Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Best Films Of 2006

Here is my list of 2006's ten best films. At least, of the ones I've been lucky enough to see. I'll wrap things up with a couple of additional lists: films I didn't see that would have, otherwise, made it onto this list I think; and films that were pretty darn good but didn't make the ten, with special reference to a few derided films that didn't deserve all of the stick.

We'll start at number ten and work up the list, I think. I reserve the right to edit this should my awful memory remind me of a great film that, somehow, I overlooked (I suppose that's
kind of cheating).

I'm not going to go into my reasons that much here - if you're a regular reader, you'll already know; if not, you most likely don't care.

10.
The Break-Up

Peyton Reed is one of American studio cinema's secret weapons, like Peter Chelsom, Joseph Ruben, Audrey Wells or Richard LaGravanese. Every one of his films has been smart, very well crafted and undervalued.

9.
Where the Truth Lies

Atom Egoyan understands Hitchcock better than most other contemporary directors, learning from his more subtle techniques but not aping his more obvious stylings. A rich, complex film.

8.
The Queen

Peter Morgan's
Longford script was better on paper, but The Queen was the better crafted film. And, in fact, Helen Mirren was better in the final Prime Suspect but... hang on. I'm having a moment of doubt here. Maybe TV is better than cinema after all...

7. Pan's Labyrinth

The most overrated film on this list, Pan's Labyrinth has much in common with the films at positions 2 and 1, particularly 1 but simply isn't as sophisticated or as well constructed. Not to say it isn't extremely well constructed. Another astonishing film from Guillermo del Toro - though it is reputed to be much better than his others, it simply is isn't. They're wonderful, every one.


6. Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Michel Gondry showed an entire skillset he hadn't flexed publicly before in what was, essentially, a documentary. Wonderfully judged, perfectly paced and - this year at least - unparallelled in creating a roof-raising atmosphere.

5.
Cars

Perhaps the most handsome film ever committed to celluloid,
Cars faced innumerable cinematic challenges head on and overcame them all with great invention and imagination. Case in point: the body of the car being immediately, and without question, accepted as a stand-in for both the 'body' and 'head' of a living being, at times shifting from one to the other in a single frame. This kind of design solution is the genius that sets Pixar apart from all other studios.

4.
Children of Men

Forrest Gump was, until now, the most intelligent and visually perfected example of computer effects in film - but not anymore: what Alfonso Cuaron imagined, his FX and camera teams bought vividly (sometimes, seemingly impossibly) to life. Children of Men is a simply structured film, walking a fine line between parable and a sci-fi slice-of-life, but on the clean, driving story hang a wealth of astute character moments, tense suspense scenes and questions that deserve careful consideration.

3.
Hostel

A wonderful union of populist crowd-pleasing and onion-skinned satire,
Hostel was for some months the most impressive film I'd seen this year. I'm certain that this movie will be considered a classic - both widely and very seriously - in the years to come. Hostel is not only a film with a lot of brilliantly dramatised ideas, it is a film that targets the audiences that both need to hear these ideas most and also those who will be most responsive to them (two very different audiences, mind) with pin-point accuracy - a bit like Borat, actually.

2.
Little Miss Sunshine

Simply, a masterpiece of mise-en-scene, editing and fuss-free, elegant, eloquent visual storytelling. The cast are wonderful, the script is witty but most of all, the film works best as a full, finished film. Dayton and Faris have blown me away with their sense of composition, camera and montage. Not a popular appraisal, I know, but watch it again, and pay close attention.

1.
Tideland

Sophisticated, rich, bold and brilliantly built, Tideland is Gilliam's best film since Brazil and one of the very few best films I have ever seen. Being this unpredictable can have costs to a film's integrity
, but not here: no matter where we go with Jeliza Rose, no matter how Gilliam takes his next slice into the film's subtext, it's all part of one incredible argument, one amazing, but coherent world view. A Vertigo for this age.

I've got lots more to say about Tideland in the next couple of weeks, as the DVD release draws near.

The following films could easily have made the list:
Brick, Superman Returns, Borat, Rumour Has It, Breakfast on Pluto, Syriana, The Dark, Volver, Angel-A, Monster House, Thank You For Smoking, Casino Royale; and these films were far from bad - in fact, really rather good - just not anything particularly 'special': The Hills Have Eyes, The Night Listener, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, Match Point, Sophie Scholl, Factotum.

In fact,
Casino Royale was perhaps my favourite film of the year - simply as I expected much, much less. This year's 40 Year Old Virgin.

Here are the films I missed which I suspect could
maybe have made the list (from what I know of them, or of their cast and crew's previous work, maybe from their coverage in the press): The Science of Sleep, Duck Season, Satellite, Don't Come Knocking, Bubble, The Illusionist, The Last King of Scotland, Edmond, The Puffy Chair, Art School Confidential, The Boss of it All, The Host, Lunacy, Stick It, Half Nelson, Find Me Guilty, The Fountain, A Scanner Darkly.

This last section is for films that I found somewhat lacking, though many were rather well received elsewhere:
Tzameti, Ellie Parker, Snakes on a Plane, Running Scared, Hard Candy, Nacho Libre, Lucky Number Slevin, Firewall, Talladega Nights, Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

I am disappointed with the low number of films from beyond the US and UK film industries in my top 10 list for the year, but this is more a result of the distribution patterns and the films offered to me than any personal taste. Looking back at the films of 2006 in, say, 2008, once I have been able to see and appreciate a larger range of films, I am certain that any list I might make would be very different. For sure, a great number of the films on an "all-time list" I might make would not be in the English language, though still, truth be told, not a majority, just a far bigger minority. Again, distribution factors are largely to blame, I'm sure (though, in fact, I
would argue that more great films have been made in Hollywood than any other specific film industry, both recently and back during the 'heyday' of the studio system - but that's a discussion for another time).

Sledge's Anticipated 2007 Films

[EDIT: The below is the work of Sledge. Sledge is not me - Brendon Connelly. I know this has confused many of you before. Pay attention at the back of the class]

Here are a few of the main films I'm looking forward to seeing in 2007.

Hot Fuzz
The follow up to
Shaun of the Dead. If it's half as good as the rom-zom-com, then it should be very good indeed. I cannot wait.

Grind House
The
Tarantino/Rodriguez zombie/slasher fest. Planet Terror and Death Proof are the names of the two feature length parts.

The Simpsons Movie

It's being written by eleven of the television series' most prolific writers. I've been waiting ten years for this moment. I think this may be the film event of the year. This and
Spiderman 3 of course.

American Gangster

Ridley Scott's biopic of Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas. It will star both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

Benjamin Button
The film directed by
David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story of the same name where a man falls in love while growing younger each year. Very Gondry.
[EDIT: Very Gondry? What? I'd have gone for very bad, myself]


Sin City 2

Not sure if this'll be released in 2007. If it is, great.
[EDIT: Not a chance. In fact, I doubt we'll ever see it]

Fantastic Mr Fox
Roald Dahl's book comes to life via stop motion with
Wes Anderson at the helm. You know the story. A clever fox constantly outwits three evil farmers who are angry at him for eating their produce. Could be be interesting to see on the big screen.
[EDIT: No chance of seeing this in 2007 either]

My Name is Bruce
Directed, co-produced, co-written and starring
Bruce Campbell. I'm sold. The plot revolves around the lead playing himself, who after being mistaken by fans to be Ash from the Evil Dead films, is abducted to fight against real monsters. Genius.

Be Kind Rewind

Jack Black plays a guy who gets accidentally magnetized. He then unintentionally wipes every tape in a mate's video shop. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal customer, an old demented woman, the two guys set out to remake the lost films, which include Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, The Lion King, and Robocop. Very Gondry - well, he is the director.

It looks like 2007 will be yet another great year for movies. Obviously there's loads more that could be on this list. Feel free to add them in your comments. Happy New Year.

[EDIT: Happy new year, Sledge. My list of 2007 films to look forward to is coming in a few days... first, I have to get my 2006 look back up]

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Kisses On A Postcard

Kisses on a Postcard is the new name for Terence Frisby's musical about his youth as an evacuee, or vacky, during World War II. Currently, fundraising is afoot in order to get the musical mounted in the West End.

Looking at the official site, I found a short series of clips from a previous production; a production that was filmed by myself. Take a look - not so much to see a few snippets of my handiwork, more to get an idea of the musical. Kisses on a Postcard has got a great book, and with some better music and sufficient investment, could very well end up a bit of a smash.

Here's hoping, anyway. Terence Frisby is an undervalued writer - these days, at least.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Nanni Moretti Lasts Two Days As Turin Fest Director

Only two days after being appointed the director of the Turin film festival, Nanni Moretti has stood down. According to the Associated Press, Moretti has cited "an atmosphere of tension" as his reason for departing the post.

Of course, this tension has proven to be overtly political - Moretti's film The Caiman, a fictionalised strike at Silvio Berlusconi, was released just days before last April's elections. To a casual observer, this simply suggests that the resulting 2007 Turin Festival - seemingly sanctioned by the right wing critics who caused Moretti these troubles - is going to end up rather politically biased, and undeniably so. Will it atttract a lot of political commentary in it's coverage?

[EDIT: And here's the line with which Moretti resigned:
"With great pain I give up the job and leave you to your... personal grudges.” Brilliant]

Paying For It

It was 111 years ago today that the first ever paying audience assembled to watch a film together. The screening, held at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, was of La Sortie des usines Lumière or, in English, The Exit from the Lumière Factory. Of course, films had been seen before then, and in groups, but the practice of shelling out to sit down and check out a movie was born that day.

It's been a few days since I paid to see a film myself - Night at the Museum on Boxing Day. Tomorrow, I think I'll be doing it again - Miss Potter, most likely, possibly as well as or just instead of The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D, which I've been putting off for a few weeks, for one reason or another. I know I'm part of a dying breed - and in fact, in the last couple of years, my cinemagoing has cooled off considerably (not because I don't want to see, or pay for, the films being released, but for other, personal, ancillary reasons). I wish I could go much more regularly.

All the same, I think that ticket prices are criminally high and that this is, pretty much alone, the reason that cinema admissions are tumbling. Sure, home cinema screens are getting bigger, new iterations of digital disc media offer better and better picture quality and your own armchair is likely to be more comfortable to you than anything at the multiplex but the group atmosphere in a decent sized audience and the build-up of heading to a specific location for a specific showtime can really give the experience a boost.

And it is an experience. Imagine trying to read a good book in the middle of a nightclub, or eat a good meal from your lap on the back seat of a bumpy double decker bus - I can find trying to watch a film at home a little too like this, at times.

Some cinemas are getting it more right than others. Take, for example, the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Place, central London. The seats are comfortable enough, the projection is always of a decent standard, the selection of films is varied - and I mean that in the best possible sense - and the staff are more than proficient in their ticket retailing and tearing and customer greeting duties. What makes the Prince Charles really work, though, is the pricing.

Say I want to go next Wednesday. The films they are showing are Zidane, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Little Miss Sunshine and Red Road. More than likely something for you in that little lot. If I want to sit and see all four back-to-back, how much will it cost me?

At most, £14. At the nearest cinema, I'd be spending over £10 to see just one film (and out here, in Oxford, that's two normally-priced, £7 tickets) and the Prince Charles total could be as low as £9 for members of the cinema's loyalty scheme (I became a lifetime member for £15).

If I lived in London, I'd surely be one of the Prince Charles' most regular customers. As it is, I still scan ahead on their listings, on the lookout for a double, triple or quadruple bill that will make the trip to London worth it. Thankfully, they're fairly common.

So, paying for it is 111 years old... but what happens now? I'll speculate a little. Why not?

Cinema going will either become (relatively speaking) much more expensive, or much less so. I don't know which, wouldn't like to hazard a guess. Ticket prices could soar to around the £20 mark quite easily, making the 'theatrical experience' more akin to an... er... theatrical experience. With the great unwashed settling for DVDs at home and the big screen experience pushed towards (at least) the middle classes, what will that do for the blockbuster industry?

Or perhaps ticket prices will drop and the box office will swing upwards again. This one is what I'm hoping for.

Either way, it isn't hard to imagine that so-called independent or specialist interest films will be pulling in as much cinema business as the bigger budget fare before long. Furthermore, it is isn't inconceivable that the next generation of blockbusters will be made for and marketed to a more affluent audience so that, say, Miss Potter may become the model of big studio films, instead of Ghost Rider.

Kavalier And Clay Escape Stephen Daldry

Coming Soon and Superhero Hype have reported the lucky escape of Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay from Billy Elliot and The Hours director Stephen Daldry.

They quote Ben Whishaw saying "I think it's not happening now. I think it's been sort of put to one-side for a little while. It all fell apart, which is such a shame." We can take shame to mean relief.

I was lucky to see a sharp Woolf bigorapher tear Daldry and The Hours apart at a screening of the film around the time of it's release. She didn't even have to mention the most misguided prosthetic in modern cinema - and she didn't stick to the Woolf bio material in the film either.

Hopefully this all means that Kavalier and Clay will end up with a director they deserve: might I suggest Terry Gilliam?

Silent Rumours Dispelled

With a quick post to his blog, Neil Gaiman has crashed the rumour that he'll be writing Silent Hill 2 with Roger Avery. Not a bad piece of news, there are much better collaborators than Avery or directors than Christophe Gans for Gaiman to work with.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fuzz Update

The Hot Fuzz website has been updated with some fun things to play with, and the odd bit of new information. Hopefully, the updates will continue for the remaining handful of weeks before us Brits can see it, and laugh at our American cousins who will now have to wait until late March.

Think About Disney

Talking to Yahoo, Alex de Iglesia has revealed the film he hopes to make after completing The Oxford Murders. Sounding like a rather difficult, off-kilter nightmare, Think About Disney details the existential crises of a man who 'discovers the true essence of the world around him and lives a hell of his own creation. The only salvation he finds comes through thinking about cartoon characters.'

Though it isn't mentioned, it seems certain that any film with this synopsis would include some Roger Rabbit, Mary Poppins or (more accurately, perhaps) Cool World animation/live action blending. Seems like the technique is undergoing something of a renaissance, with Enchanted and The Animated American also on the cards for the next couple of years. Will they become as prevalent as CG was this year?

Probably not. Though I do think the motion capture filmmaking of Monster House and Beowulf is going to become more and more common, eventually blending seemlessly with 'traditionally' shooting and very probably forming the new norm.

Two Brave Ones



These are two new stills from Neil Jordan's revenge/vigilante thriller, The Brave One, courtesy of Horror-Movies.ca. They also have a slightly more detailed synopsis than I'd seen before.

Take this as a preview of my upcoming 2007 preview - I'm certainly betting that
The Brave One is going to be great.

LaGravanese Coming Soon

A new interview with Freedom Writers' writer-director Richard LaGravanese has appeared on Coming Soon. As well as discussing his Jan 5 release he also talks about a number of upcoming projects, one of which appears to be some time off.

Here's what he says about Terry Gilliam's long-gestating The Defective Detective:
There's no status, we're just still trying. There's another draft that we have and we're still trying to push it through the system. I mean, you know it's a very ambitious project, probably cost more than anything else, but for years it's always been about 'the star the star the star', who's in it? But nowadays I feel that there's actually more possibilities. There are more funding people out there, the studio system is sort of changing. I know. I still have faith in it, he's not so sure. His heart's gotten broken a few times.

LaGravanese also responds to the possibility of the film being turned into a comic-book, or being made as an animated film.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sorry Silver Surfer Sequence

The new Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer trailer is made up of a single action sequence, not the typical series of flashes, brief beats and "highlights" that make up the majority of trailers. Does the approach work?

Well, not in this case. A trailer can pretty much reveal how a film has been put together at a visual level, and give you a solid idea of the mise-en-scene employed - a full scene trailer like this gives away even more. You get a solid idea of the film's montage style, of the director's capabilities with screen direction and geography, short-term pacing and sequence development. Sadly, if the news is bad, the trailer is going to linger as evidence.

Performing an analysis of a trailer like this is like having a whole heart to biopsy, not just a few cells from under the fingernails, a scraggly hair and some bloody saliva. Both types of sample will contain the dna, the whole organ will provide even more information, more rapidly, and require a less rigorous process of interrogation in order to decode any number of the whole film's secrets.

Of course, you may not agree that film can be seen this way. But it can.

The new Fantastic Four film, now definitively revealed to have action scenes as perfunctorily conceived and crafted as the original (though they might be, very possibly, more numerous or expansive), will be released in the summer.

Walsh, Coens, Mamoulian And Soderbergh Added To US National Film Registry

A list of this year's 25 additions to the National Film Registry (of America, that is) has been run in Variety, and it is a mixed bunch. Of course.

sex, lies and videotape and Fargo are the two higher-profile, recently-made additions, and I love them both dearly (though not as much as the same directors' Solaris and The Man Who Wasn't There, say). A couple of my favourite directors from the first 50 years of cinema scored a film each, too - Rouben Mamoulian's debut Applause taking a seat alongside Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail. I suspect John Wayne's inclusion secured Big Trail a slot, while Applause probably got the nod because of an overall affection for the whole backstage-musical subgenre.

The obligatory Hitchcock was Notorious. Hurrah!

Note that Halloween was also included - and rightly so, it's an A+ graded, bonafide masterpiece of the highest order. I wonder if Rob Zombie's remake will ever be so honoured...

Well, actually, no, I don't wonder that at all. If I'm being honest, I'm sure it won't be.

The Library of Congress are now charged with ensuring these films remain well preserved for all future generations. Hopefully the folk at Criterion Eclipse will take the hint and know where to find some decent prints that won't suffer from their skimping on the remastering.

Spike Lee Settles Into Warm Chair

Now that James Brown has passed on and can no longer cash in on his outrageous dance moves, infectious grooves and eccentric character, somebody else is going to be able to.

Spike Lee has already announced that he now intends to film a James Brown biopic, even though filming won't begin for at least a full year. What on earth could his motivation for announcing the film now be? Does anybody find this a little bit tasteless?

I suppose some will argue that the announcement is a kind of tribute. Hmmmm.

Brian Grazer, predictably enough, will produce. I nominate Harvey Keitel for a cameo as Larry Cohen.

Uma Thurman Has Broken Her Wrist

Two Kill Bills down and nary a scratch, then Uma Thurman incurs a broken wrist on the set of The Accidental Husband? Hardly seems fair, does it?

Production of the movie has gone on hold for a week - and at a convenient time of year too - while Uma heals at home. I'm sure it won't turn out that her co-stars Colin Firth or Isabella Rossellini tripped her up just to get a few more days off at Christmas... will it?

Mr. Myers

Every site in the world has reported, over my Xmas break, that Tyler Mane has been cast as Michael Myers in the Rob Zombie Halloween. Now you've had a couple of days for that to sink in, let me know: what do you think of this bit of casting?

What I really want to know is: will Shatner still provide the rubbery visage? Will it be an older, blubbier Shatner?

Elijah Woods Is Coming To Town

The Hollywood Reporter have named Elijah Wood as an addition to Alex de la Iglesia' The Oxford Murders. Wood will be shooting here, in Oxford, from late January.

The film is a murder mystery headed up John Hurt as a brilliant, doubtlessly eccentric, mathematics professor. If the mystery is a good one, fits together logically and doesn't cheat, we'll be looking at a real winner here.

I'll keep my eye on this one. Local advantage.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Toy Robot For Christmas


Tformers scanned the cover to the new issue of Empire; geeks melted. Go over there to see the full-scale version.

[EDIT: See it better it at Empire's own site]

Even More Halloween Business

Danielle Harris has reportedly won the 'lead role' in Rob Zombie's Halloween remake. Fangoria broke the story, but were not clear if this lead role was Laurie Strode by name, or simply by nature.

Harris has a number of animation voice over credits on her resume, as well as the odd bit of slasher fare - including two of the weaker Halloween sequels.

Kenny Beats Clark


The biggest selling DVD in Australia this Christmas - beating Superman Returns into second place at a reported ratio in excess of 3:1 - is the homegrown 'dramatised documentary', Kenny.

I guess I'll have to import this if I want to see it any time soon. The titular Kenny is a portaloo provider and amateur philosopher, and apparently offers up countless quotable gags. Seems like a comfy Sunday afternoon at the very least.

If you've seen it, let me know more in the comments below.

Jimmy Stewart And Conan O'Brien Have A Pale Force Christmas

The special Xmas episode of Jim Gaffigan's Pale Force can now be streamed in it's entirety and the world can, at last, find out how history would have been different if Conan O'Brien was tanned.

Fake News About Fake Trailers?

Horror Movies are running some little bits and pieces about the fake trailers Rob Zombie and Eli Roth have shot for Grind House, and I'm not sure I believe it all - despite really wanting to.

According to their report, Rob Zombie's fake trailer is for Werewolf Women of the S.S and features (please, please, please let this be true) Nic Cage as Fu Manchu. On the downside, I guess that puts Patricia Arquette out of the running for a turn as Ilsa.

More plausible - and in fact, true - is the news that Roth's fake film is called Thanksgiving and will be very, very messy indeed.

Malcolm McDowell Is Loomis

Rob Zombie has announced on his My Space page that Malcolm McDowell has won the role of Loomis in the upcoming Halloween remake.

Here's a parlor game you and your geekier family members can play this 'holiday season': Name an actor relegated to B-movie semi-obscurity (in this case, McDowell) and argue out which was their last good role, and if they'll ever have a good role again. Might I suggest Aidan Quinn, Sam Neill and Isabella Rosellini for a few rounds too.

We'll have to see if Loomis is the comeback McDowell is worthy of.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Terry Gilliam's Immortal Storyteller

Phil Stubbs' Dreams website has run a wee scoop on another new Terry Gilliam project. Phil found out from a mysterious informant called 'Dave' that Terry Gilliam has given an interview to Creativity magazine, and in this interview, he talked up the script that he is currently working on.

All Dave told was that the film was "about somebody with eternal life
who's basically a storyteller, but the world has moved on and his brand of storytelling is of no interest" - which was immediately greeted by visitors to the Dreams messageboard as having autobiographical roots in the great director's life. I take issue with any assertion that Gilliam's storytelling is in any way out of date or irrelevant, and sadly, I think he's somewhat less than immortal.

A new Gilliam project from an original story, not a literary adaptation, is a very exciting prospect. Fingers crossed.

[EDIT: Of course, Gilliam already made a film about a storyteller with eternal life who was finding his stories rejected more and more often -
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Why I didn't add this to the post in the first place, I do not know]

Johnny Depp To Play Freddie Mercury

Poodly Queen guitarist Brian May has revealed that a movie about the band is on the cards, and that Johnny Depp is a 'top choice' to play Freddie Mercury. Well, to be precise, what May said was "Discussions are at an early stage. Johnny Depp is fantastic. He would be a worthy counterpart for Freddie on screen."

I dare say this is the first Johnny has heard on the subject, but who knows? Somehow, I wouldn't be surprised to see Robbie Williams take the part in a bit of stunt casting.

Black Snake Leak

bigscreenlittlescreen Ted (not to be confused with either Big Ted or Little Ted of Playschool fame) has popped up an apparently-leaked Black Snake Moan trailer, and personally, I found it quite persuasive, thank you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Official Grind House Site Live

The official Grind House site is live now - and is the (late arriving) winner for my movie website of the year award.

If you're exploring the site, here are my tips to get you started... click on the marquee to get to the theatre doors. Click on the right hand one to enter. Now, in the foyer, bypass Kurt Russel and the girls to go right into the gents' loos. Here you can open the box with the big red button inside. Hit that to kill the power and activate the emergency back-up lights...

And you're on your own from there on out.

Enjoy.

Anne Hathaway Becoming Jane Four Times Over





The above four posters are, apparently, candidates for the Becoming Jane poster. After you've had a good look at them above, you can even vote on which you prefer and, potentially, inflict it on cinemagoers worldwide. I plumped for the one that wasn't just Anne Hathaway on her lonesome, but I dare say a certain slice of the internet might disagree.

The film details a young Jane Austen's romantic life and comes from Julian Jarrold, director of Kinky Boots and the TV version of White Teeth.

James Cameron On Avatar

Thanks to Chud, I found a new interview with James Cameron in The Independent. He talks up Avatar, his approach to film directing, and the exodus. You know - the biblical one, let my people go, etc.

Apparently, performance capture work has been underway for 14 months already - although Avatar won't be released until 2009. That's going to be one expensive film.

Bruce Willis Is In Grind House

Blimey. Did we know Bruce Willis was in Grind House? You can see him in the new trailer, just under half way through, pointing a gun towards camera, just off to the left, after the sicko zombie types are seen waddling towards the Bar-B-Q.

There's also a quick glimpse of Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas, a quarter of the way through or so, in the headlights of a car.

Supermarket Of The Stars Episode 3

More Illeanarama for you.

Harry Potter And The Title Of His Seventh Book

HPana have given instructions on how to find out the title of the seventh Harry Potter book - and of course, subsequently the seventh Harry Potter film. While HPana are down, read the instructions here:

1. Click doorway in mirror to see the Christmas tree.
2. Click on the top half of the door to get the wreath.
3. Click on the top of the mirror to get the garland.
4. Click on the spider web right next to the door to make them go away.
5. Click the 4th chime in the window and get the key for the door.
6. Drag key to unlock the door.
7. Door opens to show a desk with a package.
8. Click the bow on the package and it will open.
9. Click the inside of the package and a game of Hangman is shown where you can play a game to guess the name of the seventh book.
10. You can keep playing till you get it right and when you do a check mark will appear.

So, basically, if you can type d,e,a,t,h,l,y,o,w and s - in any order - you'll find out the title.

[EDIT: Comments below now feature spoilers. Consider this a warning]

Samantha Morton Hit By Falling Ceiling

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Samantha Morton has been prevented from taking her part in Brad Anderson's Transsiberian because her flat's ceiling has fallen in on top of her. Emily Mortimer has taken the role, and that much has getting plenty of virtual column inches (column bits?) - but not much is being said about Morton's injuries. How hurt has she been? I sincerely hope she's okay.

Belated Balboa

Blogger has caused many headaches for a new film ick recruit - so, I'm going to pop her Rocky Balboa review up myself, while she irons out wrinkles and gets plenty more ready.

Rocky Balboa review, courtesy of Lady Sheridan:

I will be honest and say I have never seen any Rocky film but the first one, and it was so long ago that I barely remember it. I don’t know the plot of II or III, though I understand he becomes a sell-out and has to find the Eye of the Tiger, or something. Rocky IV I know largely thanks to VH1’s I Love the 80’s series and a fondness for pop culture Communism. To me, Rocky has always been a joke. A pop culture relic. Something you named your dog if you wanted your dog to be made fun of by everyone at the dog park.

So, when I heard they had actually allowed Stallone to make Rocky VI, like most people I thought it was the biggest joke imaginable. There was no possible way this could be good. And when it was rumored it might play at Butt Numb-A-Thon 8, I groaned. I told my friends that I really hoped this didn’t come true. “There’s no way I can get through it without laughing my ass off,” I said. “Harry Knowles will kick me out for mocking it.” But play it did and when that theme came on, it was infectious. I cheered with everyone else and found myself getting way into the final chapter of the Italian Stallion. At the end, I was forced to admit that Rocky Balboa was indeed a good film.

Rocky Balboa is essentially one big homage to Rocky I. Rocky is down on his luck and he’s at the end of his life. He’s lost Adrian and he’s desperate for his son’s attention. His son wants little to do with him because he can’t get out from under his father’s shadow. His old neighborhood is a ghetto, even the pet store where Adrian worked is a landfill. He’s clinging desperately to the past, spending his days with Pauley and his evenings mugging it up in his restaurant for his fans. His restaurant is nothing but a shrine to his glory days, the walls are lined with photos of Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed. It’s just...sad. He’s that guy in a bar you avoid because you might get stuck listening to a pathetic story.

The film begins with his yearly pilgrimage to all the spots he shared with Adrian. The evening finds him in a bar, where meets a woman named Marie. It turns out he had once walked a teenage Marie home from school and lectured her about smoking. She called him a creep and ran off. Now Marie is a single mom, scraping a living as a bartender. Rocky, eager for this tenuous connection to the past, befriends her and her son. He replaces their broken out light bulbs and gives them jobs in his restaurant.

Meanwhile, we get introduced to a cocky young fighter with the improssibly bad name of Mason Dixon. Dixon gets no respect. He knocks out fighters too soon, has plenty of belts but no fans. No one feels he’s ever been truly challenged. On a lark, ESPN puts a computerized Mason Dixon against a computerized Rocky Balboa—and Rocky wins. Dixon seethes. You know where this is going.

So yes, there’s a training montage (“Even Rocky had a montage!”) chock full of references to the Rocky I training montage. Yes, everyone predicts Rocky will lose. Dixon even offers to take it easy on him so he can come out with some pride intact. Rocky refuses.

Does Rocky win? Come on. What do you think? At any rate, I’m not telling you. You’re going to have to buy the ticket to find out. For my own part, that I predicted that Dixon would take a cheap shot, break Rocky’s neck and that Pauley was going to have to do for him what Daddy did for Axel....

Rocky Balboa is no Citizen Kane, but it’s no Rocky V either. It’s a fun movie, a fitting farewell to one of the biggest pop culture icons of the 20th century. I will even go so far to say that it’s almost comforting to revisit, like that battered sports jersey you wear on the weekends. If you’re a Rocky fan, go see it.

What Is Sector Seven?

I'm no Transformers fan, but if you are, maybe you can explain a weird website to me.

[EDIT: Having suffered the Transformers trailer once more (James Cameron - hurry! Robot-based action cinema needs you!) I have found out a password for the above site. It is takara83]

Oh Dear Lord - Who Let Him Be In It?

Does this mean Tarantino will be 'acting' in Death Proof?

A series of lobby cards for both halves of Grind House have now appeared at Aint it Cool, along with the film's standee.

Yahoo will have the film's trailer later today (8PM for us UK folk) - hopefully something more than the Planet Terror and Machete clips that ran on Spike.

[EDIT: Yahoo confirm that the trailer will be for the whole package]

[EDIT AGAIN: Now live - and very, very impressive - particularly Death Proof. This Tarantino chap is certainly very fluent in the language of film, isn't he?]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

You Tube Surprise

I have just stumbled across an old comedy sketch I directed on You Tube.

Dead Silent Dummy

Dead Silence puppet (click to see the whole pic0!

The picture above is of Billy, a murderous dummy from James Wa
n's upcoming Dead Silence. Wan directed the first Saw, and this will be only his second film. On the evidence of Saw alone, it's going to be quite ludicrous, riddled with plot holes, badly crafted and phenomenally successful at the box office, eventually spawning an ever-more torturous franchise (pun intended).

The new film's plot details a ghostly vengeance enacted with the assistance of 101 creepy dolls. Almost certainly lacking the good natured, tacky schlock of a Charles Band killer doll production, this film is either going to cement Wan's standing in the horror community, or ruin him.

Dread Central scored the exclusive first look at Billy, and also have had a review of the film since August - yep, it's complete, and perhaps tellingly, sitting on the shelf. Only yesterday, it was revealed that the film will be dumped out - sorry, released - in March next year.

Madonna To Take Blade To The Heat

WENN noticed that Hollywood.com have started listing Madonna as the director of the upcoming Blade To The Heat. On the bright side: she surely can't turn out much worse a director than her husband.

The film is to be a boxing drama "loosely based on the 1959 bout between Emile Griffith and Benny 'Kid' Paret".

Ocean's 13 Trailer

The first trailer for Ocean's 13 has gotten me all excited: largely because I can't see it. Can anybody please strip and then You Tube this thing so a UK based Mac user like me can share in the goodness?

[EDIT: Jo Blo at least popped up some screen caps from the trailer, so I have some idea what I'm missing at least]

[EDIT AGAIN: The trailer is now on You Tube and I am very happy]

Revenge Returns In March

With no remake now to date-match, the Revenge of the Nerds special edition DVD can be let loose whenever Fox choose. They've settled upon March 6th, just in time for my birthday - and, no, that is not a hint.

Key special features include the pilot for the TV spin-off, deleted scenes, the "I'm a nerd and pretty proud of it" featurette and an audio commentary. Sadly, Toby Radloff will not be on this track, but director Jeff Kanew will be, alongside Robert Caradine, Curtis Armstrong and Timothy Busfield. I hope they prove sufficiently nerdy.

There will also be a Gift Set - still not a hint - that contains all of the above and the three immediate sequels for just ten dollars more. That's just three dollars and thirty-three-and-a-third cents per nerd sequel, which, in a scary parallel universe, would make for an exciting bargain.

Judd Apatow's History With The Borat Movie

In a really rather good column for VH1, Judd Apatow reveals how he was once approached to write a script for a Borat movie, something on how the eventual film went on to be unscripted after all, and eventually, how the finished film formed a fleeting bond between Apatow and Eric Idle.

Captain Thunder Is Coming


Screen Daily say that a live-action, English language movie adaptation of the popular Spanish comic book series Capitan Trueno is on the cards. The Spanish production company Maltes are currently in the midst of a whip-round, it seems, trying to soak up the 30 to 40 million dollars the film is likely to cost.

The comics are medieval adventures, starring the titular Captain Thunder, and were created by Victor Mora back in 1956. Thunder has a Robin of sorts, the appropriately named Crispin, as well as an Alfred-meets-Andre-the-Giant figure named Goliath.
If the film were to be made in Spain and in Spanish, Javier Bardem would be dead-cert top-choice for the title role, but seeing as an American or Englishman is likely to land the role, I'd guess it's a toss up betweem Bruce Campbell and Rupert Everett.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sledge's 2006 Top Ten List

If you have come here from the Reeler piece, please note the mistakes made in their comments regarding this post. For one thing, they seem to believe that Sledge, who did indeed write the below top 10 list, is me, Brendon Connelly. He is not. This blog is mine, but the list below belongs to Sledge. I make it very clear in my edits - in this colour of text, whereas Sledge's are in blue, as always - that Sledge's opinions do not match my own, but who am I to censor Sledge? He helps out around here, he contributes in all manner of ways, and I asked him to give his top 10. And I respect his choices.

If you do know the author of the Reeler piece - or indeed are yourself the author - then please note the following: Sledge is from Wales and he is not Brendon Connelly; My (Brendon Connelly's) Top 10 is still coming in the next couple of days; and that
née is the feminine form of the French word for born, where né, the masculine form, is what would have been called for - so sic yourself.

Now - on to my previous edits, then Sledge's own, personal choice of 10 films he enjoyed most of all this year, and his own, personal reasons for enjoying them. I'm pleased that he shared them. Let he who is without his own unfashionable tastes or honest reasons throw the first stone...


[EDIT: This is the first of the top tens from
film ick's writers for the year 2006. We'll all be chipping in with our own over the coming days, and you are specifically invited to leave your own in the comments section]

Well, we come to that time of year where we reminisce about the good, the bad and the ugly films we've seen over the last twelve months. Everyone has an opinion of the top 10 films of the year and you've probably made your own list. It's wrong. My list is the one worth reading.

Here are the films of 2006 in a particular order, that order being from the best film to the tenth best...

Little Miss Sunshine

This is a lovely off-beat film which took me by surprise as I didn't know what to expect as I sat in my cinema seat. It's a little dark, edgy, lighthearted and dysfunctional. The performances from the ensemble cast are excellent (especially
Alan Arkin) and the characters they play are likable all the way through. I hope to high heaven this'll clean up come awards night.

Borat : Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
We all know about
Borat. In this we see him taken out of his TV world and placed in a simple road trip movie. It is one of the funniest films I've seen in ages. It near enough offends everyone and it's not the easiest film to watch. The image of the naked fight with his obese producer will never leave me, but I was laughing too hard to care.

Children Of Men
This film scared me the most as it paints a pretty grim (and realistic) picture of a world where all humans are infertile and the youngest person on earth has just died. London has never looked so grim. People are on about
Alfonso Cuarón being the next Kubrick. I dunno about that, but film is very, very good indeed.

Snakes On A Plane
Samuel L. Jackson drops f-bombs and shoots airplane windows all over the place in this big budget B-flick which is basically about...well, you know. This fun and pointless film has it all. Stereotyped supporting cast. Masses of internet hype. Samuel L. Jackson. And snakes. What more do you need ?

[EDIT: A plane?]

The Departed
Scorsese won't get his Oscar for this but I enjoyed this Internal Affairs remake because it's in your face, surprising and suspenseful. It could have done with shaving off about twenty mintues, but this movie shows that Martin Scorsese is back to his best.

Dave Chapelle's Block Party
US comic
Dave Chappelle presents a Brooklyn neighbourhood with it's own free party. It stars Kanye West, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and The Fugees who are reunited for their first performance in over seven years. A truly inspiring film. It shows the good hip-hop can produce.

Monster House
The dark and demented animation has slight
Tim Burton influences. and it's funny and pretty scary. I think there's too many computer animated features nowadays but Monster House is one of the good ones. It's slick, clever, funny and occasionally thrilling. A serious contender for an Oscar nomination.

Brick
Rian Johnson's directorial debut is witty and it's meshes the boring, over populated high school plot with film noir. Brick shows me that Johnson maybe a director to watch in the future. The film was a little odd in places which I like. It's this year's Donnie Darko.

A Cock And Bull Story
I'm a huge fan of both
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, so I was very excited in seeing this. A Cock And Bull Story is an adaptation of a book which is unadaptable. It's very funny to see both the leads fighting each other for attention.

Zidane : A 21st Century Portrait
This film is a work of art. For 92 minutes we watch the second best player in the world (Stevie G being the first) playing an entire game against Villareal. We see him, and no one else. Genius, and music is provided by
Mogwai, a band who I love.

There you go. The list. You know I'm right.

[EDIT: You can't possibly be, because I am. And because you included The Departed and A Cock and Bull Story]

Spider-Man 2.5 In Late April

Davis DVD are seconding my previous post: Spider-Man 2's extended edition is set to appear on DVD in late April. Hopefully there'll be a whole raft of new extras too, just to make me feel better about double dipping.

Another Nail In Sin City 2's Coffin?

Coming Soon have noted another development in Angelina Land that might push Sin City 2 ever more into the distance: a scriptwriter is being tasked to cook up a third Tomb Raider movie. Without Jolie, it would have to be straight-to-DVD fare, which isn't unthinkable... but with Jolie, and a dash of Casino Royale-style reinvention...

Well, they could possibly have something of a smash on their hands.

Both Peaks At Once

Contrary to some previous reports, the entirety of Twin Peaks Season Two is to hit Region 1 DVD in the same big box set, and as soon as April 10th at that. DVD Times have the official word.

The Real Reason American Dog Has Been Canned

Chris Sanders, the writer-director behind Lilo and Stitch was, until very recently, working on American Dog for Walt Disney Feature Animation. Scheduled for 2008, all that had been seen of the film so far was some production art, very short clips - including a lovely one of the Dog catching a ride on a box car - and a couple of rendered images. Advance word was, however, very good indeed even though the film was still only in development, not even officially greenlit.

And then, in the last few days, the news broke that Sanders was being removed from the project.

Jim Hill Media now has the skinny on why this really happened - and I found it really quite surprising.

Apparently, there are to be no more CG animated films from the Walt Dinsey stable after next spring's Meet The Robinsons. Pixar are to monopolise the CG medium, while the Disney label is to be once more attached only to cel-animated movies. I read at Jim Hill's that Glen Keane's Rapunzel Unbraided is likely to be retooled as a hand-drawn work rather than axed outright while, presumably, either Sanders or American Dog were not proving so flexible - but this does not explain why development on the film couldn't be shifted over to Pixar. There is always a small chance it will be revived there, I suppose - but at the moment, that doesn't look very likely.

If Lasseter and Catmull can convince Iger, this will be the way ahead from now on and so-called-2D animation will be back in full force at the Mouse House. Personally, this sounds like a very good thing in almost all ways with just a few details not sitting quite right with me. I'm going to miss American Dog, that's for sure; and I don't know if, truthfully, Rapunzel Unbraided should be cel-animated. Maybe it needs to be a CG film?

All we can do is trust in Lasseter...