Saturday, 31 October 2009

Friday, 30 October 2009

Arise... Sir Dracula

Congratulations to Christopher Lee who was knighted by Prince Charles in London today. I know Lee's made more than a hundred films in his long and illustrious career, but as someone who grew up watching Hammer Horror movies on TV, Sir Christopher will always be the Prince Of Darkness to me.

On set with The Young Victoria

While it came out in the UK in February, The Young Victoria will be released in US cinemas this December, in perfect time to position its stars, Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, as possible awards contenders. Click here to read my Young Victoria set visit that's part of the LA Times' annual Holiday Movie Sneaks extravaganza.

30 Days Of Night

I've been more than a little lax in my horror viewing this Halloween because my workload hasn't allowed much time for movie watching. Still, in the spirit of all things spooky and gruesome, I cracked the plastic off my DVD if 30 Days Of Night last night and finally gave it a watch. I'd missed the film theatrically, much to my disappointment because I was a massive fan of director David Slade's debut feature Hard Candy and I love my vampires. The film, based on the comic series by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, has a great concept — an Alaskan town is besieged by vampires during a month of permanent darkness — and some creepy bloodsuckers. But the script, credited to Niles, Stuart (Collateral) Beattie and Hard Candy's Brian Nelson, doesn't amount to much and the end result, despite a game cast and some effective direction, is a tad toothless.

Happy Halloween from Mr Burton

Avatar trailer

It took me a while to see this new Avatar trailer yesterday since the Yahoo link didn't seem to want to work in the UK. I have to say that while I wasn't blown away by the two sequences I saw at Movie-Con in the summer, both trailers have stoked my interest greatly. This latest seems to be accentuating the romance as well as the action. Then again, Avatar has probably got to hit every demographic to stand any chance of making its money back.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

"I liked it this much..."

I'll post a review nearer the UK release date but what I will say now is that Wild The Wild Things Are didn't disappoint. Not one bit.

Green Zone trailers

It's always the way. You spend a day offline (working, in case you're wondering) and all kinds of interesting stuff pops up. Including this trailer. Which looks terrific. I was expecting something a tad more, well, political from this latest collaboration between director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. But this looks like Die Hard meets Bourne. Me like.

Here's the international trailer. More intrigue. Less gung-ho.

<a href="" target="_new" title="EXCLUSIVE: Green Zone - Trailer">Video: EXCLUSIVE: Green Zone - Trailer</a>

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Trick 'r Treat

Finally saw this highly touted and much anticipated (by me, certainly) horror anthology yesterday on DVD and it's as good as I'd been led to believe. Creepy, mordant, and surprisingly inventive, while at the same time doffing its metaphorical cap to movies past and fairy tales often told, screenwriter Michael Dougherty's directorial debut is (severed) heads and shoulders above the majority of horror films made today. Just wished I'd seen it on a big screen. With an audience.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Say Anything... remembered

I can't believe it's 20 years since Cameron Crowe's Say Anything... was released.

I adored the film when I first saw it and adore it even more now. It is the perfect teen movie, in the way that Crowe's Singles is the perfect twentysomething movie. I actually reviewed Say Anything... for Empire as a theatrical release, but Fox sat on it for months in the UK before, inexplicably, sending the film straight to video.

The LA Times spoke to Crowe in conjunction with the movie's upcoming 20th anniversary Blu-Ray release. "It's a very personal movie," he said, "and it reminds me of falling in love, falling out of love, and falling back in love with life and all the unexpected glories and pain that happen along the way."

Here's my 20-year-old review from Empire:

Say Anything... ****

Sporty high-school senior Lloyd is entranced by aloof protege Diane, who is closely guarded by her dad. When she is offered the chance of a lifetime to study in England, she must decide on here affections as well as her future. Say Anything... never did manage a cinema airing, despite an extraordinary thumbs-up in America. Last year a round-up of US critics' favourite releases ranked it with Henry V, Do The Right Thing, My Left Foot and Roger & Me, but Fox insisted that cinema scheduling made a theatrical release impossible in the UK.

It's baffling, because Simpsons producer James L. Brooks and former teenage prodigy rock journalist with Rolling Stone turned Fast Times At Ridgemont High author Cameron Crowe, here making his debut as director, have crafted a hugely enjoyable teen pic. It mixes pathos and repartee; and, for once, the plot's primary preoccupation isn't the pursuit of sex. Instead it adopts a refreshingly mature approach to a story we've seen many times before. Diana (Ione Skye) is pretty but prissy, a straight-A high school student, the kind of Daddy's Girl who plumps for Pa over Ma in divorce custody proceedings. Lloyd (John Cusack) is the nonconformist offspring of a US Army Colonel who lives with his single-parent sister and practises Bruce Lee drop-kicks on his baby nephew. She has a prestigious biochemistry scholarship awaiting her in England, he retains aspirations of becoming a professional kickboxer.

A more incongruous pair you'd be pushed to match, but after agreeing to date number one, she falls for his charms. Daddy Court (John Mahoney), understandably, feels somewhat alienated and indeed miffed at his beloved baby's sudden transfer of affections: cue much relationship questioning and strenuous soul-searching. So Diane dumps Lloyd, but just as soon as Pop's back as her main man, a tax investigation into his nursing home exposes him as a crook. The performances, in particular Cusack's, are solid, the angst painfully plausible and the humour very, very funny. There's no saccharine Happy Ending either - instead we get a remarkably satisfying one. Watch out for an uncredited walk-on from Dan Castellenetta as Diane's teacher.

I've really missed Crowe's voice on the big screen. Let's hope Elizabethtown isn't the last we hear from him.

sex, lies & soderbergh

Missed this interview in The Times with Steven Soderbergh last week but it's worth reading if you haven't already. Here are two of the highlights:

On porn:
He confesses to being quite the consumer. In fact, he says, he has been known to storm out of hotels if they don't offer pay-per-view porn. “I was in a hotel in Anaheim about five years ago, and after checking in I literally went down to the front desk and said, ‘I don’t understand, there’s no pay-per-view porn!’ I called my producer and said, ‘I can’t take this, I’m checking out’. And I went to the hotel across the road. I think it should be in the bill of rights — when you’re travelling, access to pornography should be the number three thing on the list after clean towels and 24-hour room service.” He rolls his eyes upwards, to indicate the hotel rooms above, and sighs, “They don’t have it here!”

On his planned retirement:
“I just feel that this is a young person’s game, and I don’t want to be doing this when I’m 50. By then I’ll have made 20-something movies, and that’s a lot.” So, does that mean he’ll be retiring in the next four years? “Oh, I think before that,” he says. Surely he can’t be serious. A workaholic and consummate movie-maker at the height of his powers, with Clooney, the cream of Hollywood, at his feet? “It’s funny,” he begins, “But every time I say I’m trying to wind things down, people get really angry. ‘Why are you saying that? Stop saying that!’ But look, if I decide I want to do something else I am allowed to do just that.” He gives a perplexed shrug and says: “It’s my life, after all!”

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Meet The A Team

Personally, I always thought George Clooney would have made a great "Hannibal" Smith, but I'm loving the look of this reboot. Not sure about the lack of bling around BA's neck, though.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The new Penelope Cruz

Her name is Maria Valverde. She stars in Jordan Scott's debut feature Cracks. And, believe me, she's fabulous. You'll be hearing a lot about this young lady. Mark my words.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Wolfman trailer 2

I think I preferred the first one, if I'm honest. That said, I've still got my fingers crossed they nail this sucker. I just hope they haven't entirely dumped Rick Baker's work in favour of CGI.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Sherlock Holmes trailer

Who says film journalism's dead?

The director James Cameron is six feet two and fair, with paper-white hair and turbid blue-green eyes. He is a screamer — righteous, withering, aggrieved. “Do you want Paul Verhoeven to finish this motherfucker?” he shouted, an inch from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face, after the actor went AWOL from the set of True Lies, a James Bond spoof that Cameron was shooting in Washington, D.C. (Schwarzenegger had been giving the other actors a tour of the Capitol.) Cameron has mastered every job on set, and has even been known to grab a brush out of a makeup artist’s hand. “I always do makeup touch-ups myself, especially for blood, wounds, and dirt,” he says. “It saves so much time.” His evaluations of others’ abilities are colorful riddles. “Hiring you is like firing two good men,” he says, or “Watching him light is like watching two monkeys fuck a football.” A small, loyal band of cast and crew works with him repeatedly; they call the dark side of his personality Mij — Jim backward.

That's the opening paragraph of Dana Goodyear's lengthy profile of James Cameron in the current issue of The New Yorker. The rest is just as good.

Editing Never Let Me Go

Have I mentioned how excited I am about this one? Yeah? Okay. Sorry.

Photo: Mark Romanek

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Nine rehearsal footage

Welcome back JOhn

Eight years after his last feature, Ghosts Of Mars, John Carpenter is back with The Ward which stars Amber Heard as one of five young girls stuck in a mental institution with no memory of her past life or how she came to be institutionalized. Her terror takes a turn for the worse when she starts to be haunted by a violent ghost. Okay, I know it doesn't sound the most exciting or original of premises but, as I've written before, Carpenter was a hero of mine growing up and so I'm prepared to cut him a little slack, even if the images I've seen from the movie so far haven't exactly thrilled. Personally, I'm just glad to see him directing again.

Criterion does Che

Finally, after months of speculation, the Criterion Collection has announced a street date of January 19, 2010 for its three-disc DVD and Blu-ray set of Steven Soderbergh's Che.

According to Criterion website, the extras on this director's approved edition include:

High-definition digital transfers of Che: Part One and Che: Part Two, supervised and approved by director Steven Soderbergh, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition

Audio commentaries on both films, featuring Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

Making Che, a new documentary about the film’s production, featuring interviews with Soderbergh, producer Laura Bickford, actor-producer Benicio del Toro, and writers Peter Buchman and Ben van der Veen

New interviews with Cuban historians as well as participants in the 1958 Cuban Revolution and Che’s 1967 Bolivian campaign

Deleted scenes; Theatrical trailers; A booklet featuring an essay by critic Amy Taubin.

It's just a shame Criterion Blu-rays are still region encoded, unlike their DVDs which will play on my machine.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Directed by Spike Jonze

Monday musing

It was a good weekend, all in all, what with Jenson Button winning the Formula One World Championship with a scintillating drive and Where The Wild Things Are ruling the US box office.

On Saturday I finally ventured out to the LFF and saw Fantastic Mr Fox in all it's stop-motion glory, and it's exactly as I imagined it would be having visited the set several times, read the script and seen a great deal of it before, albeit in a rougher version.

On Sunday night, I chaired a BAFTA/LFF Masterclass with production designer Eugenio Cabellero (The Limits Of Control) and Andrew McAlpine (An Education), then hightailed it up the stairs to host a BAFTA Q&A with Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns for The Informant!, before heading off to the Gala Party for Up In The Air which I still haven't seen.

Alas, that's it for my LFF fun until next Sunday. For now, it's back to the deadline grindstone. Posting may well be light for the next few days...

Friday, 16 October 2009

Edge Of Darkness trailer

This came to light, as it were, yesterday. Otherwise known as Mad Max 4.

Mild rumpus

The Village Voice's J. Hoberman doesn't get Where There The Wild Things Are. But at least he's funny about it. "For me, it seemed like group therapy with the muppets."

The New York Times' Manola Dargis, other the otherhand, loves it, calling Spike Jonze's film "a work of art that stands up to its source and, in some instances, surpasses it".


Did he really just say that?

John Hillcoat, director of the Cormac McCarthy adaptation The Road, was being interviewed by Jim Naughtie on Radio Four's The Today Programme this morning and, after Hillcoat took slight umbrage at his interpretation of McCarthy's novel, Naughtie gave away the ending of book and, therefore, the film on air. Now, I've read McCarthy's masterwork and seen Hillcoat's movie, but if I hadn't... boy, would I be pissed. Jim, you're a bright bloke, but that was one of the most idiotic things I've heard in years. Please, stick to talking politics from now on.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Exclusive: Terry Gilliam on set interview

It’s January 6, 2008, a cold winter’s night in East London, and Terry Gilliam looks to be having the time of his life. In a covered shopping market near the City, the former Python is directing The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus, an imaginative flight of retro-fancy starring Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Andrew Garfield and Lily Cole. In 16 days time Ledger will be found dead in a New York apartment of an accidental overdose. But tonight the 28-year-old Australia actor is, despite an awful cold that’s bordering on flu, throwing himself into each and every take with unbridled enthusiasm and without a single word of complaint. Between shots, Ledger bundles himself up in his blue parka, a small hot water bottle clutched to his chest in an effort to keep warm, chatting with the extras on set, or watching the playback on the monitor with Gilliam, his admiration and respect for his director very much in evidence.

In the first scene of the night, Ledger’s Tony, the latest recruit in Doctor Parnassus’ travelling troupe of players who trawl around London in a horse drawn caravan that doubles as living quarters and theatrical venue, is centre-stage. Wearing a white, pinstriped suit, and a deep red cravat, a Venetian mask hanging around his neck, his face dirty with gold paint, Ledger spends much of the night swinging a series of ladies in and out of a magical mirror that leads to the Imaginarium itself, those women who emerge reduced to a near orgasmic state. He’s joined on stage by Cole’s near-naked Valentina, dressed (or rather not, as is the case) as Eve, Garfield’s Anton, who sits, in drag sat atop a pile of apples, Plummer’s mysterious Parnassus who claims to be thousands of years old, and a blacked up Vern Troyer. Originally planned as a montage sequence, the scene was hastily rewritten that morning, turning up the slapstick. Every time Ledger’s pushes a woman through the (fake) mirror, the crew, and especially Gilliam, cracks up. As anyone who’s seen Lost In La Mancha will attest, the sight of Gilliam enjoying himself on a film set, is something to be savoured.

During a short break, Gilliam and I sat down for a chat.

There have been projects you’ve been trying to get off the ground for years, and yet this one seems to have come together very quickly.

Partly out of frustration that all these other ones that I keep reading about don’t seem to come together for various reasons. Literally, just over a year ago I said, “Fuck it, what can I do for $25 million? I must be able to get $25 million” and just sat down with Charles McKeown [screenwriter of Brazil and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen] and in about a month we had basically written what we were trying to do and it constantly keeps getting rewritten as we go along. But in a sense it was to just go back to what I used to do long ago, the ones you bookend your career with [laughs] when you die. Even with something like Tideland which was $12-15m budget it too Jeremy Thomas quite a while to get that money which is why, in a sense, I went off to do Brothers Grimm and came back. [It’s because] what I’m doing is what the big films are doing for a fraction of [the cost]. I think if I asked for $100m it would probably be easier.

Where did the idea come from?

It’s sort of pragmatic, saying, “You want to do fantasy, you want to do spectacle without the $250m budget, how do you compete?” Well you do it in little pieces. So let’s go through into another world and it can be extraordinary and then back to the real world and hopefully you save a lot of money and you don’t get bored. Because I find with the big fantasy films, within 15 minutes I take it for granted, so it’s really hard to keep upping the ante. So I thought this way, by constantly contrasting one world with another, you can achieve something that’s constantly surprising.

Stylistically this feels very much like Baron Munchausen.

Time Bandits, Munchausen are the things it’s closest too. I had my wife look at some rushes the other days and [she] said it’s, “Baron Munchausen. But much smaller.” Everything I do, probably in one form or another, is autobiographical, at least one aspect of it. And this was a guy with a travelling show that nobody pays attention to. [Laughs] And he’s trying to get people to use their imagination, get excited, and nobody cares, people are into iPods and things. So you start from that position and then we start adding things. So choice is a thing we seem to live with, everyone demands a million flavours of Starbucks coffee. What’s wrong with a cappuccino? So okay, choice, that’s important, you go inside this place where your imagination blossoms but then you have to make a choice, a simple one, you don’t get 20 choices, or 100 choices, you have one. You go that way or that way. And that allows you to just transcend things, the other the devil gets you, that’s all. Simple stuff. So you play with just simple ideas and elaborate around. The idea of a man who claims to be a thousands of years old — is he telling the truth or not? Again, you get Munchausen. This guy might be a lying, everything you see might be a lie, I don’t know. But what I find… you spend a lot of time working on the script and then you bring the actors in and you start rehearsing, it starts changing, mutating, and that’s the part I really enjoy right now. Like this scene this morning, it was written as a montage of successes, and said, uh, this is how we do it, and the surprise is the girls we’ve cast as the various women going into the Imaginarium, each one surprised me, they did something interesting. And that’s what I get excited about. And I’ve got the advantage again, I’m not surrounded by a bunch of nervous executives, I can go for it.

Are you relishing that freedom?

I’ve always had freedom to be honest, even with the studios, they’ve left me alone, basically. What’s scary about this one, because it’s so ambitious for the kind of money we’ve got, for what we’re trying to do, every day is like a living hell. I get up and think, How do we get through this day? And we’ve been scraping through each day, we get there and it’s been amazing. And it frightened me, because the weather’s been good to us. How is this possible? I’m not used to this.

Why has it proved so difficult in the past for you to finance your grand visions?

Because nobody understands what I’m doing. I’ve heard for 25 years now, every time I go to Hollywood, “God Terry we love your films but this one… no.” I’m so tired of hearing that. But luckily my daughter Amy was working with Bill Vince, Infinity who produced Capote, and Bill thought, Let’s go for it, and along the way Sammy Hadida has joined in and we seem to be making it.

Let's talk about this wonderfully eclectic cast you’ve amassed.

Christopher was a very early one because we were a UK-Canadian co-production and Christopher is Canadian. But it wasn’t because he was Canadian it was because he was perfect for the thing. And then what was very funny was Heath who had actually read the script but I had never asked him to do it. He was working at my effects company doing an animated pop video, he was working on and he was in the main room and one day I was showing a storyboard, projecting it to the effects guys, and in the middle of that he slipped me a note and he said, “Can I play Tony?” And bingo! And then Verne Troyer, you have a character like Parnassus and because it’s meant to be a troupe of extraordinary people, who’s better than Verne Troyer. He was in Fear And Loathing for a brief moment. The casting director, Irene Lamb, had seen a test Lily done with Sally Potter and said she’s really good, and so I tested her and she was really good. And then the last person was Andrew Garfield and he sent a tape in and I just thought he was fantastic. So it’s not your normal cast by any means, it’s this mixture but that’s what intrigues me. You take one of the shortest men on the planet and put him next to one of the great classical actors and see what happens. You make a double act out of that.

Tell me about tonight’s scene.

This is a revamp of the theatre. The theatre doesn’t normally look like this. The previous scene went very badly for them, they were at a pub and Andrew’s character Anton who’s very much in love with Valentina (Cole), and is being pushed out of the way by Heath’s Tony, tries to do all the things that Tony can do, sophisticated, clever, charming, and he basically creates a disaster and the wagon is semi-broken, destroyed and they’ve really hit rock bottom. And Tony, Heath’s character, says you’re doing it wrong, you’re old fashioned, you don’t understand what people want any more and he shows them fashion magazines, and says this is what people want. And so you have Lily as Eve, representing innocence and purity, Anton is representing Western decadence and greed with a pile of apples. She’s got the original apple. And poor Verne is blacked up and representing Africa and all the Third World countries that the West takes advantage off.

It seems very slapstick in nature.

Well, this became slapstick. The scene wasn’t but I thought, "Oh fuck it, let’s just do something." When we were writing it I was a bit more serious about saying something. And as we start working on it, I think, come on, let’s enjoy ourselves. But it isn’t just enjoying ourselves, it’s making it more enjoyable for the audience, so hopefully one’s saying certain things but making it funny. The other cast I didn’t mention is Tom Waits who before I even sent him the script I said I got a part for you and he said, I’m on. that’s the part I really love, working with people who are in it because the joy of the thing, it’s not just another job. Everybody’s coming in here and they’re working hard, they’ve been in extremely cold conditions, it’s be almost all night shoots, freezing cold, fake rain pouring down. Heath and Andrew do this whole scene under Blackfriars Bridge, one of the big bridges across the River [Thames], 60 feet, 70 feet in the air. Heath is hanging by his neck from an arch in the middle of the bridge and Andrew is on a wire, swinging in to rescue him. No stunts. The guys doing it for real. I think everybody has approached this thing with real passion and just a willingness to do what’s needed.

Are you enjoying doing a London film?

In some ways. I like being at home for one thing. I like English actors. But I find the world here has become so constrained, health food, safety, you can’t move anymore in London. Everything has grown, kind of like America. Filmmaking has become too big, there’s too many people worry all the time. Somebody’s had to go around every location to check for nuclear waste, the toxics, the viperous animals. What are we talking about? It’s literally like you can’t move which is another aspect of this film, the restriction of much of the modern, western world, just closing in on itself. I don’t know how long it can function like that.

The caravan the players ride around in is very old-fashioned and anachronistic.

It’s from another time, it’s 19th century, maybe earlier, when travelling players would come to town. It’s exotic, extraordinary, it was one of the first things I drew, the wagon, because the idea seemed simple, why not do like a 19th century fold out travelling theatre, and then we can just pop it anywhere we want. It’s driven us crazy but it’s a stunning thing when you see it coming down the street. The theatre itself looks like the cut out Victorian toy theatres, that’s what I was thinking of, because I loved it. Suddenly you go back into an aspect of your childhood, and hopefully, just visually, that does that to people. You’re in kind of wondrous, magical, innocent world which is fading and crumbling… we’re still playing around on the special effects side, because one hand I use CG a lot, because I’ve got my own company, but the other day I said, this whole opening sequence that we were going to do it CG, I said let’s do it with models, because I have this very strong reaction to the opening sequence in Pan’s Labyrinth where you see the little girl running and its just a model made out of polystyrene painted black and it just hits parts of your imagination… wow. For a lot of people it’s a retro thing, but there’s a kind of innocence in that. CG is now big business, it’s corporate, you see it everywhere. It’s always been a temptation for me to go back to very primitive stuff. When you’re doing CG, I really like playing with it, but you’ve really got to work hard to try and make it real, cos you can cheat so easily. There’s a tangibility, a tactile nature to models, that I think must work on parts of one’s brain. Which the other doesn’t.

It's great to see you having so much fun making a film.

It’s funny, because I know what I’m doing and I’m still finding this as I go along. That’s what’s been interesting on this one, I’ve been looser in many ways on many things. Heath, in particular is, so incredibly inventive. He’s extraordinary. The world has no idea how good he is, yet, even though he’s been nominated. His range is phenomenal. And here he’s playing with comedy much more, because on Grimms I thought he found such comic moments all through that, and then, on this one, he’s doing the same thing and we’re letting him just run… because he’s so fired up, he’s got such energy and intelligence and just utter craftsmanship. Extraordinary. So what you’re seeing here is us working on a silent movie, basically.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Inside Empire

Available from tomorrow, Inside Empire is a special one-off collectors' edition of Empire which tells "The Secret History Of The World's Biggest Movie Magazine". Among the treats inside is "Every Editor Confesses" in which every editor of Empire, er, confesses about his or her time in the hot seat, and therefore includes my ramblings about my tenure on the magazine. Something about an earthquake and Steven Spielberg, and some other less dramatic but hopefully no less interesting recollections.

Drew's Alice

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Uncertainty trailer

Sorry for the light posting, but I've been a trifle busy with a particular project of late. So much so that I've not yet managed to catch a single LFF press screening. Still, I didn't want to let this one slip by, the trailer for the latest film from Scott McGehee and David Siegel, writer-directors of the fabulous Suture and The Deep End, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Now that's what I call a must-see.

<a href="" target="_new" title="Exclusive: 'Uncertainty' Trailer">Video: Exclusive: 'Uncertainty' Trailer</a>

Meet Max

Monday, 12 October 2009

Mike Nichols

The legendary Mike Nichols, director of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf?, The Graduate, Catch 22, Silkwood and much more besides, will receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award next summer. Couldn't be more deserved.

"His artistry has spanned the mediums of modern storytelling — movies, television and the stage — and his gifts across five decades continue to inspire artists and audiences alike," said Sir Howard Stringer, chair of the AFI board, in a statement.

I remember interviewing Steven Soderbergh around the time of Solaris when he was talking about taking a short break from filmmaking to write two books, one on the final season of The Sorpranos and one on Mike Nichols. Neither materialised, but he and Soderbergh share a commentary track on the DVD of Catch 22 which is well worth a listen.

Not long now

Where The Wild Things author Maurice Sendak talks to the LA Times.

"I didn't have a social conscience that I was doing anything different," Sendak, 81, says from his Connecticut home. Mostly, the Brooklyn-born illustrator, then in his early 30s, was excited to tackle his first full picture book. "It was all my own and in full color. It's hard to imagine now, with everyone doing them. But emancipating children was far from my mind."

Variety gives Spike Jonze's film adaptation a cautious thumbs up.

Fleet of foot, emotionally attuned to its subject and instinctively faithful to its celebrated source, Where the Wild Things Are earns a lot of points for its hand-crafted look and unhomogenized, dare-one-say organic rendering of unrestrained youthful imagination. But director Spike Jonze's sharp instincts and vibrant visual style can't quite compensate for the lack of narrative eventfulness that increasingly bogs down this bright-minded picture. Widespread curiosity about the cinematic fate of Maurice Sendak's childhood perennial looks to spur sizable if not stellar commercial results in all markets, including on Imax screens.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Does every movie need to be in 3D?

Out of the last three films I've seen at the cinema two have been in 3D, Toy Story and Up. (I wish I could tell you what the third was but I've been sworn to secrecy. All I can say is it'll be coming to a cinema near you in 2010, and it's not Alice).

I've enjoyed both 3D experiences. Compared to watching 3D films in the 80s and 90s, where it was often akin to having a needle thrust into your eyeball for 90 minutes, today's state of the art 3D systems are incredibly easy on the eye. And I am very much looking forward to seeing A Christmas Carol, Avatar, Alice In Wonderland, Toy Story 3 and Tintin in 3D.

But does every movie need to be in 3D?

Yesterday I read that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's upcoming horror film Cabin In The Woods has had its release bumped from this coming February until January 2011 just so they can add another dimension. While Neil Marshall has just signed on to direct Burst for Sam Raimi's Ghosthouse Productions and that too will be in 3D. Everyone, it seems, is doing the 3D thing.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the reason for it. I know studios and filmmakers are trying to give audiences a reason to go to the cinema to see a film, and not just wait for the DVD or Blu-ray or watch an illegal download.

But where will it end? Will we get to the stage that every movie is made in 3D. And will 2D go the way of black and white?

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Cry Of The Owl

It's been a while, nine years in fact, since British director Jamie Thraves made the leap from pop videos to features with his impressive, low key drama The Low Down. But now he's back, finally, with the Patricia Highsmith adaptation The Cry Of The Owl, starring Paddy Considine and Julia Stiles, which plays the Raindance Film Festival tonight.

Feeling Restless

Not me. But Mia Wasikowska aka Tim Burton's Alice. The delightful young Australian is in talks to star for director Gus Van Sant in Restless which, according to the Hollywood Reporter, is dark coming-of-age drama which delves into the complex tale of a teenage boy and girl who share a preoccupation with mortality. Bryce Dallas Howard is producing Restless with her father, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer. Jason Lew, with whom the younger Howard went to film school, wrote the script, based on his play.

"A naked American man stole my balloon"

They sure don't make trailers like this anymore.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

An evening with editor Pietro Scalia

Back in July I had the great pleasure of hosting a special BAFTA masterclass with two-time Oscar-winning editor Pietro Scalia. BAFTA has put several clips of the evening up on its website. You can watch them all there. Here are a handful. Ignore me, listen to Pietro and learn about:

Working With Directors

Editing Good Will Hunting

Editing Gladiator

Editing Black Hawk Down

Edgar Wright Presents...

This Friday at the Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square in London, Edgar Wright, director of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim, will be presenting a double bill of Don't Look Now and Carrie. And Edgar will be on hand to introduce proceedings.

"These are not simply two of my favourite horror films of all time, but two of my very favourite films of all time," writes Wright on his website. "Nic Roeg’s Don't Look Now starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie is a superlative supernatural film with some of the best editing in cinematic history. It’s been an influence on many a film over the years including The Sixth Sense and (yes) Shaun Of The Dead. If you’ve never seen it, don’t miss a chance to see it on a big screen. It’s haunted me since I first saw it one late night on BBC2.

"And Brian De Palma’s Carrie is simply magnificent. In my opinion the best Stephen King adaptation with a simply amazing cast: Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, PJ Soles, John Travolta and two Oscar nominees Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek. Add in De Palma’s amazing visuals with incredible continuous takes, split screen and backwards flashbacks, plus Pino Donnagio’s incredible score and you have a stone cold classic.

"I will be on hand too — with maybe some little extra nuggets to show between the films. See you there."

Trust me, if you've only seen them on TV, DVD or video, then get yourself along. I've actually seen both films on the big screen and watching the end of Carrie with a packed audience is priceless.

You can book tickets here.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Princess And The Frog

I want one

Only this time I don't think I'll be ordering it from Amazon. Not at £450.

Still, Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, published next month by Taschen, looks to be the last word on Kubrick's "unamde masterpiece". And if it's half as good as the company's Stanley Kubrick Archives, which I do have, it will be astonishing.

Here's the blurb from the Taschen website:

"Tucked inside of a carved-out book, all the elements from Stanley Kubrick's archives that readers need to imagine what his unmade film about the emperor might have been like, including a facsimile of the script. This collector's edition is limited to 1,000 numbered copies.

For 40 years, Kubrick fans and film buffs have wondered about the director's mysterious unmade film on Napoleon Bonaparte. Slated for production immediately following the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick’s Napoleon was to be at once a character study and a sweeping epic, replete with grandiose battle scenes featuring thousands of extras. To write his original screenplay, Kubrick embarked on two years of intensive research; with the help of dozens of assistants and an Oxford Napoleon specialist, he amassed an unparalleled trove of research and preproduction material, including approximately 15,000 location scouting photographs and 17,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery.

Taschen’s sumptuous, limited-edition tribute to this unmade masterpiece makes Kubrick’s valiant work on Napoleon available to fans for the first time. Herein, readers can peruse a selection of Kubrick’s correspondence, various costume studies, location scouting photographs, research material, script drafts, and more, each category of material in its own book. Kubrick’s final draft is reproduced in facsimile while the other texts are tidily kenneled into one volume where they dare not interfere with the visual material. All of these books are tucked inside of a carved-out reproduction of a Napoleon history book.

The text book features the complete original treatment, essays examining the screenplay in historical and dramatic contexts, an essay by Jean Tulard on Napoleon in cinema, and a transcript of interviews Kubrick conducted with Oxford professor Felix Markham. The culmination of years of research and preparation, this unique publication offers readers a chance to experience the creative process of one of cinema’s greatest talents as well as a fascinating exploration of the enigmatic figure that was Napoleon Bonaparte."

Monday, 5 October 2009

Carey Mulligan in black and white

I have already gone on record about how good an actress I believe this young lady is. And her picking up the Best Actress Oscar for An Education is, for many Oscar pundits, a certainty. She's sure to be nominated, and if she were to win, well, I wouldn't complain.


This is not a proper review. Don't have time for that right now. But I just wanted to say that I went to the Up premiere in London yesterday and Pixar's tenth feature is up there (pun most definitely intended) with the best of their illustrious output. Right up there, in fact. Top three for me. Maybe even higher.

It is, quite simply, one of the most wonderful, spellbinding, emotional, funny, warm, moving experiences I've had in the cinema. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to see it again as soon as it was over. As of today, it's my favourite film of the year. There, I've said it. Go see, if you haven't already.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Toy Story 3D

Took a time out yesterday to see Toy Story in 3D and what a delight it was. I hadn't seen Pixar's debut feature on the big screen since it first came out, an incredible 15 years ago, and realised that I hadn't seen it in its entirety since then, either. The magic, creativity, humour, and joy that was present first time round, is still there. In spades. And the 3D works a treat, too.

Unlike the US where audiences are being treated to a Toy Story 3D double bill, here in the UK the films are being re-released individually, with Toy Story 2 out early next year. I wonder how many people will go to this expecting to see the third film and not just a third dimension. Much like the dad with his young son who sat next to me...

New Shutter Island trailer

Friday, 2 October 2009


For the lack of meaty posts of late. I'm working on a book at the moment which is taking up the majority of my time. Maybe you can guess what it's about.

Up In The Air trailer

Ray Harryhausen Q&A

Posting those two Clash Of The Titans shots got me thinking about the time I interviewed Ray Harryhausen just prior to the release of Corpse Bride. I visited the legendary special effects maestro at his London home and was honoured to see many of his stop-motion creations in the flesh, so to speak. Here's part of our chat.

How do you feel being such an iconic figure in the special effects world?

I’m delighted that our films are more appreciated today than when they were first released because nobody knew much about stop-motion. Seventh Voyage was submitted to the Academy for special effects. Ignored completely. Most of pictures were ignored until I got my Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

How did they think the creatures were created then?

I don’t think they knew. Nobody knew much about stop-motion. We were really the people who made it, after Willis O’Brien [who did the original King Kong]. We’re the bridge between Willis O’Brien and CGI.

Well, in between you’ve got Nic Park and his Wallace and Gromit films…

Well, that’s a puppet film. It’s done with the same process but a puppet film is entirely different to the type of films we made because they are usually highly stylised. They’re obviously puppets, they’re not trying to disguise it. King Kong was a puppet but he was a character in the film and nobody knew at the time how it was done. That’s why I used to hesitate even talking about stop-motion because it destroys the illusion. When I saw King Kong at 13 I didn’t know how it was done and it haunted me for years until I found out about stop-motion.

Would you like to see more stop-motion in movies?

Oh yes, but rumour gets around that there’s nothing better than CGI. Well, that’s hype. But we covered so many fantasy subjects it’s hard to dream up new fantasy subjects. All they do today is reinvent the wheel, they keep doing remakes.

Are you a fan of CGI?

CGI is marvellous if you’re doing a documentary type of film but for fantasy, stop-motion lends this strange quality of a nightmare, this strange quality of fantasy, where you know it’s not real and yet it looks real. When you make fantasy too real, you bring it down to the mundane.

You say your films weren’t popular at the time.

They weren’t what you’d call blockbusters. They attracted a certain type of fan who appreciated what went into the film but for the average public, fantasy sometimes is not acceptable. They think it’s kids’ stuff. Sometimes people don’t have the imagination.

Do you have a favourite of your films?

I think Jason. It’s the most complete. I like Clash Of The Titans. I’ve always liked Greek mythology. Medusa was a big challenge and the Hydra in Jason. Hydra had seven heads and also I had seven skeletons because seven in mythology is a magic number.

You must have wished three was the magic number when you were animating seven skeletons.

It took me four months to put that particular five-minute sequence together. When the sword came down a skeleton had to be there to meet it, so I had to analyse every frame that we shot of the live action and time the skeletons movements to the live action. That’s why I lost my hair. I pulled it out.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Spot the difference

Harry Hamlin as Perseus in Clash Of The Titans (1981)

Sam Worthington as Perseus in Clash Of The Titans (2010)

Flash Forward

I caught up with the much-trumpeted new TV show Flash Forward last night and have to say I was pretty impressed. Slickly made with a killer concept — everyone in the world blacks out for two minutes and 17 seconds, experiencing a vision of six months into their future — it's a definite addition to my weekly viewing list. Who was that guy at the end?

Back in February I interviewed the show's co-creator and executive producer David S. Goyer for the UK release of his film The Unborn. Goyer was working on the Flash Forward pilot when we spoke. This is what he said about it at the time:

"I’m about to direct a pilot for ABC that I co-wrote with Brandon Braga who I did Threshold with and it’s a big high concept thing loosely based on the novel Flash Forward by Robert Sawyer and it stars a bunch of Brits, Joseph Fiennes and Jack Davenport. We start shooting in a week and a half and it’s very big budget for TV, they’re freaking out at how big it is, but it’s fun. I’m really excited about this project. Unlike Threshold it is a serialised story and ABC fully embraces it. It was a spec script, we ultimately went with ABC because I’m such a fan of Lost, I figured if they could do such a cool show, they would let us do all kinds of crazy stuff and they are."