the makers are still managing to confound and surprise in equal measure, with each show offering up as many questions as answers.

We probably all guessed that Miles was Dr Chang's son, but did anyone see coming this week's revelation that Charles Widmore was Daniel's dad? Not me.

And I can't believe Faraday's really dead. Then again, this being Lost, he might not be.

Only two more episodes to go of this season...

Saturday 2 May 2009

Guilty pleasure

Friday 1 May 2009

Vic Armstrong

I shall moderating a Stunt Masterclass With Vic Armstrong tomorrow evening at the BFI Southbank as part of the Bond Weekender. There are still some tickets available to hear tales from the legendary stuntman, stunt co-ordinator and second unit director whose credits are too endless to list here, but include numerous Bonds, three Indiana Jones', several Supermans (he even donned the tights as Chris Reeve's stunt double). Should be most interesting.