Thursday, 30 October 2008

Peter Sarsgaard: The Warm Up

How does actor Peter Sarsgaard prepare for his Broadway performances in Chekhov's The Seagull?

Topless, he plays table tennis in his New York apartment, sweating against a gadget that bounces the balls back at him

"It's my pre-show warm up," he says. "I'm in there frequently playing ping pong against a robot, topless and wearing shorts."

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Halloween without the Wicked Witch

Carlos Leon is throwing a Halloween party - and anyone can come.

Madonna's former lover and father of 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes, will be hosting a spooky bash on Long Island City, Thursday, 6-9 p.m. It's at The Crescent Club Sales Office on Queens Plaza North.

Carlos designed the condo's fitness center, it seems. Just don't come dressed as The Material Girl.

Cheyenne Jackson: Hit on By Rome's Matrons

Cheyenne Jackson just performed at the AmFAR benefit at the Rome Film Festival.

Spies noticed "a steady stream of wealthy, Mrs. Robinson-esque socialites kept coming up to his table - it was amusing hearing 'Quel ragazzo é bello' [What a beautiful boy] and watching the ladies request private concerts or singing lessons."

They were destined to be disappointed. Jackson, who starred on Broadway in "All Shook Up" and "Xanadu," is openly gay.

Jonas Brothers to the Big Screen with Farting Dog

20th Century Fox has locked the Jonas Brothers to make their feature starring debut in a Farrelly Brothers film Walter the Farting Dog.

The title character in the "Walter" books is a fat dog with severe flatulence. The brothers play musicians whose parents are asked to care for the dog by an aunt just before she passes away.

Based on a best-selling series of books by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, the film is being adapted by Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen into a family film that will revolve around Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas, as well as their younger brother Frankie.

Want to know more about windy walter here

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Story of the Scene: Star Wars (1977)

How did a Warner Brothers stock sound effect become an in-joke amongst movie sound editors and movie geeks after being revived for the original Star Wars? Who screamed the Wilhelm scream?

To be frank, it’s a fairly insignificant moment in Star Wars. Luke Skywalker is on the Death Star, lair of his nemesis Darth Vader. He's fighting a running battle with the white-armored Storm Troopers and now he’s come to a vertiginous drop at the end of a corridor. He's firing upon the Storm Troopers on a similar position just opposite. One Trooper falls into the abyss between them and there’s a strangulated slightly high-pitched cry.

Welcome to the Wilhelm scream, used in over 130 films since the 1950’s.

This was the moment when it became currency again, a cult item, a moment of Hollywood history and a piece of pure Hollywood kitsch.

The man who put the scream in Star Wars is Ben Burtt. During his sound design work on Star Wars, Burtt was looking through the Warners archives. He came across an almost forgotten 3-D film called Distant Drums, made in 1951.

During a scene in which some soldiers are wading through the everglades, one is savaged by a waiting alligator. This is the first ever use of the Wilhelm Scream. Why is it called the Wilhelm scream? Burtt called it that after finding a subsequent use in The Charge at Feather River (1953) where it is issued by one Private Wilhelm (played by Ralph Brooke) after being shot in the leg.

For years it was only ever heard in Warner Bros films. It can be experienced in Judy Garland’s A Star is Born amongst many others. After Burtt started using it as a leitmotif in all of his movies it became much better known. For a long while Joe Dante employed it as a favored zombie cry in his films. More recently he has abandoned its use; now everyone is in on this former industry joke, a bit of sonic badinage between special-effects geeks.

During the editing of
Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino called for a break when he was told all about the history of the scream - just as he was using it himself. By coincidence a TV channel was playing it that very afternoon, and Tarantino called time, crowding into a nearby room with his sound crew so he could watch Distant Drums.

So who screamed the Wilhelm scream? The most likely candidate is Sheb Wooley, most famous for the song The Purple People Eater which sold 3 million copies in 1958. Originally a bit-part actor, he played the uncredited role of Private Jessup in Distant Drums and was it seems hauled into Warner's for some post-production screaming.

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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Wrestler [The Review]

Mickey Rourke stars as the washed-up New Jersey wrestler in this Oscar-tipped low-budget movie, due for US release on 19th December.

Rourke's performance as the washed-up eighties actor playing a washed-up eighties wrestler has gripped those cultural commentators who have already seen it. Nobody ever thought this would happen – a comeback performance from Mickey Rourke many years on from his 1980’s triumphs with Barfly, Angel Heart, 9½ Weeks and Rumblefish.

Rourke plays Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (and gets annoyed when people use his real name), a career wrestler who is still putting on performances way past his sell-by date and having to supplement his meagre income with work heaving crates in a warehouse. He lives in a trailer park, is estranged from his daughter and seems to have few friends, even though he’s popular with his fans and his fellow wrestlers. During one event he suffers a cardiac arrest, and briefly retires, involving a humiliating stint on a deli counter in a supermarket.

Tempted by a rematch of his most famous fight back in 1986, he unwisely agrees the fight, the massive bypass scar still healing across his chest, pumping himself full if pharmaceuticals and steroids to build up bulk.

Director Darren Aronofsky is best when he plays his New York card – fancifully in Pi, but very down-to-earth in Requiem for a Dream (2000), a film whose central performance, with Ellen Burstyn as a middle-aged woman addicted to speed-filled slimming cures, won an Oscar. Here he’s in New Jersey. This is a cold and fairly uninviting place, and the hand-held camerawork accentuates the feeling of a documentary.

The environment is wintry and decaying, but the wrestling ring, somehow, always feel warm – and its understandable why Randy feels forever drawn back to it. It’s not like it was however; he was to endure many novelty, gothic acts, which involve a great deal of superficial mutilation and bleeding. The audience, these days, doesn’t want peroxided men in spangly tights and Guns and Roses on the soundtrack. They want rivers of blood.

Randy describes himself as a ‘big broken piece of meat’ and that is the feeling that Rourke gives with every inch of his performance. Indeed, the final speech that Randy gives at the end could as well describe the troubled career of Rourke himself, who at one time retired from acting to box professionally.

There’s hardly a scene where we don’t see Randy, whether he’s trying to make friendly with his angry, estranged daughter, getting picked up by a slightly suspect female fan, or in the ring with fights. There are no Rocky style training sequences. Training sequences are, to be honest, pretty boring. Instead we get more attention payed to the unexpected femininity of these super-masculine figures – the care they take with their hair being dyed, the tanning, the obsession with the body beautiful.

This isn’t Rocky, this is rock-bottom. Both Aronofsky and Rourke have pulled of a spectacular, shining comeback here – Aronofsky from the disaster of The Fountain and Rourke from the disaster of his life. This film is highly recommended.

***** stars our of five

Monday, 27 October 2008

Rogen: I Hate Getting Thin

Seth Rogen is shedding pounds off his body weight - and he hates every minute of it.

"I've been eating better and training - and hating myself for it,' admits Rogen, who is on his slim to prepare for his Green Hornet role. 'I feel like a sell out, I feel lame, I feel like a guy I would make fun of."

Rogen also wrote the screenplay for The Green Hornet, a reinvention of the old 1930's radio show that also became a Bruce Lee vehicle in the 1960's. Perhaps he should have made his Britt Reid character a little on the chunky side...

After all he's re-writing it right now.

Read more here

Cronenberg Writes a Novel

While attending the ongoing Rome Film Festival, Canadian director David Cronenberg has mentioned that he's writing a novel.

Cronenberg has already written 60 pages. It's not horror or sci-fi, but the otherwise Canada's most famous export after Celine Dion offered few details on the project. Perhaps The Dead Ringers director will write it with novelty pens fashioned from gynecological instruments.

"Based on the pages I have written we found publishers all over the world, which is very terrifying to me," Cronenberg told reporters. "It's at a very delicate phase right now, so I can't really talk about it. It's not like Stephen King, I don't know what it's like but you wouldn't call it a horror or science fiction novel at all. But what it is exactly, well, I don't know yet."

Friday, 24 October 2008

Angelina: I'll Marry Brad

Angelina Jolie has been speaking to Vanity Fair, Italia.

"When we first met I already had a child," she tells the publication, "We didn't live together and we adopted Zahara. Usually people fall in love and and everything revolves around people getting married. Children are an afterthought."

"We've done everything the wrong way around, but sooner or later the children will ask, you know, they watch films and ask questions," Jolie, 33, said. "They want to know why Shrek and Fiona got married and we haven't." (Pitt has said he won't wed Jolie until gay marriage is made legal.)

"I have never been to a fashion show and I hate shopping," she continues. "The rapport between fashion and celebrity has something slimy that I don't like. So that's why I choose clothes that truly correspond to me."

Her favorite Red Carpet moment? "There is no reason to feel nervous on a red carpet. In May last year at Cannes I smiled a little more because Brad had dirty trousers and one of the children had weed on him."

Boris Johnson and Jaws

Colin Firth looked black as thunder while London Mayor Boris Johnson joked about his politics on Wednesday night.

Here's me standing by Boris a few minutes beforehand.

Giving a speech prior to the Gala screening of Michael Winterbottom’s Genova, Johnson told a packed audience that he routinely called his secretary ‘Miss Moneypenny’ before giving an extended, stream-of-consciousness riff on the true hero of Jaws, which was, he claimed, the local mayor, who quite rightly fought to keep the beaches open despite some ‘trifling incidents’ with the bathers.

As Michael Winterbottom and Firth, who stars in the film, waited in the wings of the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square, Johnson joked that he noticed from an internet search that Colin Firth didn’t share his political views. Throughout the mayor’s monologue Firth scowled, and never looked at him once.

He looked even more annoyed when Johnson started quoting Elizabeth Bennett, evoking memories of Firth’s most famous TV role as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Who would have thought that the mop-haired politician could so successfully play the regency heroine to his moody Mr Darcy, evincing a saturnine scowl as good as anything he did in the Jane Austen.

As minions brought his bicycle at the end of the movie, Boris was heard to mention that the film was ‘wrist-slashing stuff’ before hurtling off into the West End.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Howard Voices Surprise

Terrence Howard says was surprised to learn that Don Cheadle would replace him in "Iron Man 2."

"It was the surprise of a lifetime," the actor and musician told National Public Radio yesterday. "There was no explanation, (the contract) just up and vanished."

Howard said he read news reports that money was the issue, saying the contracts he signs apparently "aren't worth the paper that they're printed on sometimes."

Cheadle assumes the role of James Rhodes, a character that becomes Iron Man's sidekick War Machine in the comics, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Chevy Chase - Not Amused

Chevy Chase didn't see the funny side of Sarah Palin’s guest appearance on Saturday Night Live last weekend.

The former SNL alum slammed Palin’s lack of improvisation skills on Saturday’s program, which was hosted by W star Josh Brolin and featured Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin.

Palin appeared in an opening skit with staunch Democrat Baldwin, and again in the Weekend Update segment, when she nodded along to a rap song by SNL’s Amy Poehler.

He tells Access Hollywood “Quite frankly, it’s a big mistake to let her go on. What was brilliant about (SNL producer) Lorne (Michaels) was that he had nothing written for Sarah and that apparently she cannot improvise herself out of a paper bag!"

Lindsay Gets Sued by three Quaking Men

Remember when Lindsay Lohan allegedly commandeered that SUV and got arrested after a car chase through Santa Monica earlier this year?

Now the three men who's truck she borrowed are suing her, claiming she was "angry and aggressive" and the men "felt surprise, shock, fear and panic" at their behavior.

The poor lambs Ronnie Blake, Jakon Sutter and Dante Nigro are seeking unspecified damages in the case, just filed in Superior Court in Santa Monica.
Highschool Musical clips HERE
Watchmen footage HERE

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Gwynie Gets Goopy

Gwyneth Paltrow was out an about in London's West End last night, where she was premiering her film Two Lovers during the London Film Festival.

She's not been backward in offering her public support for Madonna, saying on GMTV this morning “She's a very dear friend. I support her in all the ways I can. I'm just here for her and on the other end of the phone. I speak to her a lot.”

You can find Gwynie's website Goop here

Tea and Billy Bob

Billy Bob Thornton is reported to have been secretly dating Tea after meeting her on the set of their new film ‘Manure’. But he insists their relationship is purely professional.

It was reported this week Tea’s estranged husband David Duchovny separated from her after discovering explicit text messages from Billy Bob on his wife’s cell phone.

It didn't help that she went on record calling him as 'maybe my new favorite person in the world'

You can read about the movie here

Thor Busted, Ghosts Yet to Be

Turn Down News: Daniel Craig has turned down a chance to star in Thor as it would be 'too much of a power trip' and Seth Rogan has said he 'will turn down' starring in the new Ghostbusters film if he thinks the script isn't good enough. Rogan told "There is a point where it.s so bad it's really easy to say no."

Sunday, 19 October 2008

'There will never be a Female Bond' - Interview with the Director of Quantum of Solace

These are out-takes for an interview with Marc Forster written for Sight & Sound, the excellent magazine for the British Film Institute.

How were you approached to direct Quantum of Solace?

I like Bond films but I was never a fanatic. My agent rang me up about Eon productions and I said look, I don’t want to meet them. There’s no script. If it doesn’t succeed it really harms my career and if it does succeed it means I can make other big
Hollywood blockbusters, which I’m not that interested in making anyway. This is crazy. Then Amy Paschal from Sony rang up and said look can you just meet them out of respect, as a favour to me, so I meet Barbara Broccoli.

So you had to think about it?

I went home after the meeting and happened to read an old interview with Orson Welles where he expresses regret for never having made a commercial movie. We were still cutting Kite Runner and I mentioned the offer to my DP and editor. They said, are you crazy? We have to do it. It’s a piece if history!

Then what happened?

On the third meeting I met Daniel Craig and we really clicked. He really understands the character. He reminds me of Steve McQueen.

Then you started working on the script with him in Pinewood?

I worked on it and then the writers strike started and we knew we had enough material till early April and then, if the strike continued, we’d be really screwed. We began the film not knowing we could film the ending.

And you brought in your own team?

I brought in my crew and all the people I collaborated with before. The former Bond crew did six of the Bonds and I needed to do my own look. I said to Barbara and Michael look if you really want me to make this movie I need to bring my own people otherwise I can’t do it

This is a dark Bond

Is Bond really good? You now longer know whether the government has the best interests of the people in mind. Now the villains and the good guys are a mish-mash. There’s not only darkness is there. You can’t take it too seriously – Bond is damaged and he is needs to keep his humour and the lighter side.

And the villain is an environmentalist

I thought the villains should change he should just be this normal guy and he’s this environmentalist on top of this. There’s an overlay between Bond and Greene. All the topics and stuff I threw in there which weren’t relevant last year suddenly become relevant now – the price of oil, access to drinking water, problems in Venezuela and Bolivia, the economic downfall of America and how they have to keep up a front.

Don’t you think that Matthieu Almalric who plays the villain Mr Greene looks like Roman Polanski?

He told me when he did the Diving Bell and the Butterfly, of course Emmanuelle Seigner was a co-star and she lives with Polanski and he visited the set. One day Polanski was standing in front of him and it was very strange for him – they looked the same.

You controlled everything down to the material of the suits Bond wears, which was a rare material

I’m pretty much of a control freak – its not the material of the suit but the colour, style and look

And what were your reference points?

I loved the early Bond movies, the retro-look on the one hand and juxtapose it with the modern world. I always thought Hitchcock always had an influence on from
Russia with Love and I wanted to take North by Northwest and throw something like that in – and Parallelex View, and use those as a references.

What changes did you make to the Paul Haggis draft you had?

For example, soon after the beginning, it was scripted originally that Bond runs into
Siena cathedral and has to fight there way up. I thought that was really unspectacular and not very interesting.

What did you do?

I thought it was much more interesting to start in the belly of Siena, the Roman water cisterns, pop up into the centre of the square with the annual Palio going on, chasing through 50,000 people into the horse stalls, up a stair and onto the roof and along the roof and into the tower, crash through into the glass dome and have a fight hanging on the ropes – a firs
t, I think

Will there ever be a female Bond?

No, I don’t think so. Bond is such an icon – it wouldn’t be the same.

Why did Amy Winehouse get dropped from singing the theme tune?

I met with her but she didn’t feel so well, she never wrote anything she never delivered a song so we needed to move on

What’s Your Favourite Bond Movie?

I love from
Russia with Love – but maybe because it’s set in Switzerland. But my favourite is George Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s secret service – it’s just a cool movie

Is it true you were on the kidnap list for the Baader-Meinhof Gang when you were just 12?

Yes it’s true. My Father was an industrialist I grew up in a wealthy environment. That’s why we left
Germany and I grew up in a mountain resort in Switzerland. Later he lost all his money.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Quantum of Solace [The Review]

After the death of girlfriend Vesper Lynd at the conclusion of Casino Royale, James Bond hunts down the shadowy group that blackmailed Lynd to betray him. Uniquely in the canon this is a follow-on mere minutes on from the former outing, a second time round for the slightly nasty Bond inaugurated by Daniel Craig. But what does Quantum of Solace actually mean?

Beginning with a car chase in Italy, the action doesn’t let up from the beginning as Bond fends of machine-gun wielding pursuing villains in their Alfa Romeos and ends up in an M16 base in Siena. There his captive reveals the existence of a sinister, clandestine organization which M (played again by Judi Dench) instructs Bond to investigate, horrified that she has no knowledge of this group or its scale of influence. M herself nearly dies as her own bodyguard springs the captive during questioning; the trail leads to Bolivia and a man called Dominic Greene (Matthieu Amalric) who is using the developing world eco-crisis to feather his criminal nest. This is a Bond film all about – water. Not diamonds, oil or uranium. Water.

There’s a long and glorious history of Bond villains but this is the first film to give them a reality check; this villain doesn’t weep blood, or sport titanium teeth, or even stroke a cat. This villain could be a Wall Street trader, a classic corporate psychopath adept at keeping ahead of the game. The Bond girl formula remains fairly unchanged – there’s Olga Kurylenko as Camille and Gemma Arterton as the tragic Agent Fields, whose death, already spread over the internet, references the ormulu assassination in Goldfinger.

There are plenty of chases, an early one through Siena during the Palio horse-racing annual event, and a pleasingly anachronistic one where Bond pilots an old cargo plane and is pursued by a propeller-driven fighter plane. Director Mark Forster doesn’t mess around with the editing – some of it is so fast it’s actually hard to follow, with edit upon edit lasting just a few seconds.

Craig, for my money, remains the best Bond since Sean Connery, and nothing about this film is going to damage that reputation. So much of the Bond films is not in its action sequences but its depiction of the international jet set high-life, and the luxurious hotels he checks into (in one amusing sequence refusing to settle to a flea pit because it suits his cover story) certainly fit the bill for vicarious pleasure. Craig brings a meaty charm to his Bond, who by this point is fairly demented from lack of sleep, grief and a desire for vengeance.

Memorable moments include a Godfather-like meeting of villains during a huge public performance of Tosca - this sequence recalls Moore-era Bond with a touch of Hannibal Lecter about it. Humor is fairly thin on the ground, but, despite the claims of Geoffrey Mcnab on The Independent, it’s there. There's a delicate balancing act between faintly preposterous situations and a genuine feeling of imminent peril. At least, post Bourne Identity, the actual hand-to-hand fighting is better to watch, and better choreographed. Bond deals in adrenaline, not life and death. Bond is never going to die.

The truth about Bond is that its machine. It's a huge, sleek vending machine. It may be famous for its product placements - its Omega watches, its high-end cars (Fords here - not very sexy), its suits and loafers, its hotels, its gold, its holiday venues. Fanciful gadgets have been phased out, mainly because you can't sell them.

The Bond franchise also a huge product placement for Pinewood, the British studio where it always takes place, and a single self-refreshing product for Eon productions who make it. Recently I met Marc Forster on a huge corporate junket; that I was supposed to interview him without seeing the film was proof to me that it wasn't ever intended to be a film. It's pure product. It's auto-merchandising taken to a level of art.

The feeling of watching Bond, unless you happen to be a psychopath, is being co-opted into a huge piece of rolling machinery with its destination always fixed and its definition of sexy corporate, glassy and ever so slightly dead.

Quantum of Solace? I’ve read up extensively on this title, and asked Forster when I met him a few weeks ago. It’s taken from a short fiction by Ian Fleming, the original writer of Bond. It means a fleeting moment of comfort. And in this Bond, the fleeting moments of comfort he gains come, without doubt, from the kills he makes.

Stars: *** Out of Five

Verdict: Bound to be overpraised, the fate of all Bond films.

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