Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Public Enemies

Was lucky enough to go to the UK premiere of Public Enemies last night and will have my thoughts up here soon. Now, though, I have a deadline calling...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Barking mad

Now, this kind of thing annoys the hell out of me. Remaking An American Werewolf In London? Nothing wrong with the original if you ask me. And do we really need to see yet another CGI werewolf transformation? I think not. John Landis once pitched me his idea for a Werewolf sequel, which I subsequently turned into a Fangoria article, and which I remember being both barking and brilliant. That I would pay to see.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

TF2 tops $200m

According to Variety, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen grossed an estimated $201.2 million at the US box office to score the second best five-day haul ever after The Dark Knight. Over the weekend, TF2 grossed $112 million, after earning $89.2 million in its first two days. In comparison, The Dark Knight grossed $203.8 million in its first five days, although TDK opened on a Friday, while TF2 opened on a Wednesday. That is one heck of a lot of money. But surely I'm not the only one who thinks Bay's not going to be a happy bunny, with TF2 missing out on TDK's record by such a relatively small margin. Then again, these are only studio estimates and can go up as well as down.

More Mann

The New York Times' Mark Harris talks to Michael Mann about Public Enemies.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Here's Johnny...

The Daily Telegraph has an interview with Mr Depp talking about Public Enemies.

The Guardian has a chat with Michael Mann.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Farrah Fawcett, 1947-2009

She was, to men of a certain age, a golden-haired goddess, an Angel, and the woman who married the Six Million Dollar Man. She appeared in a host of films, had what seems from the outside looking in to have been a sometimes turbulent life, and died too young. She wasn't a great actress but she sure made an impression, be it in Logan's Run, The Burning Bed, Charlie's Angels or Saturn 3.

Oh, the anticipation...

I have yet to see Michael Mann's Public Enemies and I'm trying hard to keep my expectations in check. I've been a Mann fan since Manhunter which I was lucky enough to see on its brief, initial theatrical run in the UK, and, say what you like about him, he's never let me down. From Heat to Mohicans, the criminally underrated Ali to The Insider, from the HiDef hues of Collateral and Miami Vice to the stylishly bonkers The Keep (a DVD release, please, Universal!), Mann is one of contemporary cinema's great artistes.

Variety's Todd McCarthy was mixed on Public Enemies. "[Its] results [are] more admirable than electrifying. Centering on bank robber John Dillinger, the most publicized of the many Depression-era outlaws whose transgressions fostered the rise of the FBI, Hollywood's specialist in great-looking crime stories has put images on the screen that are compelling to watch even though the overall impact is muted. Oddly, too, the film is somewhat shortchanged by its great star, Johnny Depp, who disappointingly has chosen to play Dillinger as self-consciously cool rather than earthy and gregarious."

In contrast, Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells called it "glorious and levitational — the most captivating, beautifully composed and freshly conceived gangster movie since Bonnie and Clyde. It's an art film first, a Mann head-and-heart trip second, a classic machine-gun action pulverizer third, and a conventional popcorn movie fourth."

I can't wait.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What the %$*&

Sid Ganis, president of the American Motion Picture Academy, today announced that from next year's Oscars there will be 10 Best Picture nominees instead of the usual five. Now, while an expanded field would, in the past, probably have meant nominations for such critically acclaimed films such as Zodiac, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, and Children Of Men (all big favourites of mine you might recall), as well as a spot for those Pixar movies forever snubbed by Academy voters and parceled off into the Best Animated Feature category, it does strike me as a trifle ridiculous to include quite so many. Will the Best Director category be equally bloated? And what if there aren't ten films good enough to warrant being nominated in any particular year? Now there's a thought...

Foul-mouthed Dench

I was tickled by this story which has emerged from the publication of the British Board of Film Classification's annual report and which claimed that, "Every film in which actress Dame Judi Dench swears results in complaints". For it seems that a handful of UK cinemagoers objected to Dench's use of a "minor expletive" in 12A-rated Quantum of Solace. But the complaints, said the BBFC, were "expected". "Almost every time Dame Judi swears in a film, regardless of its category, we can expect a number of complaints," the report claimed.

DVD review: The Unborn (**)

This slickly made if superficial horror from writer-director David S. Goyer — whose credits include Batman Begins and the Blade trilogy — stands as the first original outing from Michael Bay’s remake machine, Platinum Dunes, although there’s so much that’s second-hand about it, it might as well be. Not that The Unborn is all bad. There’s a general air of unease that permeates and pervades the entire picture, and as well as several standout spooky and/or shock moments — the dog with the upside head being the best — but also a plot that defies logic, credibility and, ultimately, one’s patience.

After an admittedly arresting start in which college student Casey (Odette Yustman) — whose pert behind is the film’s only real claim to greatness — encounters a creepy kid and a mask-wearing dog while out jogging, the movie contrives to shoehorn in demonic possession, haunting by your twin who died in the womb, a suicidal mother, and Nazi experimentation during the Holocaust, alongside every horror cliché of the last few decades — Is it a bad dream? Only if the script needs it to be — although there’s a neat twist in that the demon is a dybbuk from Jewish folklore, rather than your typical Christian one. Ultimately it’s all smoke and mirrors, with added J-Horror spookiness, leading to the inevitable anti-climatic finale in which Rabbi Gary Oldman and a multi-faith contingent perform an exorcism on poor, possessed Casey that involves much shouting, wind machines, and the inevitable human casualties.

As with the recent release of The Strangers, “the extended cut not shown in cinemas” selling point doesn’t actually amount to very much extra stuff, with the difference between this version and the theatrical cut less than one minute (51 seconds to be precise), although the deleted scenes do run to a whooping six minutes but are so worthless you understand why they were deleted in the first place. Moreover, the 15 rating illustrates exactly who the movie’s aimed at. Teenagers who like to be scared. But not that scared. Apparently there’s a sequel already in development, which would presumably be titled either The Born or The Reborn. This, alas, is mostly stillborn. Exorcist lite.

"Ja, ja, ja!"

The word from Cannes on Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds was mixed, but this second trailer actually makes me want to see it. As I've said before, Tarantino lost me a long time ago, although on the strength of this alone, I'm prepared to give him another shot.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Burton's Batman

'Twas 20 years ago this week that Batman hit cinemas. How time flies.

Even more Alice

Yesterday's photos of the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and the White Queen (which I didn't post for some reason), along with these new ones of Tweedledum and Tweedledee and Alice herself, will be appearing as posters in cinemas in the US very soon. As early as next week in fact. Expect them on ebay swiftly thereafter. And I wouldn't be surprised if we saw some footage soon.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Alice In Wonderland sneak

USA Today has posted some wonderful Alice In Wonderland photographs and artwork which is part of a touring Alice exhibition that I got a sneak preview of the week before last, and which give a real flavour of what Tim Burton's got in store for you. And if you think Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter's Red Queen look freaky in those photos, I can tell you they look even more so in the flesh.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Hurt Locker. In brief

Best film I've seen all year. Totally compelling.

Thursday, 18 June 2009


Seeing The Hurt Locker tonight which I missed the film at Venice last year and which I have heard only good things about it. Although she's sometimes hit and miss, I remain a big Kathryn Bigelow fan. When's she on it, as with Point Break, Near Dark, and Strange Days, she's up there with the best of them.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

It's a remaakkke!!!

I'm not normally opposed to remakes. Far from it, in fact. I just wish they were better than they inevitably turn out to be. But, having said that, there are some films that one really shouldn't touch. Citizen Kane. Don't Look Now (although, apparently, someone's trying). Psycho (I know someone remade that already, but that's my point).

I would add James Whale's Bride Of Frankenstein to that list which is pretty much a perfect movie in my humble opinion.

And yet Universal has been trying to remake it for a few years now. What with their new Wolfman coming in November, and a Creature From The Black Lagoon redo on the cards, it was a no-brainer that they'd get round to remaking Bride, a further piece in their attempt to resurrect their classic Universal Horror stable. (It could be worst, I suppose. They could have hired Steve Sommers.)

According to this article in Hollywood Reporter, Neil Burger, writer-director of The Illusionist, has come onboard to helm.

I wish him luck. I really do. Although, equally, I wish he (or rather they) wouldn't bother.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Credit where credit's due

The script for Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen is credited to Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, based on Hasbro's Transformers action figures, but the Fallen was actually created by British comic writer Simon Furman for Transformers: War Within The Dark Ages issue one published by Dreamwave in 2003.

Does he get a credit on the movie? A thank you? Does he heck. That's Hollywood for you.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Titter me not

I saw this trailer before Terminator Salvation the other week and didn't laugh once. Didn't even crack a smile. To think Harold Ramis was responsible for Groundhog Day, one of my favourite movies of all time.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Film review: Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen (**)

Big dumb fun.

That’s Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen in a nutshell.

Featuring more robots, more explosions, more, ahem, Bayhem than before, this is less a sequel to 2007’s summer blockbuster than it is an assault on the senses, a rollercoaster ride determined to pulverise the viewer into submission and bring about much enjoyment, delight, entertainment, amusement, etc. And while in that it largely succeeds, come the end, I was so exhausted I felt I’d gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson, the majority of them pinned to the ropes, being pummelled and pounded.

Midway through the desert climax — an extraordinary accumulation of grandiose action sequences that, all told, lasts somewhere between 30-40 minutes and involves Autobots, Decepticons, the US military, fighter planes, warships, missiles, and John Tuturro scaling a pyramid, as well as countless shots of Shia LaBeouf and his smokin’ hot babe Megan Fox running in slo-mo — I found myself riveted to my seat in awe. Not so much at the spectacle on display (undeniably impressive though it is, and shot partially in IMAX) but at the process itself, and the logistics behind it. How do you even begin to orchestrate action on this grand scale, I found myself wondering. This isn’t filmmaking, I thought, this is war.

Freed of the need to tease the transformers for the first third of the movie, this sequel places Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream and newcomer The Fallen front and centre, fighting, flying, joking (well, sort of), chatting on skyscrapers, in outer space, even taking in the view from atop the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as beating the metallic crap out of one another. It’s a shame that the movie doesn’t bother to really introduce them properly, presenting a host of new Autobots and Decepticons familiar only to those who’ve read a) the script or b) are complete fanboys.

The plot, such as it is, begins 17,000 BC before switching to modern day LA where LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky is about to head off to college when he discovers a slice of the Allspark that’s unwittingly been in his possession since the last movie, a piece of metal that contains important information regarding the whereabouts of a gigantic machine hidden that will suck out the sun and kill mankind, information that’s buried itself deep with LaBeouf’s noggin. In all honesty, the plot’s both ridiculously convoluted and incredibly simplistic, but is just an excuse for Bay to string together one delirious action sequence after another after another — from an opening street battle in Shanghai, to a rumble in the jungle (ok forest) between Optimus and a clutch of Decepticons, to the final showdown amongst the Pyramids.

This has always been Bay raison d’etre. From Bad Boys to Armageddon to Pearl Harbour (all of which are visually referenced), Bay blows stuff up better than anyone working today. No one else could have directed this movie, and for all his faults, Bay knows how to choreograph his action spectacularly and coherently, and, unlike so many of his contemporaries, doesn’t feel the need to cut it to the point of inducing epilepsy in his audience. There’s chaos and carnage, and yet Bay lays it out in front of you in a manner that’s both exhilarating and penetrable.

There are the usual Bay flourishes, including his trademark up angle hero shot and endless Steadicam swirl around two people. There’s even a Bad Boys 2 poster on the wall of LaBeouf’s Princeton dorm room — alongside one for Cloverfield — a dorm that’s filled with the hottest female students known to man, all parading up and down the corridor in the skimpiest outfits imaginable. Bay, quite clearly, likes them plastic, pneumatic and glistening. And let’s not even get started on the Princeton frat party LaBeouf attends, albeit briefly. Gratuitous? Hell yeah. Fox’s Mikaela, meanwhile, is given even less to do than before, her role amounting to straddling a motorbike wearing a pair of denim shorts and boots, running about in heels, and pouting her bee stung lips in a manner that wouldn’t be out of place in a porn film.

If I was ten years old, this would be the Greatest Movie Ever — certainly since the first Transformers. It’s never less than entertaining, although at two-and-a-half hours plus, it could do with a trim or two. That said, the CGI robot work is even more impressive than before, but would it hurt to slow the transformations themselves down a bit so we see just how cool they are.

On a side note, although Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen premiered last week in Tokyo, it wasn’t the final print. The audience at the London screening I attended on Friday night was the first to see the completed movie, and British audiences will actually get to see the film from June 19, five days before the US.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Shutter Island trailer

Scorsese does genre. Goodie.

Summer in the city

Film4's Summer Screen open air season at London's Somerset House has become a staple of the film calendar and this year's event which runs July 30-August 8 will include the UK premiere of Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces on July 30. Other films screening include Slumdog Millionaire, A Matter Of Life And Death, an Aliens/Poltergeist double bill, West Side Story, Wings Of Desire and Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Full details and how to book your tickets can be found here.

It's always a great evening out. Providing it doesn't rain, of course.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

More MoMA

Variety has a nice article on Tim Burton's MoMA exhibition which I promise you will be well worth visiting.

"It's easier for me to think things through visually instead of verbally, so it's like a diary in that way," Burton said of the show. "I have so many drawings. I never look at the stuff — I just keep doing it."

The exhibition runs November 22 to April 26.

The Art Of Tim Burton will also be available later in the year. Again, if you're a fan, you're going to want to get yourself a copy.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Magician With A Movie Camera

Footage from the wonderful BAFTA tribute to Nicolas Roeg that was held back in March, and which I wrote about here, is available on the BAFTA website.

"Shut up fool!"

I've always thought that George Clooney would have made a great "Hannibal" Smith in an A Team movie but it seems Fox has got Liam Neeson in mind.

Monday, 8 June 2009


There is a new iPhone. And it records video. When can I get one?

Fancy an Apple?

The Guardian is live blogging the Worldwide Developers conference (WWDC) from the Moscone centre in San Francisco.

Is a new iPhone on the cards? I certainly hope so.

Film review: Terminator: Salvation (**)

Mediocre. Boring. Mindless. Relentlessly grim.

I knew I should have listened to my inner critic and given this one a miss, but having the previous three Terminator movies at the cinema I figured I should complete the set.

Big mistake.

Not that T4 is bad, per se. There are a couple of moments and even a few creative decisions that I didn't actually mind, but the greatest sin here (other than the total waste of Bale, who really shouldn't bark his dialogue; the redundant role given Bryce Dallas Howard; and the fact the world feels cobbled together from so many other [better] movies) is that the script a) doesn't even seem to understand the intent of these films — they're called Terminator for a reason — b) manages not only to find the dullest slice of the Terminator timeline to mine and c) seems more interested in providing John with his scar than giving anybody a character to root for/sympathise/boo. The retro-aspect assigning of the Connor/Kyle Reese relationship is also poorly and idiotically managed.

I'm not blaming McG, I'm blaming the script. Try as he might, he was onto a loser from the start...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

[REC]2 teaser

Longtime readers will remember my gushing over Spanish shocker [REC]. A simple idea, effectively and terrifyingly told by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plazo, [REC] was, somewhat inevitably, redone by Hollywood as the surprisingly good if largely redundant Quarantine. Balaguero and Plazo have directed a sequel to their version, the imaginatively titled [REC]2, which, from this teaser, looks to be as bowel-loosenly scary as the original.

Del Toro signing

London readers should get themselves along to Forbidden Planet in New Oxford Street at 1pm today for a signing by the great Guillermo Del Toro to celebrate the publication of his vampire novel The Strain. My copy arrived this week and only a lack of time has stopped me finishing the thing. It's good, though.

Friday, 5 June 2009

T4 or not T4...

... that is the question.

I'm really struggling with this one. Whether to go or not, I mean. I missed the press screening/s because I was away and now I'm in two minds as to seeing this at the cinema or waiting till DVD. I've always loved this series. I saw the original Terminator at a pre-release screening where it was advertised as the new Arnie movie. I didn't even know it had robots in it. Can you imagine that? Seeing a film that you no absolutely nothing about and then being blown away. It's only happened a few times in my life and The Terminator was one of them. A few weeks later I saw the trailer at the cinema and was startled to see they should the clip of the endoskeleton emerging from the fire. Now, I'm sure to those watching the trailer it wouldn't have meant anything out of context — except those images have a way of sticking in your mind and so when you finally come to see the film, you're waiting for that moment... thereby spoiling the surprise.

But I'm digressing. Initially I was against the idea of Terminator: Salvation, then I came round and proclaimed myself cautiously excited but the reviews (bar a few) haven't been great and I've got so much else to do and see...

Thursday, 4 June 2009

On location

Martin Amis once described being on a film set as boredom followed by repetition. Or something similar. While I don't necessarily agree with him, I know where he was coming from; there's a lot of hanging around involved. I've spent the last two days on two very different sets for two very different films. One a big budget high concept comedy, the other a low budget literary adaptation with, I think, massive awards potential. All of which is my way of saying I've not posted much here recently because I've not been around. In fact, I think I've spent more time outside in the sun in the last two days than I did in total during my two weeks away.

David Carradine 1936-2009

For me, David Carradine will always be inexplicably linked to the role of Grasshopper he played in the television series Kung Fu. It was appointment TV in my home was when I was young and his martial arts antics and deserts treks remain forever etched on my memory. However, Carradine made more than hundred movies and while many are forgettable (or at least mostly forgotten), he was great as Frankenstein in Death Race 2000 and wonderful as Woody Guthrie in Hal Ashby's Bound For Glory. The circumstances surrounding his death earlier today in Thailand are still unclear.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Busy busy busy

Sorry, been busy writing by day and having my own nightly Stanley Kubrick retrospective. Already made it through Dr Strangelove and Barry Lyndon, moving on to Eyes Wide Shut today, a film which I have to admit I didn't like on initial release and have been resistant to revisit ever since. That said, I'm prepared to give it another go and hopefully admit I was wrong.

I've always been a huge fan, but was spurred into rewatching his films again by a comment from Sam Mendes in answer to a question in the 20th anniversary issue of Empire in which he said he often watches a Kubrick before shooting, to remind himself how few shots you need to make a great movie. Too true.