Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Eagle Eye [The Review]

Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a Stanford drop-out who can’t pay his rent and works by day at a copy store. Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is a single mother fussing over her young son’s rail trip to play trumpet at a big Washington event on Capitol Hill. Out of the blue, both individuals receive phone-calls from a mysterious woman who seems able to monitor their every move, and who appears to be co-opting them, against their will, into a secret service operation of terrifying obscurity.

With a surprising No 1 box-office ascendancy on its opening weekend, Eagle Eye seems to have gripped the public imagination with its lowering sense of high-tech paranoia; perhaps Joe Public is over-impressed by the presence of Steven Spielberg as a producer. It’s true that director D.J. Caruso (paired again with his leading man from Disturbia) has an eye for the dizzying detail, and for much of this movie you forget how extraordinarily dumb the script and the premise of the script really is. It looks amazing. Over and over again, you get involved and drawn in by the pulse and sheer kinetic force of the visuals. But if I was to tell you that the main plot point revolves around the combination of a child’s trumpet and an exploding diamond, you may get some idea of just how silly this film is.

Shia LaBeouf is in almost every scene and plays it like an untrained, reluctant Jack Bauer. If anything Eagle Eye proves just how influential the TV show 24 has become over the years. The jury is still out when it comes to his leading-man status; personally I don’t think he has either the looks or the star-quality or the acting chops. Michelle Monaghan similarly plays it like a tv show and behaves for much of the time like a needy, nagging wife, in something of a throwback to helpless femmes in action movies of the 1980’s. And just who is the mysterious woman who keeps calling them on the phone, and who does she represent? Well, I won’t spoil it for you but I will give you a clue – this uncredited actress sounds a bit like Majel Barrett on Star Trek.

In a recent piece of most unwelcome news, it seems that one of the scriptwriters of this thriller, Travis Wright, is developing a sequel to Bladerunner. Let’s hope someone else, who has a firmer grip on plot development, and crafting credible and emotionally-resonant scenes, is drafted in before this bad-idea movie ever gets made.

Spider-Man's next foes?

Which villains will tussle with the webslinger in Spider-Man 4 and 5 to be shot back-to-back next year?

1) The Lizard: Ever since Dylan Baker was introduced as one-armed Dr. Curt Connors in Spider-Man 2, fans have been anticipating a return. In comics lore, Connors, experimenting with a formula to regenerate his limb, unwittingly transforms himself into a cold-blooded monster. Odds: Even

2) The Vulture: Before Marvel executives insisted Raimi shoe-horn Venom into Spider-Man 3, the director was reportedly toying with bringing Ben Kingsley, always one to puff up his regal feathers, on board as this carrion-eating careerist. Odds: 3-1

3) Man-Wolf: Remember J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son, who Mary-Jane Watson was engaged to in Spider-Man 2? Back in the 1970s, Marvel's writers had him morph into, ahem, a space werewolf. Odds: 20-1

4) The Black Cat: With Kirsten Dunst's involvement in the sequels still uncertain, could this kitty be coming through the cat flap soon? Odds: 5-1

5) Kraven the Hunter: Trophy nut Kraven comes to New York City to hunt down the most challenging foe of all: Spiderman. Raimi has an acknowledged weak spot for 1960s vintage Kraven-era Spider-Man, but would be hard pressed to make this villain interesting. Odds: 10-1

Official website here

Marvel site is here

Spiderfan is here

Monday, 29 September 2008

Branagh Gets the Hammer

In a slightly unbelievable piece of news, Variety reports that Brit Thesp Kenneth Branagh is in negotiations to direct the Thor film.

Along with Cpt America, Thor has been one of the major comic book characters still lacking a big movie adaptation.

Branagh, best known for his worthy and slightly boring Shakespeare productions, is to direct the 1960's Stan Lee tale of a disabled medical student who has an alter-ego - the Norse god of Thunder. Marvel has not yet decided on a studio to produce what aims to be a major holiday blockbuster movie.

The comic book adaptation is scheduled for a June 4, 2010 release.

Read more about the original comic book here.

Heather: My war with Sunglasses

Heather Lockyear has been arrested for driving under the influence of controlled substances in Montecito.

At about 19:00 hours on Saturday evening someone phoned the cops after seeing some erratic parking lot driving which began by 'driving backwards and forwards over a pair of sunglasses'.

See the rest of the report here

Russell Crowe: Man in Tights

In an interview promoting his new film Body of Lies, Ridley Scott has revealed that Russell Crowe is to play both Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham in a future film project they're cooking up.

Speaking on MTV news the veteran director explained that Crowe’s dual roles would be “a good old clever adjustment of characters - one becomes the other. It changes.”

It’s not news that Crowe is playing the sheriff (he signed on a long while back for the title role) but this is a novel twist. He'll certainly need to lose a bit of weight for all those shenanigans in Lincoln green; his outing in Body of Lies is one of the pouchy ones.

See more here

Heath Ledger's Estate Goes to Young Daughter

Heath Ledger's 2-year-old daughter Matilda Rose will inherit all of her father's estate, Ledger's father says. The estate is now estimated to be worth over $16.3m.

The Australian actor, who died from an accidental prescription drug overdose in January, signed a will before his daughter was born leaving everything to his parents and three sisters. Some had speculated his former partner Michelle Williams would lodge a claim for the money.

But Ledger's father, Kim Ledger, told the Australian newspaper The Sunday Times that the family had given all the money to Matilda and that there had been no challenge from Williams.

"There is no claim," the newspaper quoted Kim Ledger as saying in a report published Sunday. "Our family has gifted everything to Matilda."

You can see the report here

In more Ledger news, TMZ.com report that one of Matilda's trustees is suing a U.S. life insurance company for refusing to pay out on his $10 million policy.

The New York City Medical Examiner ruled he died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, but executives at ReliaStar Life Insurance Company say they're unconvinced by the verdict and that he may have committed suicide.

I’ve Loved You So Long [The review]

Released this weekend in the UK, I’ve Loved You so long is a French-language film garnering rave reviews for British Actress Kristin Scott Thomas. Some people are even whispering the Oscar word – best supporting actress was, after all, won by French-speaking and singing Marion Cotillard last year for the superlatively French La Vie En Rose.

La Vie En Rose was funny and sad, as ripe and runny as a large slice of unpasteurized Brie. But this film is a very different affair - much cooler and much more cosmopolitan. We first meet a dowdy-looking Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) dragging on a cigarette as she waits for her sister at an airport. Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) is wary and fairly soon, as she drives back to the family home in Eastern France and Juliette meets her brother-in-law for the first time, we begin to realise that Juliette has been in jail for fifteen years for a horrific crime.

I’ve Loved you So Long is directed by a literature professor who lives and teaches in Nancy where the film is set, and there’s a real sense of intelligence behind this film and the way the story is told – which is really just an accumulation of little family melodramatic moments (any family can have) but with this extraordinary back-story looming like a monstrous shadow in the corner. On a human level this film has great universality quite beyond its very middle-class setting; Juliette is the figure some families have, the scapegoat and the villain on whom everything bad is heaped.

At first Juliette seems an almost sinister figure, but after the shock of discovering her crime, we realize that this isn’t a Chabrol film and she isn’t going to murder anyone before she goes to bed one evening after making a cup of chocolat. In fact her story becomes, as bits and pieces make themselves known, almost unbearably poignant and sad. She is like a woman living a posthumous life. She gazes on the warmth of her sister’s family life as if it’s a dangerous illusion. As she looks for and finally finds a job she suffers placidly the contempt of strangers, and it becomes slowly clear just how much she has lost.

That said this is not a depressing film and it does tail off on a note of healing and quiet optimism. A hit at the recent Toronto Film Festival, this is a thoughtful, intelligent piece of French filmmaking.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Paul Newman

Paul Newman was the last of a breed, a contemporary of James Dean.

Leonardo DiCaprio has just described him as a role model for the more socially-conscious Hollywood type. Those sauces he dreamed up have so far taken well over $200m for charities including the Hole in the Wall Camps for sick kids. Favorite films? The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy - there are so many to chose from.

There's a well-written tribute to him here in the New York Times.

Here are some wonderful images of him on Youtube. And see him here in classic form in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Drew in a Gossip Scenario

Drew Barrymore and Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick were spotted "in a full-on make-out session" at a NYC concert for alt-rockers Kings of Leon Tuesday night.

You can see the picture here

The band were promoting their new album Only By The Night

I am Still Legend

Warner Bros has greenlit a prequel to I Am Legend with both Will Smith and the original director back for second helpings.

D.B. Weiss (The Game) is writing the script based on a detailed plot outline that was developed over the past few months by writers including Smith himself

More about Quantum

Here's some production notes snippets from the still under-wraps Quantum of Solace, the 22nd James Bond film and the first not to be directly based on the writings of Ian Fleming.

Bond's nemesis is the rather ordinary-looking Mathieu Almaric who relishes the fight scene with 007. "I'm very lucky because usually the villain never fights but in this film I have a great fight at the end with Daniel. Greene does not know how the fight so James Bond is surprised because it's not the classical stuff of his training. It will be the fight of two animals"

Here's Judy Dench: "Mi6 has gone rather up market. All I have to tell you is, I don;t think our government has enough money to change the real M16 into my M16"

Costume Designer Louise Frogley worked with Tom Ford for the Bond suits. "He sent someone to Italy just to track down a particular material for us. I wanted to use 'mohair tonic' for the suits. It is very difficult to find because it is a sixties fabric and I'm quite sure Sean Connery would have worn it in one of his suits'.

Locations this time round include the Baja California, Mexico, Pananama and Colon. It also used the ESO Parnal Observatory in Chile and the Bregenz Opera House in Austria. A second unit was sent to record the Palio horse-race in Siena months before the film even went into production.

Official site is here.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The new DiCaprio film

I saw the new Ridley Scott movie Body of Lies last night - check back here for a review nearer the time.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a CIA operative who moves swiftly around the Middle-East dealing with terrorist cells (and inevitably falling in love with a local girl) while a fat and cynical Russell Crowe directs him from afar.

It's rammed with Scott's characteristic full-pelt visual style. DiCaprio's performance recalls his stint on Blood Diamond and Crowe yet again does a variation on The Insider.

There's a fairly horrific torture scene involving Leo and hammers towards the end; he's been on record as saying he got sick for three days afterwards.

"We did that (scene) in the middle of some medieval torture tomb. There was some kind of horrific dust in the air"

Official site is here

Body of Lies opens October 10th

Brangelina Move to Berlin

Brangelina are moving to Berlin, Germany, for three months. Brad is playing the lead in the new Tarantino film "Inglorious Bastards"

They're renting a $40,000 a week chateau on Wannsee lake in a leafy Berlin suburb, according to the German media, although the pair also recently bought a flat in the central Mitte neighbourhood.

Pitt reportedly intends to commute to the nearby film set by helicopter each day - there is a landing pad in the grounds - and to Goerlitz, near the Polish border, where director Quentin Tarantino spent the weekend scouting out sites.

Interestingly it was at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 that Heyrdich proposed the infamous 'final solution' - the liquidation of the Jews.

Brad plays the leader of Jewish-American soldiers behind enemy lines in WWII

Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter

It seems Disney just can't get enough of Johnny Depp.

Despite the less-than-stellar last episode, Depp has agreed to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in a fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean".

He's also to play Tonto in a bigscreen adaptation of "The Lone Ranger," both produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

But he'll be a perfect fit for the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s version of "Alice in Wonderland." That's the one I'm looking forward to.

Read more about this story at Variety

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Katie and the Scientologists

Xenu's finest made sure Katie Holmes received positive messages after her Broadway debut last week to combat those pesky anti-Scientologist protesters outside in the street,

After the show, dozens of "fans" were dispatched from Scientology headquarters a block away from the Times Square theater with big signs reading, "Well done Katie," "You did great" and "We love you Katie."

We asked some if they'd seen the play and they replied, "No, we don't have to. We know she was great."

Read about the protests here

Buy tickets for the show here

Knightley to be tragic Zelda

Keira Knightley is in talks to play Zelda Fitzgerald in The Beautiful And The Damned.

Leonardo Di Caprio is being touted as a possible co-star in the biopic, based on the life of Great Gatsby novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife - Hollywood's golden couple in the 1920's.

Both were tragic figures. Fitzgerald was an alcoholic crazed by jealous impulses. Zelda was diagnosed as a schizophrenic aged 30 and died in an asylum fire.

Drena's Drama

Drena De Niro showed up at the Ziegfeld Theatre for the premiere of her dad's flick "Righteous Kill".

But she couldn't convince security she was really De Niro's daughter. Unimpressed staff told her that she could be an impostor.

Even after she produced her driver's license, they still wouldn't let her in.

So Drena, the new director of guest affairs at her father's Greenwich Hotel, went to Nobu instead.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Righteous Kill [The Review]

Perhaps, all those years ago, when the was making The Godfather, Coppola realised intuitively he should never put De Niro and Pacino in the same scene together. In Righteous Kill a very average Hollywood film director named Jon Avnet (88 Minutes) jams them into every scene he can possibly manage.

The result is disastrous; Pacino is beady-eyed, mannered, dyspeptic, a spidery clown untidy as a long line of cocaine. De Niro is lumpen and jowly, his face occasionally yawning into that terrifying grimace with the downturned mouth and the blank eyes he perfected in Goodfellas.

The story is a slight one: two near-to-retirement NYPD cops are on the trail of serial killer who is almost certainly a cop as well. From an unnamed low quality videotape of De Niro’s character apparently confessing to the crimes, which from the earlier moments is interleaved with the action and the kills, we think we know where we’re going. That the videotape is not necessarily what it seems is not a huge surprise to anyone who regularly watches this kind of thriller.

The story is slight but we watch as a vigilante tracks down and shoots a number of rapists and pimps who, in the judgment of the killer, have not answered for their crimes. These include the inevitable pedophile catholic priest, the pimp, the club-owning cocaine dealer – in fact every clichĂ© that every film about New York crime can offer. For good measure there’s a woman cop who enjoys rough sex (Carla Gugino) and who eventually plays a pivotal role in the final scenes.

The film is very poorly put together and suffers from a bad script, but the chances are you’d watch it on a long-haul flight if pushed. It’s perhaps unfair to expect Pacino and De Niro to be at the top of their game all the time, but one thing is clear about both actors; they desperately need good direction from a good director – and they haven’t received it here.

** Two Stars out of Five

Dr Ross May return

The producers of ER are "optimistic" that George Clooney will return for its final season.

Executive producer David Zabel has already managed to coax Anthony Edwards and Noah Wyle back for one last hurrah and says "We have a really good storyline for every character from the past."

But Clooney's spokesman seems to have poured cold water on the proceedings by insisting the actor is "busy making movies".

the Clooney/ER fan page

Monday, 22 September 2008

Death Race [The Review]

Aimed entirely at a demographic of teenaged boys, Death Race is a remake of the cult film Death Race 2000 from 1975 which the director Paul WS Anderson has been planning for nearly ten years. It casts Jason Statham (Transporter, Ghosts of Mars) in an entirely familiar role as a wronged hard-man at the wheel of a souped-up automobile.

Framed for his wife’s murder and sent to a kind of dystopian future-prison, his only way out is to win a deadly car race which has proved big business for the prison governor (played in high heels by Joan Allen).

It’s a shame about Paul WS Anderson and it’s a shame about Joan Allen. Joan Allen has been Oscar-nominated in her time and performed a good turn in The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy; here as the evil prison warder she plays a parody of that role, a cartoon villain capable of training a swivelled shotgun on uppity prisoners as she sits behind her prison desk as the very model of puritanical conformity.

Paul WS Anderson made one of the best sci-fi films of recent years, Event Horizon, but it failed at the box-office and this director has now been reduced to making a constant stream of movies that look like video games, the very worst of which was his terrible Aliens Vs Predator. Death Race is a video game; cars can pick up weapons activations at certain points and the race itself is held on three successive levels.

It’s all too much. When you think it can’t get any worse, try throwing in some jaw-droppingly stupid introductions of a female component (female prisoners, all pretty, all large-busted) to act as navigators for the drivers, who surely would be too distracted by all this oestrogen-rich bodaciousness to fire their guns and drive their big, big cars.

Frankly, Jason Statham is also beginning to look to old for this. When you see him training on a bar his muscles have begun to turn a bit pinched and reptilian. It’s generally not a pleasant sight. His trademark surliness is beginning to look a bit indecorous for a man approaching his early middle-aged, where his bald pate makes him look old rather than voluntarily shaven.

He really needs to make himself a cup of cocoa and calm down a bit.

* One star out of Five

Death Race is already released in the US; UK release date is Sept 26th

30 Rock Rocks

By general consensus Tina Fey stole the show at the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday.

Her series 30 Rock - starring creator Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan - won the Outstanding Comedy Series award.

Mad Men won Outstanding Drama Series.

See a picture of Tina's triumph and get more details here.

Ricky Gervais - Not Famous Enough

Ghost Town writer/director David Koepp says he regrets casting British star Ricky Gervais - because he is relatively unknown in the U.S.

He says, "The risk isn't whether people will like Ricky or not, it's whether we can get enough people who have heard of him to go to the movie.

"In England, I don't think we'll have that problem. But in the United States his shows The Office and Extras are only somewhat known. Ricky isn't an American star."

You can see Koepp talking to Vanity Fair in another interview here.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Carrie Bradshaw - as a Teenager

Fancy reading about Carrie in her High School days when there was probably no sex and no city?

Candace Bushnell, the author of the column that became the hit series and movie, is writing a novel about Carrie Bradshaw's teenaged years, HarperCollins announced Wednesday.

"I've always been interested in exploring Carrie's teenage years," Bushnell said in a statement. "Carrie in high school did not follow the crowd - she led it. It was there that she began observing and commenting on the social scene."

The novel, part of a two-book deal, is due for publication in fall 2010. That’s one film role for an ingĂ©nue the girls of America had better get ready for

HBO website is here.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ryan O'Neal Arrested

Ryan O’Neal has been arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine.

Police found the drug (a vial allegedly stashed in his bedroom) at the 67 year-old actor’s Malibu home during a routine check connected with his 23-year-old son Redmond.

Redmond is on probation for three years after admitting driving under the influence and possession crystal meth.

Ryan O’Neal was arrested last year on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and negligent discharge of a firearm after firing a gunshot during an argument with another son, Griffin, 43.

It’s all a long way from Love Story.

Kirsten Dunst meets a Jealous Ghost

Kirsten Dunst is starring in, and producing, a ghost story simply called Ghost. It’s based on the book by AN Wilson A Jealous Ghost

Wilson's highly literary 2005 novel describes a young American woman who travels to London to write a dissertation on Henry James' classic ghost tale, "The Turn of the Screw," and then goes to work as a nanny for two children in the British countryside. Before long she’s experiencing all-to-familiar events from the original book (read a review here).

Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego is to direct. You can read more about this project here.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Brideshead Revisited [The Review]

It’s a tale of bedeviled aristocrats, catholic guilt and large palatial residences that played very well in 1981 when it became a British TV staple and more-or-less introduced the world to Jeremy Irons. Eyebrows were raised when this remake was announced; the New York Times has already called it ‘Brideshead Regurgitated’.

Despite the success of Atonement, a more-or-less a straight crib of both the book and the original 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh, is there really a need for the honied sirops, the curds and whey, the wasps in the jam jars, of such hysterical and nostalgic feasts? Well – just look at the news. Nostalgia sells when the world seems to be turning itself to the business of ruin.

Brideshead Revisited is the story of a fairly ordinary young middle-class man Charles Ryder who goes up to Oxford in the 1920’s and is immediately drawn into the social circle of a louche, gay aristocrat named Sebastian Flyte. Flyte is highly unstable and prone to alcoholism, but Ryder is seduced by him, especially, like a Jane Austen heroine, when he sees his house at Brideshead. But on a trip to Venice Ryder is drawn to Sebastian’s equally seductive sister Julia, and Sebastian embarks on a drinking frenzy which never comes to an end. The film begins and ends in WWII when Ryder has been billeted at Brideshead and moons around the empty, decaying grandeur of it all remembering the past.

Director Julian Jarrold is necessarily reaching for a high standard here. Some of the casting is better than the original. Some of it is worse. The best moments are when Ben Whishaw (as Sebastian) and Emma Thompson (as his mother Lady Marchmain) are onscreen. The worst are turns by the otherwise splendid actor Michael Gambon, doing a kind of Ricky Gervais impersonation as Lord Marchmain (a role rather better inhabited by Laurence Olivier), and by the chief casting of Matthew Goode (Matchpoint) as Charles Ryder, who gives a performance so lumpen and unappealing that the mystery of why everyone throws themselves at him becomes the elephant in the very large silk-wallpapered Drawing Room. This character always was a winnying arriviste but somehow Jeremy Irons still made him appealing.

It’s a long film at 132 minutes and the magnificence of the original TV series was that it allowed the story to breathe. Here Ben Whishaw (who camps his character up substantially compared to Anthony Andrews version) disappears far too early in the film and what we are left with is the dreary, dank melodrama of the endgame; miserable marriages, catholic deathbed scenes and so on. The lightness of the Oxford years, and the stolen summers at Brideshead, have been trimmed back. And it’s a mistake. Despite the presence of a scriptwriter as good as Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones), the roll of the story has been misjudged and weighted towards the theme of guilt.

That said, this film is perfectly good in many ways. And it’s also perfectly pointless. As predicted.

** Two Stars Out of Five

Already released in the US, Brideshead opens in UK cinemas October 3rd

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

CIA spooks and Car Crashes

Shia LaBeouf was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving on Sunday after the Indiana Jones star crashed his car, injuring his hand and knee.

He faces DUI charges after the 3am incident in West Hollywood.

Last week Shia had been talking about his new film action thriller Eagle Eye.

He plays a man who is stalked by covert special agents. He thought it was all hooey until he hung out with some real CIA guys.

To LaBeouf’s dismay they revealed that they record telephone conversations and maintain insider information on all celebrities.

"It is reality... The scary thing is sitting down with CIA operatives, who use this stuff. They played me back phone conversations I've had. It was extremely embarrassing."

Quantum of Solace

I'm seeing a special twenty minute preview of the new James Bond film Quantum of Solace tomorrow for the magazine Sight and Sound here in London. I'll give you an update on it as soon as I'm allowed to do so (draconian legal forms allowing).

You can see some trailers here

Sulu Gets Hitched

Mr Sulu got married to his male partner on Sunday, and Lt Uhuru and Chekhov were part of the ceremony.

71 year-old Star Trek star George Takei married longtime partner Brad Altman at the Democracy Forum of the Japanese American National Museum in L.A. Sunday.

The couple exchanged turquoise wedding bands during the ceremony, which was officiated by a Buddhist priest and attended by 200 guests.

Takei's Star Trek co-stars were a part of the ceremony: Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) as best lady and Walter Koenig (Chekhov) as best man.

"May equality live long and prosper!" Takei declared after the vows.

You can read his blog here - though to be honest it hasn't recently been updated, which seems a shame

Monday, 15 September 2008

Sneak Preview of new Robert Downey Jr film

In theaters from 21st November, The Soloist has Oscar-bait written all over it.

Directed by the man who brought you Atonement, Robert Downey Jr plays the LA journalist who discovers a brilliant musician (played by Jamie Foxx) living as a down and out.

You can see the trailer here.

It looks good. But is it just too self-consciously sugar-sweet and feelgood? Pundits are already wondering whether Atonement director Joe Wright, best known for costume dramas, really knows how to handle a modern scenario. Or if he's phoned in some weird kind of Anthony Minghella knock-off.

Lindsay Pops at Palin and Paps

Lindsay Lohan has slammed U.S. vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin on her social networking blog

"I really cannot bite my tongue anymore when it comes to Sarah Palin. I find it quite interesting that a woman who now is running to be second in command of the United States, only four years ago had aspirations to be a television anchor, which is probably all she is qualified to be."

She adds, "Is it a sin to be gay?. Should it be a sin to be straight? Or to use birth control? Or to have sex before marriage? Or even to have a child out of wedlock?"

"Is our country so divided that the Republicans' best hope is a narrow-minded, media obsessed homophobe?"

In other Lohan news, the actress was heading into The Bowery Hotel in New York City Sunday night when she fell over a metal barricade, reports TMZ. Lohan, convinced a papparazzi had tripped her, turned around and punched a photographer on the nose. Cops were called to the scene, but no charges were made.

Read her blog here

See the aftermath of the punch-up here

McElhone's Tragedy

Actress Natascha McElhone has just revealed that she received a message from her husband - and just 13 minutes later he was dead.

The Californication star was filming in Los Angeles last May when her plastic surgeon partner Martin Kelly collapsed suddenly with a heart attack outside their own house.

"He left this message for me, full of the joys. He couldn't wait to come out, he was so excited about the baby.”

You can see see the couple together in a photo here

The LAMDA trained British-Irish actress is currently pregnant with their third child.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Late Lost Heath Ledger

Quite unknowingly, I was present at the last piece of filming that Heath Ledger ever did. Or rather I was a hundred yards away listening to a band playing in a Clerkenwell pub. There was Heath Ledger at about eight o’clock on a Saturday evening in London, wrapping some scenes for The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. Three days later he was dead.

My friends kept popping out of the pub to go and watch him filming on the road. I never quite got around to it. Perhaps I was feeling a bit jaded. Perhaps I’d been to too many movie sets and talked to too many actors. He’d always be around, after all.

You could see an early sneak clips here, but in the last few hours the video seems to have been removed.

Ledger’s role, you may remember, was subsequently divided out between Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law ( who by the way donated their earnings to Ledger’s daughter Matilda – Ledger had not revised his will at the time of death to include his new-born little girl).

Anyhow, here's the official movie website

Friday, 12 September 2008

Forbes Names the Over-Paid

Nicole Kidman offers Hollywood the poorest financial returns for any actor or actress, according to Forbes Magazine. She topples fellow Australian Russell Crowe who occupied the same ignominious position last year.

Also making the top ten most overpaid Hollywood celebrities were Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Jim Carrey, Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Lopez, Drew Barrymore, Will Ferrell and Cate Blanchett.

Forbes annual list of Hollywood's most valuable stars, released in July, was topped by Vince Vaughn, who scored $14.73 for every dollar he was paid for films including The Break-up, Wedding Crashers and Dodgeball.

Number two on the magazine's Ultimate Star Payback list was Tobey Maguire, with a gross income return of $13.44 for each dollar of his pay for the Spider-Man sequels and Seabiscuit.

How to Lose Friends and Make a Movie

I just saw a sneak preview of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, adapted from the book by Toby Young.

Studio and PR protocols prevent me from posting a review quite this early, but let’s just say that the film is going to get mixed reviews, mostly on the skeptical side. And since some of the most powerful film critics and journalists in the UK are friends of Toby Young, this might get interesting.

The book was brilliant; it was the story of a maverick British journalist in flight both from his famous father and his mightily upscale education. Young struck an almost grotesquely self-deprecating tone as we followed his misguided attempts at seducing the New York glitterati with his drunken, boorish antics. Hired by Vanity Fair as a kind of mad whim by its editor Graydon Carter, Young has subsequently built an entire career out of his spectacular failure to play the Manhattan game.

Three decades ago John Cleese made a fortune on the simple comedy stereotype of the uptight Brit and the expansive, liberated American. Now Toby Young has inverted that formula. Cosmopolitan America, we are told, is now obsessed with appropriate behavior, form, snobbery and etiquette. Now it’s the Brits who don’t know how to behave.

Things that have been lost in translation? Sophie Dahl sharing a flat with Young in NYC (an incident worthy of a whole film on its own). And who he actually gave his signet ring to - one of the main plot devices in the movie.

I can't see admirers of the book or the play finding much to like about the movie, but it may find a whole new audience.

You can find the trailer here

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Tropic Thunder: The Review

Ben Stiller must have known he was taking a risk with the subject-matter of Tropic Thunder and for a while the pickets outside the cineplexes must have rattled him. But then people went to see it. And then they went back to see it with their friends, because, quite frankly, everyone is in need of a giggle right now, and laughing at Robert Downey Jr laughing at Russell Crowe via the strange and anxiety-inducing medium of face-paint seems to have hit the spot for a good many people.

Tropic Thunder opens up with some of the funniest spoof movie trailers ever made, and then goes on to chart a film within a film, an insanely over-ambitious war movie based on the fraudulent memoirs of a Vietnam Vet. Rambo Redux with a sprinkling of Monty Python, perhaps based on the true stories of the filming of Apocalypse Now (when the Filipino gunships broke from their movie appearances to strafe insurgent forces on the nearby hillsides and then return for the next shot), Tropic Thunder skewers the hubris, narcissism and mental instability of most of those involved in the movie business – actors in particular.

Tom Cruise (in amazing form and operating quite far from his usual comfort zones) is physically unrecognisable as the big-shot studio producer trying to pull the financial plug the whole time, and is Steve Coogan adequate as the feckless director-for-hire who sees his project crumbling before his eyes.. However its Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black and Ben Stiller as the jobbing actors who are the true subject of the most savage satire here, the most pointed barbs – courtesy of Ben Stiller’s script (yes – he writes, directs and acts in his own movie).

Essentially these deluded thespians find themselves in a real war zone but don’t quite realise that they are, cut off from the main production, set adrift in the deep jungle and convinced they are being filmed covertly. That’s the joke, anyhow, and it works quite well.

Is Robert Downey Jr blacked up and playing a high-maintenance Australian star simply beyond the bounds of taste? Is the repeated use of the word retarded really all that necessary? Possibly not, but for some reason these queasy elements really don’t seem to matter. There’s not a mean bone in this frequently grotesque movie, and even the actors seem happy poking fun at themselves and the pretensions and insecurities of their trade.

I went to Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder on the same evening, and much to my surprise, preferred Tropic Thunder. It’s a much cruder movie altogether compared to the subtleties and gently-rolling student humour of Pineapple.

But it’s also an awful lot more funny.

**** Four Stars Out of Five

Top Six Celebrity Charity Donations for 2007 – in order of saintliness

Oprah Winfrey $50.2 million
Herb Alpert $13 million
Barbra Streisand $11 million
Paul Newman $10 million
Mel Gibson $9.9 million.
Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie $8.4 million

You can find the whole list in Parade.

Matt Damon Stories

He’s being cast as Liberace’s boyfriend in a new Soderbergh project

He thinks Sarah Palin is a ‘really scary thing’ since he believes she might well end up becoming US President.

Spielberg Named in Lawsuit

DreamWorks is being sued in the Manhattan courts with Steven Spielberg also mentioned in the lawsuit.

Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust contends that the Shia LaBeouf starrer "Disturbia" and the story used for Alfred Hitchcock’s "Rear Window" are essentially the same. Both are murder mysteries revolving around the mysterious behavior of nearby neighbors.

Hitchcock legally obtained the rights to turn the short story "Murder From a Fixed Viewpoint" into big-screen thriller Rear Window in 1953.

Executive produced bv Spielberg, Disturbia has taken $117m in world-wide box-office takings. The payout could be big.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Gonzo: The Review

Johnny Depp fronts this affectionate look at the life of the late great Hunter S Thompson, gun freak, motorcycle freak , drugs freak and one of the great writers and commentators on American life in the late twentieth century.

Directed by Alex Gibney, who won an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side and also made Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room, Gonzo took two years to make and includes interviews with Thompson’s son, both wives, artist Ralph Steadman and the famous editor of Vanity Fair Graydon Carter (who also produces). It ends with Thompson’s funeral (bankrolled by Johnny Depp) which involved firing his ashes into the atmosphere from a huge rocket launcher. Some of the more unlikely contributors to this documentary include Pat Buchanan and Jimmy Carter.

Anyone who hasn’t read the novels and journalism of Hunter s Thompson will almost certain go away wanting to do so. But it isn’t just about his writing. Luckily there’s a good deal of footage of Thompson all the way through his working life from the late 1950’s, with his beginnings detailing the way of life of the then unknown Hells Angels, briefly counter-cultural heroes, to his most remarkable work covering the 1972 campaign trail as Jimmy McGovern ran for President for the Democrats. There are clips from the Johnny Depp film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Like many brilliant people, Thompson wasn’t that easy to live with, and he draws occasionally harsh criticism from his first wife and weary, philosophical acceptance from his long-suffering only son. But the main thrust of this film is celebratory, and it’s a must-see for Thompson fans, and those who likes to see what Johnny Depp likes.

Serious Hunter fans should check out this and this

*** Three Stars out of Five

Tricky Dicky and Mr Frost

I caught a glimpse of the new Ron Howard film Frost/Nixon which was shown to journalists at the launch of the London Film Festival here in London this morning.

Chosen as the opening film of the festival on 15th October in a world premiere, Frank Langhella plays Richard Nixon just after his Watergate disgrace and Michael Sheen the relatively unknown British TV talk-show host David Frost, who pulled off one of the journalistic coups of the decade when he secured permission to televise an interview (for an outlay of a hefty dollar fee to Nixon).

Audiences can look forward to playful, funny take on this hugely implausible but quite genuine scenario. Langella won a Tony Award in 2007 for playing Richard Nixon in the original stage production. British audiences know Michael Sheen best for his depictions of tortured comedian Kenneth Williams, the Emperor Nero and Tony Blair in The Queen – an interesting little trio.

You can see the trailer on the official website here

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Dirty Sexy Money

Look for changes with Dirty Sexy Money when the ABC show returns for its second season in the US on October 1.

"We're re-tooling the show," reveals Peter Krause, who stars as the morally corrupt lawyer of a scandal-plagued family led by Donald Sutherland. Its shooting schedule was seriously affected by the writers' strike earlier this year.

"Basically," he says, "we want to make it juicier than it was, and we're re-shooting the segments we shot last May and June with the hope of making it easier for new viewers to join the show."

"Last week we were shooting three episodes at the same time. It hasn't been easy. The original plan was to have 13 episodes in the can by the time we go on the air for the second season. Now, we'll be lucky to have seven, maybe eight."

Who Is It?

Which A-list star is weaving a tangled web as he struggles to repay a $7m gambling debt? Guess we'll be seeing some sequels to his well-known franchise pretty soon.

Dexter Dates Sister

According to the National Enquirer, Dexter star Michael C. Hall is secretly dating his onscreen sister Jennifer Carpenter.

Hall plays the forensic expert who secretly murders serial killers. Carpenter plays his adopted sister. They've been dating for almost a year now, after Hall separated from wife Amy Spangler.

The couple has even moved in together. The network which makes the show, Showtime, is by all accounts not too happy about the arrangement.

Best Actor Oscar?

A cert for Best Actor Oscar? Try Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler – the film wowing audiences at the Venice and Toronto film festivals, and just sold to Fox Searchlight for £4million.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Hamlet 2: The Review

It was a big deal at Sundance – the breakthrough movie, they were saying, for British comedian Steve Coogan in the US. Somehow I doubt it.

Coogan plays Dana Marschz , a resting actor formerly best known for his Herpecol ads. “I'm having herpes outbreak, but you'd never know it.". These days he’s working for peanuts conducting a high school drama class in Tucson, Arizona. His class are mostly disinterested and the red-necked school principal is keen to shut the whole thing down. To make matters worse his wife Brie (played brilliantly by Catherine Keener) is about to leave him, fed up by his lack of resources, his whimsy and his other-worldly faith in the universal healing power of drama.

The plot is a conventional, teasing take on those dozens of movies about inspirational teachers and drama/dance classes bringing students together against an unfair school authority. Coogan does fecklessness very well – tapping into a long line of comedic British fecklessness from Stanley Laurel to Peter Sellers.

Faced with his drama program being closed down, his character Marschz has to produce an illicitly staged musical called Hamlet 2 which takes the Shakespeare play and gives it a happy ending. There’s nothing new about this. Thomas Bowdler overhauled Shakespeare’s plays (to make them less sexualised) in the 19th Century – the origin of the term Bowdlerization.

The climax is the staging when everything comes right – it looks as glossy as Broadway production (yeah, right) and the national press are there to report on the school trying to close the whole thing down. Initially the musical is perceived as very un-PC with songs such as Rock Me Sexy Jesus. Frankly, there’s nothing un-PC about the show we see. Director Andrew Fleming pulls his punches. His background of soft-peddled TV comedy-drama just doesn’t equip him with that extra bit of sourness he needs. Hamlet 2 been marketed as a South Park relative; Nancy Drew would be more accurate.

This not a bad film. It has some great moments, but it does feel oddly underpowered. Everything feels just a tiny bit threadbare.

Coogan had yet to find his knock-out, world-beating Hollywood role.

** Two Stars out of Five

Over the Edge

Robert De Niro has walked off the Boston set of The Edge of Darkness. "Sometimes things don't work out – it's called 'creative differences'," said a spokesman for De Niro, who had been cast in the role of a CIA crime-scene operative, Darius Jedburgh.

Creative differences with whom? Surely not with the director Martin Campbell, who helmed Casino Royale and Goldeneye. This is a pet project for him – the remake of the British TV series that made him famous and began his career (Here's the final sequence with the famous Eric Clapton soundtrack).

Fingers are pointing to the presence of Mel Gibson on what is regarded as his ‘comeback’ film after his infamous anti-Semitic rant to a policeman in 2006. A leaked report revealed that Gibson told the police officer James Mee, who is Jewish, that "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world"

De Niro, an arch New York liberal, is unlikely to have much in common with Gibson.

Campbell had already expended considerable funds on De Niro’s role. According to the Boston Herald, the director ordered a massive excavation of the 15th hole of Gannon Golf Club in Lynn after he was unable to fit De Niro, the bunker, and the city's skyline into a single shot.

Old Men Strike Back

It's always sad when actors begin lawsuits against much-loved films. Especially relatively small, Indie films.

The Press Association reports that Tommy Lee Jones is suing the makers of No Country For Old Men for more than $10 million.

The lawsuit against Paramount Pictures claims that Jones was promised "significant box-office bonuses" and other compensation depending on the success of the film, which went on to take in more than $160 million.

Jones, who played Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in the film, claims he was not paid promised bonuses and had expenses wrongly deducted.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A Few Good Murders

Tom Cruise may be about to cast himself as a version of Hannibal Lecter.

According to Variety, United Artists have acquired rights to serial-killer thriller "The Monster of Florence," with Cruise attached to produce and possibly to star.

Co-author of the bestseller Douglas Preston just spilled the beans in Venice.

The film would reconstruct eight grisly double homicides between 1968 and 1985 in and around the ancient city.

Fans of Anthony Hopkins’ turn as Hannibal Lecter will remember how that serial killer made Florence his home in Hannibal.

You can find Preston's website here with original crime scene pictures.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Duchess: Contoversy Reigns

Writer of the original book titled The Duchess, Amanda Foreman was just on CNN complaining about an old photograph of her, in a state of some undress, which has been doing the rounds of certain amused media pundits.

The source of this embarrassing, coquettish photograph? Why, Amanda’s own website of course!

Elsewhere on British TV she's been complaining about the trailer for The Duchess, which despite all the protestations from Keira Knightley etc explicitly uses photographs of the late Princess of Wales to sell its wares. 'I thought it was a Youtube spoof,' explained the baffled authoress.

Hollywood: Absolutely no Sense of Humour?

Robert DeNiro's What Just Happened is out early October - watch this space for a review nearer the time.

The film's amusing Alien-inspired tagline is "In Hollywood, everybody can hear you scream". It's based on the Hollywood insider book by Art Linson.

Hollywood has already spoken here - no major distributor picked it up. The usual deal. Hollywood does sooo hate being teased.

Daniel Radcliffe Interview

Highlights from the Daniel Radcliffe’s interview in the October issue of Details Magazine

"I just like wrong-footing people. I write poetry and I love it. I like being different from most other people in my generation."

"I think part of me would love to play a drag queen - It would be an excuse to wear loads of eye makeup."

"The only thing I'm likely to spend on is artwork cause that's the only thing I'm interested in that costs a lot of money."

Ever the gentleman, he’s also refusing to name the older woman he dated when he was only 16. Three years later Radcliffe concedes the age difference "wasn't ridiculous," but that "it would freak some people out."

Check out more info on DR here

A Busy Boy

Director of Hellboy II and the upcoming Hobbit films Guillermo del Toro has committed himself to projects which will take him right up to, wait for it, 2017.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

RockNRolla: The Review

Guy Ritchie has cut rather a sad figure in recent years. The hot young director who Madonna first met in Sting’s country mansion, and then married, has failed to live up to his early promise. His last film Swept Away was a straight-to-video disaster, even though it featured Madonna herself. It’s unlikely she has forgiven him for it.

Ritchie has made no bones about RockNRolla – he’s taken the wheels off his first film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and fitted them to more-or-less the same vehicle. Just days before the premiere the film in London, England, there's talk of those self-same wheels coming off already. The chief operating officer of Warner Bros poured scorn on its commercial viability and authorized what is effectively an arthouse, limited release across the USA.

The story is vintage Ritchie – London East End gangster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) tries to do a deal with a Russian oligarch Uri (Czech actor Karel Roden as an uncanny Roman Abramovich lookalike) who operates on a criminal level old-fashioned Lenny can barely understand. At the same time Lenny’s reviled stepson goes missing, a crack-headed rockstar with a death-wish, and the Russian oligarch’s ‘lucky painting’ is stolen.

Drawing all these strands together is the story of ordinary low-level criminals One Two (Gerard Butler) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) who are wheeling and dealing around these much bigger fish. Then there’s Stella played by Thandie Newton, who is Uri’s ‘accountant’. She’s playing a dangerous and double game.

Though Ritchie is often thought of as an inferior kind of Quentin Tarantino, he’s actually very careful not to show gruesome violence, even though he has Tarantino’s love of fast edits (which Tarantino in turn ripped off from Hong Kong directors such as Tsui Hark).

In fact Ritchie take almost all of his cues from The Godfather and The Long Good Friday; the trouble in the intercut scenes work well as the finale of Godfather II, but Ritchie does it all the way through. It’s exhausting, like ADD writ large.

Acting wise Tom Wilkinson as the grotesque cockney crook is supremely menacing, quite jowl-shakingly bald and brilliant. Thandie Newton does a kind of wooden sexy girl thing and doesn’t exactly extend her range. Everyone else is interchangeable.

The script (by Ritchie) is by-the-numbers where people ‘shake like cocktails’ and ‘sweat like semtex’. You can sense Ritchie probably thinking these are brilliant lines. They sound like a succession of little pats on the back. But they aren’t brilliant. They’re tired and lazy. As is the predictable sound-track. Everything about it is out-of-date and out-of-touch.

Described by some as a return to form - but the form in question wasn't that good in the first place.

** two stars out of five

Madonna at the RockNRolla World Premiere

Madonna gave her husband Guy Ritchie a pretty frosty reception on the red carpet premiere of his latest film RockNRolla,on Monday, here in London.

As she arrived, RockNRolla actor Tom Hardy, being interviewed on TV at the time, quipped ‘here comes the money’.

Clutching her Stella McCartney M-dolla bag Madonna seemed to need coaxing to get out of the limo and when Guy leaned in to give her a peck on the check, she turned away at the last second.

Unbeknownst to the couple, there was a live feed straight into the Odeon West End. Everyone saw it up close.

Later Guy introduced the film onstage with the words: ‘It’s nice to feel a bit of love in the house for a change’. Sadly, everyone started laughing.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Horse Whisperer Author Poisoned

The author of the novel that inspired a Robert Redford film has become seriously ill after eating mushrooms gathered on a holiday trip to the Scottish Highlands.

Horse Whisperer writer Nicholas Evans, 58, his wife Charlotte, her brother Sir Alistair Gordon-Cumming, 54, and his wife Lady Louise, 46, mistakenly consumed Cortinarius Speciosissimus, which can cause renal failure. All are now on dialysis in Aberdeen, Scotland, but are said to be recovering.

Evans was struggling with £65,000 of debt when Robert Redford bought the film rights for his unfinished debut novel, The Horse Whisperer, for a record £3 million in 1995.

Duchovny: Sex Addict

David Duchovny has checked himself into a clinic. For sex addiction, like his character in Californication. And the fall-out has already begun.

Johnston & Murphy have ditched him from their recent fashion retail campaign.

A spokesman for the Nashville, Tennessee-based company said at the time: ‘David embodies success and confidence, along with a great sense of style, communicating the ideal image for the Johnston & Murphy brand.’

Now head office have told all their outlets to take his picture down.

Monday, 1 September 2008

On a Silver Salver Plate, Please

Queen Helen Mirren has told GQ magazine she used cocaine during the 1980s but stopped when the former Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was found to be making money from the class-A drug.

‘I loved coke,’ she told interviewer Piers Morgan. ‘I never did a lot, just a little bit at parties. But what ended it for me was when they caught Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyons, in the early Eighties. He was hiding in South America and living off the proceeds of being a cocaine baron.’

‘I read that in the paper, and all the cards fell into place and I saw how my little sniff of cocaine at a party had an absolute direct route to this horrible man in South America.’

Here are some of Dame Helen's recent holiday snaps...