Sunday, 28 February 2010

Film review: The Crazies (****)

The Crazies (Remake)
A surprisingly effective reboot of George A. Romero's 1973 political horror-thriller, Breck Eisner's gripping, edgy remake paints the small, farming community of Ogden Marsh, Iowa under siege from both its own residents, infected by the accidental distribution of a biochemical weapon in their water supply and transformed into violent psychopaths, and the US military who quarantine the town, leaving those inside — among them sheriff Timothy Olyhant and his pregnant doctor wife Radha Mitchell — to fend for themselves.

Both the script, by Ray Wright and Scott Kosar, and direction upscale the spectacle of the original, while maintaining the terror, with Eisner paying homage to Romero's picture by restaging several key scenes. Olyhant, Mitchell and England's own Joe Anderson as Olyhant's deputy lend the film emotional depth; the car wash and bedroom hostage sequences are genuinely nerve-wracking; while the apocalyptic denouement is wonderfully downbeat. An intense and serious shocker.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Alice In Wonderland press conference

I hosted the international press conference for Alice In Wonderland yesterday afternoon in London. Here's some of it...

New Nightmare trailer

Okay, so it looks like a very slick carbon copy of the original, but I have to say, I want to see this...
A Nightmare on Elm Street Trailer 2 in HD

Trailer Park Movies | MySpace Video

Alice In Wonderland world premiere

Yes it rained. Buckets. But I had a lot of fun last night. And enjoyed the film even more the second time.

Currently nursing a sore head. Only myself to blame. More later...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Alice at the British Library

Last night's event at the British Library turned out rather well. Will Self offered his own unique appreciation of Lewis Carroll's seminal work, and it was great to see the restored 1903 film version of Alice In Wonderland on the big screen, tinted and with piano accompaniment. But the highlights for me were readings from the text by Michael Sheen and Christopher Lee. The newly knighted Lee read from The Jabberwocky. While Sheen read from Down The Rabbit Hole and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Someone should get him to do an audio book of the entire thing, he was brilliant.

Here's a nice write up by Filmshaft.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tick tock

A Tron: Legacy countdown. To what, exactly, I don't know...

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser: The Genius Of Alice In Wonderland

Tomorrow night I shall be hosting a very special event at the British Library in London, home to the original manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Lewis Carroll's handwritten, hand-drawn manuscript that became Alice In Wonderland.

Celebrating Alice in words, conversation and film, there will be readings from Michael Sheen, Matt Lucas and Christopher Lee, an appreciation of Carroll's work by Will Self, a screening of the restored 1903 film version, plus a Q&A with Alice In Wonderland producers Richard Zanuck and Joe Roth, alongside Sheen, Lucas and Lee.

Original Manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground - Alice eats cake and grows tall (British Library)Images from Alice's Adventures Under Ground

A million dollar Superman

Issue one of Action Comics featuring Superman's first appearance has sold for one million bucks to an anonymous buyer on the auction website Comics Connect, smashing the previous record for a comic — $317,000 — set last year. All I can say is, it wasn't me...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty trailer

This has been doing the rounds for a while now but I only got to it today. Looks great though.

Lionel Jeffries, 1926-2010

I'm afraid to say the death of actor-director Lionel Jeffries passed me by last week and I only realised he'd died watching the BAFTAs yesterday evening. For me, he'll always be Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, although he also directed Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children.

BAFTA winners

Hooray for The Hurt Locker which pretty much swept the BAFTAs last night, winning six awards in total including Best Film and Best Director for Kathryn Bigelow. I was thrilled, too, with the wins for Colin Firth, Carey Mulligan, Up and A Prophet, although slightly surprised that, Mulligan part, An Education was snubbed. Great, too, to see an emotional Duncan Jones pick up the Carl Foreman Award for Moon.

As for the ceremony itself which I watched from the comfort of my own home, I was less wowed. Host Jonathan Ross' script could have done with a lift and some gags that were actually funny — me thinks James Corden might get his wish next year.

And what the heck was Mickey Rourke on about when he began by asking "Do you want me to do this bareback or wearing a raincoat?" I mean, I know what he was on about, but what did it have to do with presenting the Best Actress Award... Okay, now I get it.

Kudos to Colin Firth for the best speech of the night, although I thought the A Prophet gang ran a close second.

Best Film: The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Actor: Colin Firth, A Single Man
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet
Best Animated Film: Up
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up In The Air
Rising Star Award: Kristen Stewart
Best Production Design: Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg and Kim Sinclair, Avatar
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Best British Film: Fish Tank
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious
Best Makeup and Hair: Jenny Shircore, The Young Victoria
Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell, The Young Victoria
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker
Best Film Editing: Bob Murawski and Chris Innis, The Hurt Locker
Best Music: Michael Giacchino, Up
Best Sound: The Hurt Locker
Carl Foreman Award (Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer): Duncan Jones, Moon
Best Short Film: I Do Air
Best Animated Short: Mother Of Many
Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema: Joe Dunton

Sunday, 21 February 2010

BAFTA party & predictions

I was very lucky to go as a plus one to the BAFTA Nominees party last night at Aspreys in New Bond Street where I chatted with several of those up for awards tonight including A Prophet director Jacques Audiard who looked tres cool in his trademark trilby, the delightful directors of Up Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, the latter of whom recorded a special message on my iPhone in the voice of Doug the dog, Shifty writer-director Eran Creevy, Andy Serkis, Blockhead Chas Jankel, and Best Short Film nominee Asitha Ameresekere. I also talked football with Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and spotted An Education's Carey Mulligan, Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner, Precious director Lee Daniels and his leading lady Gabourey Sidibe, Rising Star nominees Nicholas Hoult — who I remember interviewing on the set of About A Boy; how he's grown! — and Tahar Rahim, as well as Coraline writer-director Henry Selick milling around.

As a BAFTA member, I get to vote in all categories as the nominations are whittled down through the long and short lists, but come the final round, the majority of the winners are chosen by committee, and members only get to vote in the main categories (Film, Actor, Actress, et al). However, this is my pick of the entire list...

Best Film: The Hurt Locker
Best British Film: An Education
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Best Actor: Colin Firth/Andy Serkis
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Waltz
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick
Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker
Best Adapted Screenplay: An Education
Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet
Best Animated Film: Up
Best Cinematography: The Road
Best Production Design: Inglourious Basterds
Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Best Music: sex & drugs & rock & roll
Best Sound: District 9
Best Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Make Up & Hair: The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus
Best Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer: Duncan Jones/Eran Creevy
Rising Star Award: Tahar Rahim
Best Short Film: 14
Best Animated Short: The Happy Duckling

Friday, 19 February 2010

Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Tonight I shall be moderating a Q&A with French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet following a preview screening of his latest movie, Micmacs, at the BFI Southbank. Jeunet was on good form on Wednesday night during a BAFTA Life In Pictures talk, and hopefully he'll be just as engaging and funny this evening.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Best performances of the decade

Yes, I've seen it. And yes, it's amazing

Regular readers will know to what I am referring. And regular readers will also know I said something very similar in regard to Sweeney.

London critics will see it tomorrow night and I'm sure they'll be rushing to post their reviews online asap, unless there's some kind of embargo in place. Which there may well be.

Also got to see the new Tron: Legacy trailer. In 3D...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Catching up

Telegraph Magazine: Alice In Wonderland

In case you missed it, here's my cover story for the Telegraph Magazine which ran on Saturday. It was a set visit to Alice In Wonderland...


... for the dearth of posts recently.

I have been on holiday. Which was nice.

But now I'm back, and normal service will be more or less resumed. Although, having said that, the next two weeks are pretty busy, what with the lead up to the Alice In Wonderland world premiere here in London next Thursday.

Anyway, more soon...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Time Out: Troubled History Of The Wolfman

I've written an article headlined "The troubled history of The Wolfman" for this week's Time Out which details the film's difficult production and includes quotes from many of those involved.

The article's not online yet — I'll link to it when it is — but you could always buy a copy to read. You know, like in the old days...

UPDATE: Here's the link.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Howling at the moon

How do you create the howl of the Wolfman? When I spoke to Wolfman director Joe Johnston I asked him.

Is it true that Kiss singer Gene Simmons is the voice of the Wolfman?

It’s partly true. Gene Simmons came in and did some howls for us that were amazing. He has this amazing voice and range and sustainability. He did these howls that went on and on and on, and we kept thinking he’s got to run out of breath any second, but he’s got this amazing lung capacity. He did some howls for us. They are then electronically enhanced and the sound people are working with them now, I’m not sure how much of the stuff that Gene Simmons did is still in the movie or will be in the movie, because you add things and change stuff — it’s a process of evolution. So it is true in the sense that he did some Wolfman howls for us.

Whose idea was it to use him?

We were looking for really interesting voices and people who could interpret what a sound might be with their own voice, and we showed him the scenes where he howls and said, What would you do? It’s an open mike, just do what you think is right. You have to start with something, you have to have a canvas to paint the howl onto with all kinds of electronic processing and enhancements and stuff. I forget who had the original idea but we said, let’s see what some of these rockers can do, you know. And it was interesting, it was lot of fun because these guys, having had the careers they’ve had, they’ve thousands of stories to tell.

Who else did you get in?

We did David Lee Roth and another couple whose names I don’t remember. We also did an opera singer. We did a woman who was a singer. We did some babies. We used all kinds of different sounds as places to start from to build these bizarre sounds. Oddly enough, the one thing you don’t want it to sound like is a wolf, you want it to be a human interpretation of what that wolf howl would be, and it’s still evolving. What you want it to be is that sound that tingles your spine when you hear it, when he’s howling from the rooftop in London, you want it to be these really eerie, bloodcurdling sound.

The Wolfman: Benicio Del Toro Q&A

You’re a huge fan of The Wolf Man and horror movies in general, aren’t you?

I’m a fan of those old horror movies, especially the Universal horror movies from the 30s, so that’s where it all started in a way. When I was a kid those movies ran on TV and my cousins liked them and as a kid I grew up looking at those movies.

Do you have a favourite wolfman/werewolf?

Like them all, even Michael Landon, I Was A Teenage Werewolf. That was a cool werewolf, too. Oliver Reed, Curse of The Werewolf is fantastic. I’m a fan of all of them. I think they all have their cool stuff, the actors are great, I couldn’t pick one necessarily. Of course you’d go with the Lon Chaney Jr one because it’s the first one, like really the first one, and the makeup was amazing. So I go with that one because it’s the original one but that doesn’t take away from Curse Of The Werewolf which is a Hammer Film. I’m a fan of those Hammer Films, Christopher Lee, I like all those horror movies, I don’t know why, I was introduced to them when I was a kid and they always have an element of being completely misunderstood, all those monsters.

Did any of those monsters inspire you? Did you take anything from them and put it into your performance?

I think yeah… not so much premeditated. It wasn’t like I’m going to do the Boris Karloff thing now. But unconsciously I think I borrow from all of them, from Bela Lugosi to Lon Chaney father, to Oliver Reed, Lon Chaney Jr, even from the Creature From The Black Lagoon I’m sure I borrowed something.

Tell me how your involvement with The Wolfman started.

I have this poster in my house, it’s an old poster of the Lon Chaney Wolf Man, in a room in the house, and [my manager Rick Yorn] came in and saw it and we were going, Let’s propose this to Universal. And we took it to Universal, I had a beard, my hair was long, I don’t think they immediately tyecast it. It worked for me, I guess.

Had they been trying to remake this already?

I don’t think so, because there was no script, we started from scratch basically. It’s a remake of the original using that one as a frame but I don’t think they were working on a remake of The Wolf Man per se. I know that they’ve been trying to do the Creature and there’s been talks about Frankenstein. I’d love to see what they come up with.

Was it always your intention to remake it as a period film?

The original was set in some weird time, you don’t know if it’s Victorian England or turn of the century or is it in the 30s, you don’t know really, because at the beginning there is a car, after that you never see the car again, so I thought it would be complicated to do a werewolf and cars around, or telephones, if you wanted to update it. It’s been done anyways with Wolf in a way, the Jack Nicholson film, Mike Nichols, which is great for what it is. But I thought we wanted to stick to the fantasy more, the fantasy original feeling of those horror movies from the 30s, like turn of the century, before the era of the machine. I thought it would make it more… easier to make believe in some ways. But I think it was [screenwriter] Andrew Kevin Walker who took it down to Victorian England.

Let’s talk about you becoming The Wolfman and the choice of Rick Baker to do the makeup.

He’s the big monster guy, he knows all that stuff, he knows those movies back and forth, he knows the makeup artists that did those classic Universal movies. I think the Frankenstein face is one of the most recognised images in the world, the Boris Karloff head, kids that have never seen the movie might even know that’s Frankenstein.

Rick said you knew your stuff, and you’d bring copies of Famous Monsters into the makeup trailer.

What happens in the trailer stays in the trailer [laughs]. Rick is an encyclopedia man. I’m the magazine version. He’s an artist, he’s a true artist of makeup, he’s incredible. He’s at the level of the guys back in the day who were doing like the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Wolfman. He’s at that level. Jack Pearce work as a makeup artist created some of the most iconic images in the world, they’ve been around for 70 years and still holding strong, up there with Mickey Mouse. That was the makeup. I’m sure the actor and the director were involved in some of these decisions, it was amazing work and Rick Baker is at that level, amazing work, he’s got all his hardware he’s earned over the years, he’s truly fantastic, and a pleasure to work with. I became his canvas, so he went around with his team, he had a great team, and they just painted on my face. That was fun, sitting in that chair for three and a half hours, sometimes four, and seeing this thing develop as they put it together. That was fun. The hard part was taking it off. Oh man. Everybody’s going home. Even Rick sometimes went home and I was just sitting there and they’re peeling stuff from my face for a good two hours, scraping it out, it can get like annoying and you’ve got to meditate like a little bit.

You were insistent your Wolfman look like the Jack Pearce makeup?

Rick and I, when we met, it was like we were thinking on the same page and I think that established a camaraderie that we kept that we had in that makeup trailer. I just felt like it would be cool to go that way. Much respect to those actors back in the day because the actual instruments that they use were very different, now its probably nothing compared to what Boris Karloff went through or Lon Chaney Jr went through or Bela Lugosi went through. But our idea was to keep it in that old school mode, that was going to be fun to go that way.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Born Into Brothels

Six years ago I was invited to be on the jury for the Bermuda Film Festival, and was asked to judge the documentary strand. The winner was Born Into Brothels, which had earlier played at Sundance where it picked up the Audience Award, and the following year Zana Briski and Ross Kaufman's film was the very worthy recipient of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Born Into Brothels is a truly special film, a moving and very emotional portrait a group children living in Calcutta's red light district where their mothers are prostitutes, who were taught photography by Briski. On the back of the film, Briski and Kaufman set up the Kids With Cameras Foundation, initially raising funds by selling photographs taken by the brothel kids. The foundation has since undertaken several other similar projects around the world. The most talented of the initial brothel children was a boy called Avijit. His photographs were outstanding — I have one hanging in my hallway — and he has since moved to New York where he's currently studying film. I have no idea while the BBC choose to feature his story on its website yesterday, but it was heartening to see how well he's done. If you haven't seen Born Into Brothels, you should. And if you feel inclined to help Kids With Cameras, you can find out more details of their work here.

When Elfman met Burton

Interview magazine had the inspired idea of getting Danny Elfman to interview Tim Burton. You can read the result here.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Alice Superbowl spot

Oh so brief, but there's a glimpse of Alice fighting the Jabberwocky...

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Alice In Wonderland BFI Season

To coincide with the March 5 release of Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland, the BFI Southbank asked me to program a season of Alice films. Running from March 5-17, the season features Alice (1965), Dennis Potter's TV drama (pictured above) that was the template for Gavin Millar's remarkable Dreamchild which is also showing, along with Paramount's little-seen 1933 Alice In Wonderland which stars Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and WC Fields, among others, Jan Svankmajer's creepy Alice (1988), Jonathan Miller's BBC production and the 1949 Anglo-French Alice Wonderland (pictured below) which is perhaps the most faithful adaptation to date.

I had hoped to include the 1903 Cecil Hepworth version but it's been restored by the BFI and will be shown separately. Here it is, anyway.

Click here for all the details of the season and how to order tickets.

Alice In Wonderland (1933)

''I'm sorry you had to see me like that''

Did you love Lost's opening two-parter with the flash-sideways and parallel timeline and the big reveal that the Fake Locke aka the Man In Black is actually the Smoke Monster? 

Yeah, me too... 

And continuing the French theme


Fango follow up

Following on from my elegy the other day, it seems that Fangoria has a new editor; Chris Alexander replacing Tony Timpone. So maybe the end isn't so nigh.

And with the Fango website down, managing editor Michael Gingold has started a news blog.

Friday, 5 February 2010


Que regardent-ils?

Nightbreed: Director's Cut

Many, many moons ago, I spent several weeks on the set of Clive Barker's Nightbreed, co-writing the making of book with former Fear editor John Gilbert.

The book didn't turn out quite as we wanted it to, in much the same way as the released version of the film didn't end up being the hymn to the monstrous that Barker had originally planned. Publishing deadlines meant the book had to be delivered before the movie was finished principal photography (don't even ask), and there were many behind-the-scenes issues we weren't at liberty to document (politics, politics).

Needless to say, I was delighted to see that someone had found Barker's 145-minute work print and even more delighted to see that it's being screened at the Horrorhound Convention on March 27 in Indianapolis, hopefully in advance of a DVD/Blu-ray release.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Fangoria RIP?

For more than 30 years Fangoria has been the number one name in reporting on the horror genre. No more. Apparently.

I say apparently, because no one seems to know for sure. Articles started appearing on the net yesterday, discussing its demise, articles which seemed to confirm what many of us who wrote for the magazine had been feeling for some time — that the magazine was in trouble and the end was nigh. The Fangoria website had been down for more than a week which wasn't a good sign. Added to that, there was the fact that some contributors haven't been paid for months...

It's such a shame. As a schoolboy, I remember reading the first few issues in a newsagents near where I lived, not believing the bloody nature of the photos. I started buying it regularly from around issue 16, and when I started writing for a living, it was one of three magazines I wanted to write for. (Another was Premiere, which I did, and that sadly has also gone the way of the dodo.)

My first piece for Fangoria was on a movie called The Refrigerator. I wrote about Dust Devil, Branagh's Frankenstein, 28 Weeks Later, Sleepy Hollow, and Blade 2 among many others. I had several cover stories and even appeared on the cover once, much to my surprise.

Fangoria never paid well. I remember being shocked at how little their rate was when I received my first cheque but I, like many others down the years, did it because we loved the magazine, and because editor Tony Timpone and managing editor Michael Gingold are two very nice guys. I had written very little for the magazine in recent times, and once the cheques started being late, I was less and less inclined to.

I received the February 2010 issue in the post last week. It has my cover story on The Wolfman. Will that be the last ever issue of Fangoria? Who knows. I sincerely hope not...

Lebanon poster

I raved about Samuel Maoz's Lebanon when it played at the Venice Film Festival and UK audiences can get a chance to see what I was on about when the film opens here in May. Empire has the exclusive on the UK quad.

File under stuff

James Cameron with His Fusion 3-D cameraLone Scherfig with Carey Mulligan

Kathryn Bigelow with Jeremy Renner
Annie Leibovitz shoots directors for Vanity Fair.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Continuing the who missed out theme...

No Matt Damon for The Informant! Ditto Marvin Hamlisch's score.

Nothing for Moon.

No Best Original Screenplay nomination for (500) Days Of Summer.

Nothing for Bright Star's leading man and lady and DP.

Oh well.

Oscar nominations

Great news for The Hurt Locker and An Education although I fear there won't be too many surprises come the awards themselves.

Very pleased to see Up up for Best Film as well as Best Animated FIlm and Best original Screenplay, and A Prophet getting nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category although it deserved more than that IMHO. But no Star Trek for Best Film as many were predicting, and nothing for A Single Man apart from Colin Firth's Best Actor nom. How that missed out on Best Cinematography I shall never know. And no love this year for Roger Deakins. What does he need to do to win?

Avatar tied with The Hurt Locker on nine nominations, although I was pleased to see Up In The Air and District 9 doing well, too, with the latter picking up Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Visual Effects nominations. Precious, too, did rather well.

Continue reading for the full list...

Vanity Fair New Hollywood issue

What else is there to say apart from it's nice to see Carey Mulligan, Mia Wasikowska and Rebecca Hall on there. Here's the Vanity Fair story.

David Brown, 1916-2010

Gregory Peck starred in "MacArthur" in 1977, which was produced by Brown and Zanuck, right.
Although I never met David Brown, the Oscar-winning producer of The Sting, Jaws, and Cocoon who has died aged 93, I knew him by reputation. He was known as a gentlemen producer and together with his good friend and producing partner Richard Zanuck, the pair had great taste in material, a nose for talent and exhibited a real passion for movies and people. Here's the LA Times' tribute.

Monday, 1 February 2010

He made my day

Spent some time in the company of Clint Eastwood yesterday and it was a thrill. I've been doing this job for a good many years and have met and/or interviewed nearly everyone I admire. But, until yesterday, I'd never been in a room with Clint who I've been watching onscreen since I was a boy and who holds a special place in my cinematic heart. I sat next to him for almost an hour, chairing a press conference for Invictus (he was there with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, both of whom I've interviewed before). He may be 80 this year, but he's still most definitely the man.