Thursday, 31 December 2009

My films of the year

There are still a few films I've yet to see that would, I imagine, force their way on to this list, including Jacques Audiard's A Prophet. However, it's the last day of the year, not to mention the last day of the decade, and I really need to post this.

And so, without further ado, I give you reel world matters' films of 2009.

Tied in first place:

Where The Wild Things Are (dir. Spike Jonze) and Up (dirs. Pete Docter and Bob Petersen)

Followed by, in no particular order:

A Serious Man (dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen)

A Single Man (dir. Tom Ford)

Lebanon (dir. Samuel Moaz)

The Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

Up In The Air (dir. Jason Reitman)

Paranormal Activity (dir. Oren Peli)

Fantastic Mr Fox (dir. Wes Anderson)

The Informant! (dir. Steven Soderbergh)

Moon (dir. Duncan Jones)

Bright Star (dir. Jane Campion)

Bubbling under: An Education, The Road, District 9, Star TrekAvatar, Watchmen, 500 Days Of Summer, Public Enemies, Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist and Funny People.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Wolfman. Captain America. And me.

Fangoria has posted the beginning of my cover story on The Wolfman on their website, a couple of hundred words about the movie which also contain some exclusive news pertaining to the start date for director Joe Johnston's next film, The First Avenger: Captain America, news that has made it onto a great number of movie websites and gotten a whole lot of people very excited indeed.

The full article is published next month. Here's the teaser...

The beast is back, and he’s staring FANGORIA right in the eye. It’s May 2008, and the end of a long day at England’s Pinewood Studios, where your correspondent has been given a tantalizing behind-the-scenes tour of Universal’s latest attempt to mine its classic horror back catalog, following the successful revamp of THE MUMMY. After visiting various sets and interviewing some of the cast and crew of THE WOLFMAN, we have decamped to a windowless room to chat with makeup legend Rick Baker about the task of turning star Benicio Del Toro into the eponymous monster.

Midway through our chat, the lights go out, plunging the room into total darkness. “Stay calm,” instructs the film’s unit publicist, “it’s just a problem with the fuse.” But something is afoot. Suddenly, there’s movement at a door, and a large shape enters the room. As our eyes become accustomed to the gloom, Fango can make out the silhouette of a 7-foot-plus Wolfman, chowing down on a severed arm. As the lights come back up, this growling, slavering, hirsute beast bounds over and puts his snarling, fanged-filled face within inches of our own. And roars…

Fango isn’t scared. OK, that’s a lie. We’re bloody terrified, although we’re doing a good job of not showing it. But staring down the Wolfman (actually stuntman Spencer Wilding behind all the makeup) ain’t easy. Soon, the creature has had enough of trying to terrify this horror scribe and rushes out of the room. There’s a beat, followed by a collective sigh of relief and a round of applause from everyone present. After your correspondent gets his breath back, everyone agrees that if THE WOLFMAN (opening February 12) can capture even a fraction of that impact, it’s going to be a damn scary film.

From the moment THE WOLFMAN was announced, excitement was high. Originally calling the shots was Mark Romanek, a music video veteran and writer/director of the sleeper ONE HOUR PHOTO, with Baker, the multi-Oscar-winning FX legend behind AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, hired to transform Del Toro into the titular monster. Next, Anthony Hopkins (who previously revisited a Universal staple in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA), Emily (WIND CHILL) Blunt and the MATRIX films’ Hugo Weaving joined the cast. Sets were built in Britain. But then, trouble struck: Romanek ankled the production a month before filming was to begin, citing creative differences, leaving the studio scrambling to replace him before the project fell apart.

“That was a tough one, man,” Del Toro says of Romanek’s departure. “He had his vision and his thing, and at some point we didn’t have the movie.”

Various names were mentioned as Romanek’s replacement, among them John Landis, Frank Darabont and CASINO ROYALE’s Martin Campbell, but it was Joe Johnston, director of JURASSIC PARK III and THE ROCKETEER, who got the nod. The clock, however, was ticking. Principal photography was now less than four weeks away. “By the time I got on a plane and arrived, it was three,” recalls Johnston, speaking from the art department of THE FIRST AVENGER: CAPTAIN AMERICA, which he’s readying for a June start. “But at that point, what kind of difference can a week make?”

For the whole story, buy FANGORIA #290, on-stands January 19th.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Inception trailer. Again

And here in glorious HD. Again, wow.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy and prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

My films of the decade

Okay, that's not entirely accurate. There's only two films from 2009 on the list because I'm still wrestling with that particular issue (I'm continuing to work my way through my BAFTA screeners. Saw A Single Man last night. Brilliant). So this is pretty much a list of those films that really rocked my world in one way or another between 2000-08.

I'm sure I've forgotten some, I'm almost certain of it, yet I was also aware that I really needed to get off the pot on this one and put something up. And so, here you have the films that I told/pleaded/insisted/begged people to go and see, because each and every one of them touched something in me, and that, in the end, became my main criteria for choosing.

Ali (2001, Michael Mann)

Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe)

Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

American Psycho (2000, Mary Harron)

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007, Andrew Dominik)

Before Sunset (2004, Richard Linklater)

The Believer (2001, Henry Bean)

Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003, Sylvain Chomet)

Big Fish (2003, Tim Burton)

Birth (2004, Jonathan Glazer)

The Bourne Supremacy (2004, Paul Greengrass)

Born Into Brothels (2004, Zana Briski, Ross Kaufman)

Brick (2005, Rian Johnson)

Capturing The Friedmans (2003, Andrew Jarecki)

Children Of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuaron)

Chopper (2000, Andrew Dominik)

City Of God (2002, Fernando Meirelles)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee)

CQ (2003, Roman Coppola)

The Devil’s Backbone (2001, Guillermo Del Toro)

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007, Julian Schnabel)

Elephant (2003, Gus Van Sant)

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry)

Hero (2002, Zhang Yimou)

In The Mood For Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)

In This World (2002, Michael Winterbottom)

The Incredibles (2004, Brad Bird)

Infernal Affairs (2002, Alan Mak, Andy Lau)

Irreversible (2002, Gasper Noe)

The Lives Of The Others (2006, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003, Thom Andersen)

Looney Tunes: Back In Action (2003, Joe Dante)

Lost In Translation (2003, Sofia Coppola)

Man On Wire (2008, James Marsh)

Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan)

Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)

The Prestige (2006, Christopher Nolan)

Read My Lips (2001, Jacques Audiard)

[Rec] (2008, Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plazo)

Sex And Lucia (2001, Julio Medem)

Sideways (2004, Alexander Payne)

Solaris (2002, Steven Soderbergh)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007, Tim Burton)

Syriana (2005, Stephen Gaghan)

Traffic (2000, Stephen Soderbergh)

28 Days Later (2002, Danny Boyle)

United 93 (2006, Paul Greengrass)

Up (2009, Pete Docter)

Where The Wild Things Are (2009, Spike Jonze)

Wonder Boys (2000, Curtis Hanson)

Y Tu Mama Tabiem (2001, Alfonso Cuaron)

Zodiac (2007, David Fincher)

French Inception trailer

Like, wow.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Golden Woo

Congratulations to John Woo, who will receive the Golden Lion at next year's Venice Film Festival. I remember interviewing Woo for his first English language movie, Hard Target. I was a fan, of course, having already seen the majority of his Hong Kong output. I don't think he and Hollywood ever quite gelled, though, as much as I enjoyed parts of Broken Arrow, M:I:2 and Face/Off. I've yet to see Red Cliff, which marked his return to his roots. My favourite Woo? The Killer.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Friday, 18 December 2009

Film review: Avatar (****)

Still buried under a bunch of pre-Christmas deadlines so I'll have to be brief with this.

1) Is Avatar worth seeing? Hell yeah.

2) What's so great about it? The visual effects. The 3D. The sense of scale. The imagination behind it. The sheer spectacle. The camerawork. The design.

3) Is it the best 3D I've ever seen? Again, yes. The way the camera "picks up" the falling ash or the foliage brushes by the camera as it moves through the forests of Pandora, or we rush through the air when the characters ride those beasties, is, simply, breathtaking. As is the use of depth. It's quite brilliant. And never once did I feel sick, or that my eyes needed a rest. If this is the future of 3D, I'm all for it.

4) Does the story suck? Well, kinda. As has been reported else, it's a hodge-podge of Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, John Carter of Mars, Ferngully, Aliens, and Jurassic Park.

5) Does it matter? Well, yes, cos he had 14 years to hone the script and there are no real narrative surprises here, the spiritual/hippy stuff feels a tad clichéd, and the dialogue is expositional and clunky at best.

6) Will I see it again? Most definitely.

7) Is it Cameron's best film? Personally I'd still go with T2. But if he could ally this technology and this vision with a tighter script, there's no telling what he'll be able to pull off.

8) Is it the game changer the industry's been talking about? On reflection, I'd have to say very much so.

Dan O'Bannon 1946-2009

To film geeks of a certain age (and I include myself in this) the name Dan O'Bannon has special resonance. He co-wrote (with John Carpenter) and starred in Dark Star. His character's name was Pinback which led to Alex Garland naming Pinbacker in Sunshine after him. He co-wrote a script called Star Beast that became Alien, as well as the screenplays for Blue Thunder, Lifeforce and Total Recall.

He worked with Alejandro Jodorowsky on his aborted adaptation of Dune, and wrote and directed the trippy Return Of The Living Dead which is one of my all-time favourite zombie films and was, I believe, the first to identify brains as being zombie food stuff rather than simply human flesh.

Growing up, reading about him the pages of Starburst and Starlog and Fangoria, Dan O'Bannon was something of a legend. He will, as they say, be missed. RIP.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Second Clash Of The Titans trailer

Those studios, they're really spoiling us. Must be Christmas.

First Alice In Wonderland, then Iron Man 2, and now a second Clash Of The Titans trailer to whet our appetite for the cinematic year to come.

I much prefer this one to the previous teaser. And finally someone's come up with a better tagline than "Titans will clash". Check it out in HD here. Go on, you know you want to.

Iron Man 2 trailer

I won't bore you with why I liked Iron Man better than The Dark Knight. Rather, I'll ask you to feast your eyes on this trailer. Let's see: Iron Man? Check. Explosions? Check? Scarlett's Black Widow? Check. Whiplash? Check. War Machine? Check. OK, we're good.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Alice In Wonderland trailers

Like it? Let me know. To see it in HD click here. I really love that pig.

UPDATED It seems we have another one. The UK trailer which has a little extra at the start.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Inception poster

Summer can't come soon enough.

Golden Globe nominations

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Up in the Air

500 Days of Summer
The Hangover
It’s Complicated
Julie & Julia

Katheryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Clint Eastwood, Invictus
Jason Reitman, Up In The Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up In The Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Tobey Maguire, Brothers

Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Crey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sibide, Precious

Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
Marion Cotillard, Nine
Julia Roberts, Duplicity
Mery Streep, It’s Complicated
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Matt Damon, The Informant
Daniel Day Lewis, Nine
Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 500 Days Of Summer
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man

Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up In The Air
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
MoNique, Precious
Julianne Moore, A Single Man

Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Click here for the rest.

Robin Hood trailer

I see a hit in the trees ahead.

More Hurt love

Congratulations to the makers of The Hurt Locker which picked up the Best Film award from the New York Film Critics Circle, as well Best Director for Kathryn Bigelow.

The full list of winners is as follows:

Best Director Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Screenplay In The Loop
Best Actress Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Best Actor George Clooney, Up In The Air and Fantastic Mr Fox
Best Supporting Actress Mo’Nique, Precious
Best Supporting Actor Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Cinematography Christian Berger, The White Ribbon
Best Animated Film Fantastic Mr Fox
Best Non-fiction Film Of Time And The City
Best Foreign Language Film Summer Hours
Best First Feature Hunger, director Steve McQueen
Special Award To Andrew Sarris for his contribution to film criticism

Monday, 14 December 2009

Monday musing

A whole host of awards were dolled out over the weekend, signifying the season is very much upon us. Alas, a pair of crunching pre-pre-Christmas deadlines means I don't have the time to get into them right now but The Hurt Locker seems to have done very well (that's the sound of me applauding...) which can only be a good thing.

I didn't make Friday night's multi-media screening of Avatar because I was busying hosting a Q&A with Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie and stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Mark Strong. I saw the film last week but had to sign an embargo, the contents of which prevent me from reviewing it until a date I can't actually remember. So all I will say is this: there was a lot of love in the room for Ritchie and co. following the screening, and when one member of the audience decided to inform the director that his film wasn't in the "spirit of Sherlock Holmes" the rest of those present decided to vocally disagree with her. (Actually, the characters are very much in the spirit of Conan Doyle, just not the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce versions of them.)

Sunday morning, I went to see The Princess And The Frog which, of course, marks a return to traditional hand-drawn animation for Disney. It's magnificent, visually imaginative, delightful, charming, funny, with a wonderful soundtrack to boot. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Now, back to work...

Friday, 11 December 2009

In a word...

I loved it. Okay, that's three. But I think you catch my drift.

Awesome Avatar

The trades have spoken and they're unanimous in their praise.

Variety calls it: "The King of the World sets his sights on creating another world entirely in Avatar, and it's very much a place worth visiting. The most expensive and technically ambitious film ever made, James Cameron's long-gestating epic pitting Earthly despoilers against a forest-dwelling alien race delivers unique spectacle, breathtaking sights, narrative excitement and an overarching anti-imperialist, back-to-nature theme that will play very well around the world, and yet is rather ironic coming from such a technology-driven picture. Twelve years after Titanic, which still stands as the all-time B.O. champ, Cameron delivers again with a film of universal appeal that just about everyone who ever goes to the movies will need to see."

ScreenDaily proclaims: "Twelve years after Titanic, James Cameron delivers his latest blockbuster and once again takes cinema to a new level of remarkable spectacle. An epic film born entirely of Cameron’s imagination, Avatar uses tailor-made technology to create the most astonishing visual effects yet seen on screen and blends them seamlessly into a mythical sci-fi story about an ancient alien civilisation fighting the encroaching human menace. It’s an unprecedented marriage of technology and storytelling which is on the whole remarkably successful."

The Hollywood Reporter declares: "A dozen years later, James Cameron has proven his point: He is king of the world. As commander-in-chief of an army of visual-effects technicians, creature designers, motion-capture mavens, stunt performers, dancers, actors and music and sound magicians, he brings science-fiction movies into the 21st century with the jaw-dropping wonder that is Avatar. And he did it almost from scratch."

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Hot for teacher

In spring 1994 I was in New York working on Burton on Burton when a friend of mine invited me along to an early screening of the new Jim Carrey film. It was a work in progress, with many of the special effects still to be finished. Even so, I loved it. I had seen Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective but I hadn't expected to enjoy The Mask quite so much.

Partly that was because of the presence of Cameron Diaz, a young lady I had no prior knowledge of, and didn't even know her name once the film finished, since there were no credits. But her entrance, in the bank, in that red dress, was the stuff that makes a career, and it burned itself on my brain.

I interviewed Diaz a few months later for Empire and then spent some time with her a couple of years later when she came to London for the second Empire Awards after having starred in Danny Boyle's A Life Less Ordinary. (At the inaugural awards, Boyle had asked me what he could do to help the following year, and I'd said, "Help get Cameron Diaz to come." And he did.) Since then she's remained one of my favourite actresses, even though her choice of roles hasn't always been the best.

Still, I mention all this because I notice in Variety that Diaz has signed on to star for director Jake Kasdan in "raunchy comedy" Bad Teacher and because it's reminded me that I have yet to see her in Richard Kelly's The Box.

End credits

A week or so ago I tossed into the air a few brief thoughts about opening credits, but, alas, my post didn't seem to ignite interest in the way I'd hoped, and very few suggestions arrived.

Still, in the cyclical spirit of these things, I offer up this piece of information: I am one of those people who stay right to the end of the credits.

When almost everyone else has trundled away, and the cinema staff are hovering, waiting to pick up the litter, I remain in the dark, steadfastly waiting to the very, very end, watching countless crew members names scroll by, in the hope that the director has included something for folk like me, who stay till the end.

Joe Dante does it all the time. There was, if I recall correctly, something at the end of Cloverfield which explained where the monster came from. And last night, watching the Coens' A Serious Man — a particularly black and hardcore Coens — I came upon these words: "No Jews Were Harmed In The Making Of This Movie." Very droll. And very funny. Put there for people like me.

A tale of two posters

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Spike Jonze Q&A

Later today I'm going to be chairing an onstage interview with Where The Wild Things Are director Spike Jonze, following a screening of the film at the BFI Southbank. Needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to it.

The event is sold out, but there are, occasionally, returns available on the day. Hope to see you there.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Happy Birthday Dude

I don't normally indulge in birthday greetings, but I figured I could make an exception for Jeff Bridges who turns 60 today. The guy's a legend in my book, a brilliant actor who's never had the rub of the gold when it comes to Oscar. I haven't seen Crazy Heart yet but I hear Bridges might be on track to finally pick up that little golden bloke.

It's hard to pick a favourite Bridges performance, there have been so many, and while the headline might lead you to believe I'm going to opt for The Big Lebowski, I think I'm going to have to say Starman.

Mentor Marty

Went to the BFI Southbank last night for the Rolex Mentor and Protége Arts Initiative to hear Martin Scorsese in discussion with Argentinean filmmaker Celina Murga, who he has spent the previous twelve months imparting his wisdom to, a period that encompassed the making of Shutter Island and an HBO pilot. Didn't get to meet the great man, unfortunately, but it was a privilege just to listen to him talk about movies and his continued desire to make them. Plus we got to see a clip from the beautifully restored print of The Red Shoes.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Opening credits

I'm a sucker for a great opening credits sequence, and this has to be one of the best: simple but oh so effective.

And, of course, there's this which sets the tone quite brilliantly for all the horror that's to come.

What are your favourites?

Counting the days...

... to Lost season 6. This is cool, even if you don't speak Spanish.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Iron Man 2 teaser poster

You may remember that Iron Man was my favourite comic book movie of 2008 beating out The Dark Knight. Then again, you may not. Either way, I'm very much looking forward to the sequel in the way that a child looks forward to Christmas. Sad but true.