Friday 31 December 2010

My films of the year: 2010

Twenty in total and the first five on the list are in order. After that it gets a bit fuzzy...

The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher) I've seen it twice and if it wasn’t for all the other screeners I’ve had to watch over the last few weeks, I would have seen it several more times. Absolutely brilliant and ultimately wins out over Inception by virtue of the fact that I’m still thinking and talking about it on a daily basis.

Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan) See review.

Never Let Me Go (Dir. Mark Romanek) I read the book, I went on set twice, I interviewed all the key talent behind and in front of the camera and yet it took me a good half hour to speak after seeing this extraordinary and extraordinarily moving film. I still don’t understand why this isn’t more loved and why it’s been pretty much overlooked for awards consideration.

Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia) Whether you’re a Grand Prix fan or not (I am), this astounding and very thrilling documentary is a must-see, not only for the astonishing behind-the-scenes footage and gladiatorial rivalry between the late Ayrton Senna and French driver Alain Prost, but for the smart editorial decision to have Senna “tell” his own story rather than use talking heads.

Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich) See review.

A Prophet (Dir. Jacques Audiard) See review.

Monsters (Dir. Gareth Edwards) Believe the hype. What first-time filmmaker Edwards achieved for the budget was almost miraculous. Jurassic Park meets Before Sunrise/Sunset.

How To Train Your Dragon (Dir. Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders) The Avatar of kids films, I saw this in 3D at the cinema and was blown away. At home, on DVD, the story and characters hit home the more times I see it. And I’ve seen it a few.

The Scouting Book For Boys (Dir. Tom Harper) Harper’s debut feature was an exquisitely performed, lyrically shot tale of young love turned sour, from a script by Skins’ Jack Thorne.

The Disappearance Of Alice Creed (Dir. J. Blakeson) A terrifically taut and twisty low-budget thriller with the year’s best Gemma Arterton performance.

The Killer Inside Me (Dir. Michael Winterbottom). Perfect Jim Thompson adaptation and nowhere near as violent as some press suggested.

Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance) A gutsy, raw and honest look at love and marriage with blistering performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.

The Town (Dir. Ben Affleck) See review.

The Kids Are Alright (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko) Smart, adult entertainment. Nicely scripted, wonderfully played.

127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle) This stripped-to-basics survival story grips like the rock that trapped Aron Ralstron’s arm. Not Boyle’s best but damn fine filmmaking nevertheless.

The Illusionist (Dir. Sylvain Chomet) Not as immediately toe-tapping as Belleville Rendezvous, but a delicate, moving, and lovingly crafted tale.

True Grit (Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) The Dude in a western shot by Roger Deakins. What’s not to like. Thought Hailee Steinfeld was terrific too.

Winter’s Bone (Dir. Debra Granik) Powerful performances from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Dir. Niels Arden Oplev) See review

Scott Pilgrim Versus The World (Dir. Edgar Wright) Visually dazzling and a definite grower.

Stuff I've really enjoyed but which didn't make the list for a variety of reasons: Get Low, Four Lions, Exit Through The Gift Shop, The King's Speech, The Crazies, Tron: Legacy, I Am Love, Unstoppable and The Way Back.

Performances I loved in films I remain on the fence about, but in the case of the first one will give another go: Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Javier Bardem in Biutiful, Christian Bale in The Fighter.

Films I wish I’d seen but haven't got around to them yet: Animal Kingdom, Carlos, Tiny Furniture, Greenberg and Barney’s Version (watching the latter later!)

Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Have a good one. And I'll see you soon.

Rango behind-the-scenes featurette

Consider it a Christmas treat from me to you.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

End of year lists. Part one

It's that time of year again. Although, to be honest, I had to write my first top ten of 2010 list for a magazine back in October.

I took part on the IndieWIRE Critics Poll and my selection can be found here. Here's my top ten as of last week.

1) The Social Network

2) Inception

3) Never Let Me Go

4) Toy Story 3

5) A Prophet

6) Red Riding Trilogy

7) Lebanon

8) The Kids Are All Right

9) 127 Hours

10) The Illusionist

It was, inevitably, skewed towards a US release schedule — several titles were on my best list last year — but before the month's out I will post my favourite films and performances of 2010, irrespective of release dates, here on reel world matters, although I can't see my top three changing.

Hanna trailer

Thursday 16 December 2010

Limitless trailer

With this, Rango and Sucker Punch all arriving in March, Spring can't come soon enough.

RIP Blake Edwards

Tree Of Life trailer

Oh. My. God.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Pirates 4 trailer

Sucker Punch behind-the-scenes

Sucker Punch is high on my must-see list for 2011. Here's a behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews and new footage.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Blu-ray review: Shogun Assassin

Based on the hugely popular manga Lone Wolf And Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goeski Kojima, Shogun Assassin is, in actual fact, made up of the first two films from Japanese director Kenji Misumi’s six-film adaptation edited together and reworked for US audiences. Featuring 11 minutes from Sword Of Vengeance and more than 70 from Baby Cart On The River Styx, Shogun Assassin was a cult hit on its original release and has developed a sizeable following over the last three decades although the BBFC in their wisdom once banned it as a video nasty. 

The story is a simple tale of loyalty, love and bloody revenge. In Feudal Japan, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), the Shogun’s chief decapitator, is betrayed by his insane ruler and, following the murder of his wife, sets out on the road to vengeance — a poetic description for what, effectively, amounts to slicing and dicing anyone and everyone who crosses his path. Together with his young son Daigoro (Masahiro Tomikawa), pushed along in a wooden cart kitted out with assorted hidden weaponry, Ogami survives as a sword for hire. The result is the screen is awash with geysers of blood and bright red crimson fountains, as feet, hands, ears and arms are chopped off, bodies impaled, and heads decapitated. Originally shot in 1973-4, before being re-cut and dubbed in 1980, the film has, inevitably, dated — not least the synth-heavy electronic score — but there’s still much to revel in: from Misumi’s gutsy, furious direction and comic-strip framing, to Wakayama sublimely stoic performance and the seemingly endless shots of arterial spray.

For those of us who’ve had to make do for years with crappy DVDs, Eureka’s 1080p transfer is a godsend. It’s not perfect — there are marks on the print and the image is, occasionally, a little soft, but it looks arguably better than it did when it was originally released. The Blu-Ray includes both the dubbed 1980 theatrical version and a subtitled, original-language option, as well as two commentaries: an “Expert” one featuring Asian film scholar Ric Myers and martial arts expert Steve Watson, and a second “Production” commentary, with Shogun Assassin producer David Weisman and Gibran Evans who provided Daigoro’s voiceover for the 1980 release. Both are well worth a listen. Less informative is a brief video interview with Asian film fan Samuel L. Jackson. The Blu-ray, meanwhile, also comes in a limited edition dual format steelbook version. For fans of either Shogun Assassin or Lone Wolf And Cub, this is the Holy Grail, a gloriously presented and gory treat.

* Originally published in DVD & Blu-ray Review

Black Swan poster

I haven't yet written a review of Black Swan because I want to see it again before I do. What I will say in the meantime is that Natalie Portman is simply sensational it in. And it's her beautiful if cracked visage that adorns this striking poster.

Black Swan poster | Natalie Portman

Inception in real time

You might remember how I flipped over Inception in the summer and with the film just arriving on DVD/BR I'm very much looking forward to seeing again. This viral popped up recently and smartly edits the 40-minute "inception" sequence into something approximating real time. Needless to say if you haven't seen the film, don't watch. Then again, if you haven't seen the film yet, why are you even reading this?

Friday 3 December 2010

Tim Burton signing a certain book

At the Toronto launch of his Art Exhibition last month.

Photo: ScreenDaily

Thursday 2 December 2010

Mad genius

I finally caught up with Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno the other night, a fascinating and totally absorbing documentary looking at Clouzet's legendary unfinished "masterpiece" L'Enfer. In common with Lost In La Mancha, Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea's film reveals a director's vision coming apart at the scenes, although in this case it was less the vagaries of the weather and a lead actor's ill-heath, and more a filmmaker pushing himself (and his cast and crew) to the limits and, eventually, his heart into cardiac arrest. Complied from 15 hours of never seen before footage, camera tests designed to try out special lenses and optical effects, and readings from the script by Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin standing in for Romy Schneider's Odette and Serge Reggiani's Marcel, a hotel owner husband driven mad by thoughts of his young bride's suspected infidelity, Bromberg and Medrea comb through the remnants of Clouzet's extraordinary intentions, and leaving us to rue the loss of what might have been a revolutionary piece of cinema.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

In Memoriam

I was away when Irwin Kershner and Leslie Nielsen passed away but judging by the coverage on the web and on twitter there's already been enough said about both men without me having to add much more. I have to admit I, like so many, will remember Kerschner mainly for being the director of the best Star Wars movie. His other credits included RoboCop 2 and Never Say Never Again. However, while Neilsen's death warranted a surfeit of hugely affectionate "Surely you can't be serious..." gags, I like to remember him as being in one of the greatest science fiction films ever, ie. Forbidden Planet, rather than as the star of Airplane! or The Naked Gun, although I have nothing against either of those movies.

Thursday 25 November 2010

The Disney 50

Here's the promo they showed at the Disney 50 presentation on Wednesday. How many have you seen?

Wednesday 24 November 2010

One small step...

I don't care what anyone says, I cannot wait to see this. I'm a sucker for anything Apollo-related.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Ingrid Pitt, 1937-2010

Ingrid Pitt, who starred in Hammer's Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula, has died, just days after celebrating her 73th birthday. For horror fans of a certain age, Pitt was both a sex symbol and something of an icon. Few would suggest she was one of the great actresses of her time, but she sure had presenceHere's the BBC's obit.

Tongue Tangled

Alas I am embargoed from giving you my view on Disney's latest animated feature Tangled, which I saw this morning. But I can point you in the direction of the Disney 50 at BFI Southbank which will give audiences a chance to see every Disney animated feature — of which Tangled is the 50th — on the big screen.

Beginning in January, and showing one film each weekend throughout 2011, the Disney 50 at BFI Southbank offers an amazing opportunity to see Disney's rare and little-seen animated features alongside the classics we all know and love.

Here's a little more info. A list of the Disney 50 is after the jump.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Trailer: Source Code

What needs to be said other than it's Duncan Jones' follow-up to Moon.

Friday 19 November 2010

He's the bleedin' law

The script for the Judge Dredd reboot is a cracker; Karl Urban, as previously discussed, is a smart choice for Dredd; and Olivia Thirlby, as also previously discussed, should make for a terrific Judge Anderson. And this photo, courtesy of Dredd conceptual artist Jock, shows they've got the look spot on too.

First Look Judge Dredd

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Teaser trailer: Cowboys & Aliens

Another teaser for another of NEXT summer's big releases. Have to say, I like the look of this more than I do Green Lantern from what we've seen thus far.

To see the trailer in HD click here.

Teaser trailer: Green Lantern

Friday 12 November 2010

Writers roundtable

With awards season almost upon us, The Hollywood Reporter has organised a series of roundtables featuring some of those who will no doubt be in with a shout come the eventual handing out of awards and statues. Embedded below is the writers roundtable, featuring Aaron Sorkin, Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt and others. Enjoy.

Trailer: Battle: Los Angeles

I haven't yet seen Skyline, and, given the reviews so far, I may not. But here's the trailer for the second alien invasion movie heading our way over the coming months, with The Darkest Hour set to follow next summer. Given that we've all been fooled by amazing looking trailers in the past, only to find the movies completely fail to live up to the advance hype, I'm reserving judgement for now. However, on the strength of this, I'm prepared to say that this has snuck onto my must-see list.

Click here to see the trailer.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Trailer: Jane Eyre

On Monday there was the poster, now we have a very Gothic-y looking trailer. I have to say, I'm liking this a lot.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Third Tron: Legacy trailer

I was asked today to supply my top ten films of the year. It's always a difficult call but this year it seems even tougher, not least because two of the best films I've seen recently don't come out in the UK until 2011. And that's not even taking into account that there are still seven weeks left of 2010 and I haven't seen this yet. Not long now, though.

Monday 8 November 2010

Poster: Jane Eyre

I met Mia Wasikowska a few times during the making of Alice In Wonderland and found her to be delightful. She's also a damn fine actress. Witness her opposite Gabriel Byrne in In Treatment. She's one of the reasons why I'm looking forward to Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic. Michael Fassbender is another. As is Fukunaga himself, whose debut feature Sin Nombre revealed him to be a filmmaker to watch.

Teaser trailer: Kung Fu Panda 2

Saw this before a press screening of Megamind yesterday and, I have to admit, I chuckled.

Megamind, incidentally, was most enjoyable. I particularly loved the Marlon Brando from Superman gag, although, again, the 3D seemed superfluous and unnecessary.

Blu-ray review: The Exorcist

The greatest film of all time according to Mark Kermode whose stellar 1998 BBC documentary, Fear Of God, is just one of the bountiful extras on this mightily impressive two-disc set. Whether you agree with him, it’s certainly one of the scariest films of all time, even if neither author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty or director William Friedkin choose to refer to it as a horror film: Friedkin calls it a story “about the mysteries of faith” while Blatty prefers a “supernatural detective film”.

The story of apple-cheeked 12-year-old Regan McNeil (Blair) possessed by a demon in the Washington suburb of Georgetown and the two priests — exorcist Father Merrin (Von Sydow) and local Jesuit psychiatrist Father Karras (Jason Miller) — who try to save her after medical science fails, The Exorcist has remained somewhat controversial because of both its subject matter and graphic depiction of the possession — crucifix masturbation, anyone. Friedkin’s documentary approach, coupled with Owen Roizman’s often handheld camera and naturalistic lighting, lends the film an authenticity that was shocking at the time and remains so even today, the stunning HD transfer doesn’t pour gloss over the film’s grainy feel. Soundwise, too, it’s impeccable. On one extra Friedkin claims the digital remastering has even made clear audio details and sound effects he didn’t remember including.

In addition to the original theatrical release, this set also contains the 2000 cut, then titled The Version You’ve Never Seen, now referred to as the Extended Director’s Cut, which reinstates around ten minutes of footage, ahem, exorcised by Friedkin just prior to release, much to Blatty’s annoyance and the source of the pair failing out for several years (included is interview footage from 1998 that still shows them arguing about interpretation and meaning). Now Friedkin has accepted Blatty point — “As I’ve got older I’ve got less arrogant” — reinstating as much of the footage as possible for Blatty, including the original “upbeat” ending and a pivotal conversation between Merrin and Karras, and calling this version the correct one.

In addition to the Fear Of God documentary, there’s almost an abundance of riches in terms of extras (although, alas, all in SD), including two Friedkin commentaries, one for each cut, plus several amazing behind-the-scene featurettes, the best being Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist which includes cinematography Roizman’s home movie footage, silent but nevertheless offering an incredible insight into how many of the key sequences were created (often using simple and mechanical effects, this being pre-CGI). There’s also a series of wonderfully dated trailers — “The movie you’ve been waiting for… without the wait,” intones one — and TV spots which reveal just how far we’ve come in film marketing.

If you’re a fan of the film this is a must purchase. For non-believers, this should be an essential part of everyone’s Blu-ray collection from now on.

* Originally published in DVD & Blu-ray Review. Screen grabs from

Thursday 4 November 2010

The Social Network B-roll

While we wait for the inevitable extras-laden DVD/BluRay of The Social Network we have these compilations which reveal, among various delights, Josh Pence who played Tyler Winklevoss on set although his face/head was later digitally replaced by that of Armie Hammer.

Poster: The Tree Of Life

It's not much but it's all we have at the moment.

Trailer: Sucker Punch

I'm looking forward to this one for a myriad of reasons, especially having seen the footage that showed at Movie-Con in the summer. This latest trailer gives both a taste of the plot and the tone. And it's great to see Scott Glenn back on the big screen.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Great news all round

Woke up this morning to learn that that Andrew Dominik, he of the astonishing The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford and Chopper, is going to be reuniting with his Jesse James star Brad Pitt, and potentially Casey Affleck, for an adaptation of George V Higgins' novel Cogan's Trade.

And if that wasn't enough, Andrew Kevin Walker, whose scripts for Se7en and 8mm (the original draft I hasten to add) I had a hand in getting Faber & Faber to publish and for which I wrote the intro and interviewed Walker, has set up Psycho Killer, a serial killer thriller that Eli Roth will produce and Panic Room producer Gavin Polone will make his directorial debut on.

Monday 1 November 2010

BIFA nominations

Here are the nominations from this year's British Independent Film Awards which take place on December 5. I have my favourites, you probably have yours, let me know in the comments.

Four Lions
The King’s Speech
Never Let Me Go

Mike Leigh – Another Year
Matthew Vaughn – Kick-Ass
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
Gareth Edwards – Monsters
Mark Romanek – Never Let Me Go

Debs Gardner Paterson – Africa United
Clio Barnard – The Arbor
Rowan Joffe – Brighton Rock
Chris Morris – Four Lions
Gareth Edwards – Monsters

Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Simon Blackwell, Christopher Morris – Four Lions
Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn – Kick-Ass
David Seidler – The King’s Speech
William Ivory – Made In Dagenham
Alex Garland – Never Let Me Go

The rest are after the jump.

Tony Scott interviewed

I've spoken to Tony Scott several times over the course of his career and always found him to be an engaging and delightful interviewee, as you can see in this video interview by The Hot Blog's David Poland. Enjoy.

First Look: Tintin

Empire (who else?) nabbed the world exclusive on Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's eagerly awaited adaptation of Herge's intrepid detective Tintin. Here's the cover. Click here for more photos.

Empire Magazine

Sunday 31 October 2010

Saturday 30 October 2010

Trailer: London Boulevard

Haven't heard a word, good or bad, about this one, and yet it opens here in the UK next month. Great cast, though.

Friday 29 October 2010

Unstoppable featurette

Long time readers will know my fondness/love for the work of Tony Scott (well, all except Beverly Hills Cop 2) and so any new movie from this filmmaker is warmly anticipated around these parts. And his latest, Unstoppable looks like it could be a real hoot.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Tron: Legacy Daft Punk video

I am chomping at the bit for this particular movie, and the steady drip... drip... drip of images and info by Disney over the last 15 months or so has got me all worked up in a way that parallels my, ahem, keenness to see Where The Wild Things Are last year, and we know how much I loved that one.

Trailer: The King's Speech

Saw this at its LFF Gala screening last week and enjoyed it enormously. Certainly, on occasion, it's perhaps a tad too TV in its stylistic approach but the performances — Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter et al — are spot on, the script manages to be both humorous and moving, and director Tom Hooper keeps the whole thing bubbling along nicely and always on the right side of schmaltz. Expect the film — and Firth, especially — to figure in the forthcoming awards season onslaught.

Monday 25 October 2010

Wednesday 20 October 2010

AO Scott on L'Avventura

It's one of my very favourite films. If you haven't seen it, I urge you to check it out. But before then, listen to what New York Times film critic AO Scott has to say:

Friday 15 October 2010

Friends, Romans, etc

I have been busier this week than I originally anticipated when I embarked upon Fincherfest and, thus, have failed miserably at the task I set myself: to post a piece on a day on the great man. For that, I must apologise, and hope to rectify at some future juncture.

For now, however, various commitments are pulling me in various directions and blogging might be slow for the next few days. However, I have this one sage piece of advice to offer until I next post: see The Social Network. See it. See it. See it.

It's in UK cinemas from today and it is, I do believe, my — deep breathe — favourite film of the year thus far, with Never Let Me Go and Inception a shade behind.

Should any of you out there — providing there still is anyone out there, since the recent dearths of comments has got me wondering otherwise — take my advice, then do report back with your thoughts.

Until next time...

Wednesday 13 October 2010

This morning

(L-R) Director Mark Romanek, actress Keira Knightley, actress Ella Purnell, actor Andrew Garfield, actress Izzy Meikle-Small, actress Carey Mulligan, author Kazuo Ishiguro and writer Alex Garland attend the "Never Let Me Go" press conference during 54th BFI London Film Festival at the Vue West End on October 13, 2010 in London, England.
That's me on the right, as you look at the photo, hosting the LFF Never Let Me Go press conference.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Fincherfest: Andrew Garfield on working with Fincher

Here's an outtake from my interview with Andrew Garfield where I asked him about working with David Fincher on The Social Network.

"You trust him. You implicitly trust his taste and the amount of time he spends on a scene. You feel you can give yourself over, completely, as an actor. For a bunch of young actors who want to create something real and authentic and good, I think to have him steering us was just a great gift.

"There were a lot of takes, but what it does, which is purely positive, is it sets up space for an actor to get it wrong and by getting it wrong you find a way to get it right, because unless you can you fully let go and allow the scene to be whatever it is, it’s going to be dull, it’s going to be an archetypal, caricatured controlled performance. So what he does is, he wants you to trip up, he wants you to make mistakes, and so to let go, and therefore be a real-life, breathing human being being caught on film. 

"And as we all know, there’s nothing more compelling than watching someone get lost, like watching Daniel Day Lewis doing the incredible work that he does, you’re watching the birth of a real human being every time he sets foot into the frame, he’s alive, he’s just alive. And I think what David manages to set up is a space to allow that potentiality… David’s just really smart, but for sure, doing it was so much fun and free and no pressure because you trust his taste and he’s going to squeeze all the juice out of you, so to speak."

Monday 11 October 2010

Fincherfest: Casting his Lisbeth Salander

When I spoke with David Fincher recently, it was at the end of his first day of filming The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in Sweden. We talked mostly about things to do with The Social Network but I couldn't resist asking a couple of questions about his latest project, beginning with the casting of Rooney Mara — who had worked with him on The Social Network, playing the girl who dumps Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg in the opening scene — as his Lisbeth Salander.

If the media chatter is to be believed, your search for an actress to play Lisbeth Salander seemed akin to the hunt to find Scarlett O’Hara for Gone With The Wind. What was it about Rooney that convinced you she was the one? 

"It was very tricky. It’s a feline emotional response thing. You kind of go, ‘Who’s the person that you think embodies most of what you’re trying to say about this character?’ I liked working with her, I thought that she worked really hard, I thought she came in really well prepared and didn’t bitch and moan about how many times we were going to shoot it, and I felt like she fed off of what Jesse [Eisenberg] was doing and he fed off of her. And I thought she’s amazing to look at in a really different kind of way. She can be oddly plain or incredibly photogenic and she read for us a bunch of times and continued to persevere and do the work.

"We saw a lot of really fabulous people. There were a lot of people that were interested, and in the end I really felt like I needed a mystery, I needed somebody who was a mystery, and I think she’s got that going for her... Look, you cast a role like this, it’s always a risk, but I also find myself wanting to take risks on people I really like and I really wanna see be successful, and I was like, for all the question marks, and all the things that would scare off of her, when it came down to it, here’s somebody you can call and say, We need you to do this. Or We need you to cut your hair, or We need you to get this pierced, you know, and she was truly great about that, and really wanted to go the whole way."

Is it fair to say you’re adapting the book rather than remaking the Swedish film?

"Yeah. I mean, there are certain similarities. Obviously they’re both based on the same source material but  [screenwriter Steve] Zaillian is Zaillian and he’s done it for himself. He did it over. He started from scratch, and it’s good, it’s really good."

Sunday 10 October 2010

Fincherfest: Opening credit sequences

Kicking off a series of tributes to David Fincher on the site this week, counting down to the UK release of The Social Network on Friday, here's a selection of Fincher's striking opening title sequences (images and links via the excellent The Art Of The Title Sequence) all of which brilliantly set the tone for what's to come:


Alien3 contact sheet

To see the full credit sequence, click here.

Seven (1995)

Se7en contact sheet

To see the full credit sequence, click here.

The Game (1997)

To see the full credit sequence, click here.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club contact sheet

To see the full credit sequence, click here.

Panic Room (2002)

To see the full credit sequence, click here.

Friday 8 October 2010

Michelle as Marilyn

While I was very much looking forward to what Andrew Dominik had in mind for his version of Marilyn Monroe (see item here), I'm also keen to see what the talented Michelle Williams will do with said icon. Williams stars in My Week With Marilyn which began filming in London this week under the direction of Simon Curtis. Telling the story of Monroe's time on the set of The Prince And The Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, the film also stars Edie Redmayne, Julia Ormond and Dougray Scott.

Trailer: The Way Back

Peter Weir has long been one of my favourite directors, and it's great to know that in a couple of months we'll have a new Weir film in cinemas. Here's a link to the trailer for his latest, The Way Back. As soon as there's a copy on youtube, I'll embed it here.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Norman Wisdom 1915-2010

In the last couple of weeks, we have lost Tony Curtis, Arthur Penn, Sally Menke, and Gloria Stuart to the great cinema in the sky. And now comes news of the death of legendary comic talent Sir Norman Wisdom at the age of 95. If you've never seen one of Wisdom's films you might not understand why Charlie Chaplin called him his favourite comedian. Wisdom could do pratfalls with the best of them but his skill was always to pull at our hearts while making us laugh. I met him once, very briefly, at a book signing in the mid-90s. He seemed like a very nice man. We may not see his like again.   

Zack Synder: Man Of Steel

Last night's news that Zack Synder had been hired to helm the Chris Nolan-shepherded, David Goyer-scripted Superman movie, provisionally titled Man Of Steel, is a smart move by Warners and Nolan. Synder's visual sensibility and kinetic action style will suit the character, and as much as I enjoyed Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, I think Synder's take will be less wholly reverential and more in keeping with what a 21st Century Superman movie needs to be.

Talking to the LA Times' Hero Complex blog, Synder said: “I can’t say why they came to me other than the fact that they know I have a fondness for the character and a real desire to understand him and present him to a new audience. The challenge is huge but you know with Chris and Emma [Thomas] and Debbie [Synder] I have a lot of people I can rely on. And Chris and David have given this the shape with a great story. It is a hard character to crack.”

UPDATE: Over at Bleeding Cool, they have a full rundown of Synder's comments to various US media outlets regarding Superman.

Sunday 3 October 2010


Spent most of last week in Moscow, where I visited the set of Chris Gorak's The Darkest Hour which is currently shooting in the Russian capital. Can't really say much about the alien invasion film right now, other than it looks very promising. Gorak's assembled a smart cast of talented young actors — Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Joel Kinnaman — and is shooting in 3D for a summer 2011 release.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

True Grit teaser

Cinematography by the sublimely talented Roger Deakins.

Monday 27 September 2010

Cool commerical

I have yet to succumb to the charms of the iPad. I know I will one day, but, for now, my resolve remains strong. Despite this kooky ad, directed by Roman Coppola.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Andrew Garfield LA Times interview

Never Let Me Go and Social Network star Andrew Garfield and I talk Facebook and Spider-Man in this interview for the LA Times.

Saturday 25 September 2010

New Monsters featurette

It's one of my favourite films of the year and if you live in the US you can download it now via iTunes and On Demand right now, well ahead of its October 29 theatrical release. So, what are you waiting for?

Thursday 23 September 2010

Fringe season three preview

It's back on in the States soon, and in the UK soonish (I hope). And from the look of this, we've got some fun stuff ahead, Earth hopping and the like.

Undercovers preview

I'll watch anything that JJ Abrams has his hand in, because the man's not let me down yet; although the advance reviews for his latest show haven't been too good. I'm not sure when this airs in the UK, but I'll certainly give it a go when it does.

Friending Aaron Sorkin

 Here's a great piece on the screenwriter of The Social Network.

DVD review: Dogtooth (****)

An intense and downright disturbing examination of the dangers of excessive parental control and conditioning, this powerful and provocative film from Giorgos Lanthimos firmly positions him as the Greek Michael Hanke. 

A man (Christos Stergioglou) and his wife (Michelle Valley) keep their three unnamed children — the publicity material lists them as Son (Pasalis), Elder Daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia) and Younger Daughter (Mary Tsoni) — hidden away within the confines of their isolated family home which, despite the expansive, well-tended grounds and inviting swimming pool, is little more than a prison. The outside world is off limits and evil. Only Father, who appears to have a good job at a factory, ever leaves, and that’s by car — walking is expressly forbidden.

The three are raised by the parents, who educate them via cassette recordings, feeding them lies and misinformation. They’re encouraged to get on all fours and bark like dogs, instructed cats are dangerous animals, and informed Mother will soon give birth to a dog. The children — who, at a guess, are in their mid to late twenties — spend their days taking part in strange tests and cleaning the house. For fun, they re-enact scenes from movies — among them Rocky and Jaws. A treat is when the entire family listens to Frank Sinatra after dinner, although Father tells them it’s their uncle singing and mistranslates the lyrics.

Their only interaction with the outside world is Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a security guard, who Father pays to sexually service the Son on a weekly basis, but is, in turn, serviced by the Older Daughter in exchange for gifts. (When Father finds out, his retribution is shocking and brutal.) As the film progresses, cracks tear apart the domestic “status quo” and violence erupts. Son skewers a cat with shears; Older Daughter takes a kitchen knife to her brother’s arm.

There’s a stark, graphic quality to Lanthimos’ filmmaking. Even his framing is unsettling, the camera often cropping off heads, a stylistic device that only adds to the all-pervading sense of disquiet and unease. Moreover, the film isn’t interested in explaining or analysing the parents’ actions, leaving their motives shrouded in mystery. Are they conducting some kind of social experiment, protecting their children’s innocence from outside forces? Or are they, simply, middle-class monsters? (It’s probably the reason both Blu-ray and DVD are totally devoid of extras beyond the trailer.) Forget the Saw series or Hostel’s torture porn, if you want real horror, then this is for you.

New trailer: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Must buy: The Art Of Drew Struzan

If you don't know who Drew Struzan is, then buy this book. If you do, then you don't need any encouragement from me. Back To The Future, The Thing, Hellboy, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, the Star Wars prequels, The Shawshank Redemption, and Blade Runner are just some of the movies Struzan's produced masterful and indelible movie posters for. This wonderful book (out on Friday from Titan) collates the best of his work and includes many preliminary and unused poster designs. As you flick through the pages, savouring every brush stroke and every choice of character and placement, you'll wish you had a Struzan hanging on your wall. Alas, Frank Darabont, who provides the foreword, apparently has a home full of his original artwork. The rest of us will have to make do with this lovely tome.

Aaron Sorkin talks The Social Network

Monday 20 September 2010

Ben and Rebecca

The very talented, very lovely and very tall Rebecca Hall, together with the very talented, very tall and equally lovely Ben Affleck, being interviewed after last night's special screening of The Town.

Twitpic originally posted here.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Public service annoucement

If you live in the US, make sure you go to see Never Let Me Go this weekend. When the film finishes, leave the cinema, have a stiff drink or a cup of strong coffee, then turn around, and go back and see The Town. We can't complain they don't make good movies anymore if we don't support them when they do.

Friday 17 September 2010

He will, he will, rock you

The idea of casting Sacha Baron Cohen as the late Freddie Mercury in a Queen biopic is just genius. Getting Peter Morgan to write the script is simply inspired. Count me.

It was all fake, says Casey

When I reviewed I'm Still Here in Venice, I wondered how much of it was actually faked. At the time, director Casey Affleck wasn't saying and denied it was a hoax.

Now, young Casey has come clean to the New York Times, claiming almost all of it was made up.

“It’s a terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career,” Casey told the NY Times' Michael Cieply. According to the piece: 
“The reviews were so angry,” said Mr. Affleck, who attributed much of the hostility to his own lo
ng silence about a film that left more than a few viewers wondering what was real — The drugs? The hookers? The childhood home-movie sequences in the beginning? — and what was not.
Virtually none of it was real. Not even the opening shots, supposedly of Mr. Phoenix and his siblings swimming in a water hole in Panama. That, Mr. Affleck said, was actually shot in Hawaii with actors, then run back and forth on top of an old videocassette recording of “Paris, Texas” to degrade the images.
“I never intended to trick anybody,” said Mr. Affleck, an intense 35-year-old who spoke over a meat-free, cheese-free vegetable sandwich on Thursday. “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.”
Still, he acknowledged that Mr. Letterman was not in on the joke when Mr. Phoenix, on Feb. 11, 2009, seemed to implode his own career by showing up in character as a mumbling, aimless star gone wrong.
So now we know.

Thursday 16 September 2010


I love Guillermo Del Toro's Cronos. I loved it when it was released and continue to love it to this day. I have a UK DVD that has a Del Toro commentary and assorted extras but this new Criterion edition, out in December, looks likely to surpass it in my affections. I'm particularly looking forward to the extra entitled Welcome To Bleak House which is being described as "a video tour by Del Toro of his office, featuring his collectibles and personal work". It doesn't get much cooler than that. Well, other than being there.

The full list of features is after the jump...

Trailer: The Fighter

New trailer: The Social Network

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Mark Romanek on his debut movie Static

It amuses me no end when people refer to One Hour Photo as Mark Romanek's debut feature, which would make Never Let Me Go his second film as director. Because Romanek actually directed a film before One Hour Photo, even if he's chosen to disown it and scrub it from his resume. The film was Static (1986), co-written by Romanek and actor Keith Gordon who also starred, along with Amanda Plummer. Here's a great piece outlining the film's plot.

If you didn't see Static at the time (and let's face it, not many people did), the film's almost impossible to watch today. I bought a NTSC video copy from ebay several years ago for a small fortune because I'm a completist and was intrigued to see for myself what Romanek was evidently embarrassed about. What I discovered was a film very much of its time. Static is intriguingly quirky and delightfully odd and features a terrific soundtrack from the likes of OMD and Japan, but, more importantly, it's really rather good. And so, when I spoke to Romanek recently, I mentioned to him how much I liked Static and asked why he decided to disown it.

"It’s nice that you think that," he said. "For me it seemed premature. Like I had an opportunity to make a film before I felt I had much to say or knew what I was really doing as a filmmaker, so I just find it this sort of embarrassing bit of juvenilia. I find it is embarrassing, but I know that some people connected with it and I don’t mean to discount that fact. I just wish it would go away…"

Monday 13 September 2010

Kevin McCarthy, 1914-2010

While arguably most famous for his leading role in Don Siegel's 1956 horror classic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Kevin McCarthy was also a favourite of director Joe Dante and it's as much for his cameos in Gremlins, The Howling, Innerspace, Matinee, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Piranha as his Body Snatchers' role — which he cutely reprised in Phil Kaufman's 1978 remake — that I remember him.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Somewhere wins at Venice

Sofia Coppola at the Venice film festivalSofia Coppola's Somewhere was the surprise winner of the Golden Lion in Venice tonight. I say "surprise" because the film was greeted with somewhat mixed reviews by critics last weekend, but, hey, what do they know.

Another surprise winner was Alex de la Iglesia, picking up the award for Best Screenplay and the Silver Lion for Best Director for Balada Triste de Trompeta. I was a fan of the film, but I certainly felt like I was in a minority in that regard on the Lido, and so I definitely consider that a turn up for the books, and a pleasant one, too.

In terms of the acting awards, Vincent Gallo had been many people's favourite to win for Best Actor for Essential Killing but the other bookies' pick, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, walked away empty-handed, the jury going instead for Ariane Labed in Attenberg, another film I liked very much, and one I will get around to reviewing soon.

The results can be found in full after the jump.

Hereafter trailer

Friday 10 September 2010

Thursday 9 September 2010

Venice 2010: Zebraman 2: Attack On Zebra City, 13 Assassins

Two from prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, one (ostensibly) for the kids and one for the adults, the first a slapdash, disposable sequel to his 2004 feature and the second a remake of Eichi Kudo's 1964 black-and-white film of the same name.

Zebraman 2: Attack On Zebra City is silly, sloppily made, with Hype Williams-esque video sequences, a ridiculously outfitted hero, masked police allowed to massacre innocent civilians with impunity, and a skyscraper-sized swishy CGI alien.

13 Assassins on the other hand is, by Miike's own standards, startlingly restrained, even though it features a near hour-long climactic siege with the eponymous assassins taking on 200-plus of their fellow samurai in a fortified village.

Set in 1844 in Feudal Japan, a time of relative peace, Miike's period epic stars Koji Yakusho as esteemed samurai Shinzaemon Shimade who is tasked to assassinate Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), son of the former Shogun and brother to the existing one, a vile and sadistic nobleman, and sets out to amass a series of like-minded samurai to help him.

Slow and stately to begin with, paying particular attention to the codes and rituals of the samurai, the pace picks up once the dirty, er, thirteen have been recruited, with Miike expertly mining Kurosawa's Seven Samurai for inspiration, and the film culminating in a staggering battle of steel and wits. Clearly produced on a bigger budget than he's used to, Miike wisely keeps it as real as possible, eschewing CGI blood and copious visual effects in favour of breathtaking swordplay and skilled stuntwork. A treat.

13 Assassins plays at the London Film Festival on October 23 and 24.

Venice 2010: The Town

Ben Affleck’s well-received directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, demonstrated the actor — and Oscar-winning screenwriter of Good Will Hunting, let’s not forget — was just as capable behind the camera as in front of it. For his sophomore effort, a brisk, powerful and highly absorbing adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s bestseller Prince Of Thieves, Affleck not only directs and co-wrote the script, but heads up an impressive ensemble as former professional ice hockey player turned armed robber Doug MacRay, the leader of a four-man crew from Boston’s Charlestown district who rob banks with brutal efficiency.

The film begins with an onscreen card informing us that Charlestown has produced more bank and armoured car robbers than anywhere in the US then takes the audience straight into a riveting, crisply edited opening sequence in which Affleck’s crew hold up a Boston bank, then take Claire (Rebecca Hall), the assistant manager, hostage before letting her go. But Jem (The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner), MacRay’s loose canon, second in command is concerned Claire might be able to identify them, especially when it turns out she’s from their neighbourhood. And so MacRay takes it upon himself to follow her around, but, soon, he’s smitten and the pair start a relationship, his blue-collar criminal seeing in her a chance at redemption and a way out of his nefarious lifestyle. Only, quitting is never easy when armed robbery is in the blood and Pete Postlethwaite’s malicious mob boss is relying on you to keep the jobs coming in. Meanwhile, Jon Hamm’s hardnosed FBI agent is on the crew’s tail…

As director, Affleck’s style is efficient and unfussy but remarkably assured. He takes his time developing characters you care about, realising that without the human drama, the other stuff doesn’t work. The performances across the board are excellent, right down to Chris Cooper’s brief cameo as MacRay’s incarcerated bank robbing pop and Blake Lively as his white-trash flirty former flame.

Well crafted and well acted, The Town reveals Affleck’s gift not only with his actors but with action, too — there are several riveting, high-adrenaline set pieces, beginning with MacRay’s well-drilled crew taking down Hall’s bank and ending with an audacious robbery and shoot out at Fenway Park, that Michael Mann would be proud to call his own. It’s the kind of smart, stylish, entertaining and grown-up movie that the studios are making less and less of these days and which, on the strength of his first two films, Affleck is clearly very good at.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

When it rains it pours

Another day, another thunderstorm. After last week's washout on the Lido, today began with another torrential storm that drenched everyone on their way to see Ben Affleck's The Town (myself included) and then proceeded to pour into the press room, causing it to be shut down for the second time this festival.

Several journalists I spoke to after the film agreed that it sounded as if the rain was actually leaking into the cinema, the Sala Perla, during the screening itself, although, thankfully, not where I was sitting.

Still, at least, the film was a good one. I'll post a review soon, along with several others I've yet to get around to writing, among them Athina Rachel Tsangari intense and very moving Attenberg, Alex de la Iglesia's enjoyably grotesque and very bonkers Balada Triste de Trompeta (pictured above), and Takashi Miike's less violent but equally nuts Zebraman 2: Attack On Zebra City.

The latter is actually the first part of today's Miike double bill, with his 13 Assassins screening tonight...

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Venice 2010: Promises Written In Water

Several years ago, I was present at the now infamous Cannes screening of Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny, a film that brought hoots of derision and howls of laughter from a large number of those present. Gallo's latest effort behind the camera, which screened here yesterday as part of the Official Competition, makes The Brown Bunny look dynamic, action-packed and not that bad after all.

The opening credits of Promises Written In Water begin with the words “edited by Vincent Gallo”, and are followed by another that proclaims “music by Vincent Gallo” before the final credit announces the film to be: “written, directed and produced by Vincent Gallo.” All of which, inevitably, provoked a few titters from the audience.

Gallo also stars in this tale of Kevin (Gallo) who works as an undertaker, smokes a lot, drives around, eats, takes photos of corpses, has dinner with, talks to and shouts at a woman played by French model Delfine Bafort who, in turn, spends much of the film naked. And that’s about it.

Shot in murky black and white, in extremely long takes, with the camera often focusing solely on Gallo (there’s one five-minute shot which consists of him, in close up, smoking a cigarette, pacing his room, before sitting down and sighing loudly), it's clear Gallo's aiming to replicate the moody, melancholic, monochromatic atmospheric art movies of yesteryear, but what he ends up with resembles an ineptly made student film, and even with a running time of 73 minutes is interminable.


Posts that is, since I embarked on this particular venture back in 2007, and one that I felt deserved flagging up, if only to thank you all for your contributions thus far and to encourage you all to continue dropping by and joining in. Grazie.

Monday 6 September 2010

Venice 2010: I'm Still Here

Joaquin Phoenix

Casey Affleck’s “documentary” chronicling his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix’s retirement from acting to pursue a new career as a hip-hop musician is a perplexing beast, one that still has me scratching my head several hours after having seen it.

Going in, I was convinced all would be revealed as an elaborate ruse, a practical joke of sizeable proportions, a cunning critique and exposé of fame and celebrity culture in the 21st century. But, as the movie unfolds, your sense of what’s real, and what isn’t, and what exactly is the joke and on who is the joke being played, alters from moment to moment, scene to scene.

The movie begins with Phoenix’s proclaiming himself fed up of acting, tired of being “a puppet”, tired of his public persona as a tortured actor.

“I don’t want to play the character of Joaquin anymore,” he states. “Hate me or like me just don’t misunderstand me.” He wants to express his creativity through his music and bring “what’s inside me out”.

So far, so believable, but as Phoenix piles on the pounds, hides away behind long hair and a shaggy beard; tells his agent and publicist he’s quitting Hollywood; pursues P Diddy across America in an attempt to get him to produce his first album; “raps” in his home studio; engages in various frat house-style antics involving drugs, alcohol and setting hair alight with his buddies; orders up a pair of escorts from the internet and is filmed not only frolicking with them but using the breasts of one of them to partake of some, ahem, white powder; and verbally abuses his assistants, the joke ceases to be as funny anymore with Phoenix coming across as a self-centred, boorish, needy, deeply unpleasant individual and an obnoxious bore.

And by the time he appears on the David Letterman Show to promote his “last” movie role in Two Lovers and is virtually mute — to the host’s visible annoyance — or agrees to rap at a Miami nightclub, only to get into a fight with one member of the audience, you don’t quite know what to think any more. In fact, I’m still not sure what to make of the incident when Ben Stiller turns up at his home with the script for Greenberg to ask him to play the role of Ivan, and Phoenix slags him off to his face. Stiller’s reaction certainly looks real. (Maybe I’m being unkind and he’s a better actor than I give him credit for.) Later, Stiller shows up at the Oscars “doing a Joaquin” and wearing a beard and sunglasses.

Some moments definitely do feel staged — a disgruntled personal assistant defecating on Phoenix’s face, for instance — others less so, although the end credits claim the film to be “written and produced by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix” — and list the names of actors in various roles, including Tim Affleck as Phoenix’s father.

That being said, if it was all one big joke — and my gut tells me it is — then we really must applaud Phoenix’s Andy Kaufman-like transformation, and his ability to stay in character for close to a year and a half. That’s what I call dedication to the cause. And, if it really is all a performance, then it’s arguably deserving of some awards attention.

At the press conference that followed this morning’s press screening, Affleck wouldn’t be drawn on the veracity of his film, and danced around the various attempts to draw him out about what was real and what was faked, so as not to spoil it for an audience, he claimed, (which is an answer in itself), and when asked directly how he would answer claims that the film was a hoax, replied: “Elliptically.” There is no hoax, he continued. “The idea of a hoax makes me think of Candid Camera.”

He said he felt the film was “a very sympathetic portrait” of Phoenix and that “I feel for him and I understand him better than I did at the beginning.”

Phoenix himself wasn’t at the press conference, but was scheduled to appear on the red carpet for the official screening later today. One journalist spotted him on a plane from London described him as beardless and thin.

What did he think of the film, asked one Italian journalist?

“I think he’s trying to embrace [it],” said Affleck, “and I hope him will support it but in what capacity is up to him.”

So, truth or fiction? I suspect the answer will only be revealed when, or if, Phoenix starts acting again. And as someone who’s long admired his work, I hope so he does.

Certainly on the evidence of this film, he’s no great shakes at hip-hop.