Sunday, December 28, 2008

Epic Australia

Finally prised myself off the sofa today and put aside the junk food and the remote control to go and see Australia. I will admit, this wasn't my first choice (that would have been Yes Man cos I'm reading the book) but I had to go and see something non-comedic because I was going with my sister who has a chest infection and laughter of any sort pre-empts a scary coughing fit.

However, I was glad I saw Australia in the end as it was highly entertaining despite its length (165 minutes) and was full of gorgeous imagery. Seriously - if it emerges that Baz Luhrman was paid by the Australian government to make this film as tourism propaganda, I will have no trouble believing it. The country has never looked more inviting.

The film has epic written all over it. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman play parts that you can just imagine stars like Clark Gable and Ingrid Bergman pulling off. She's Lady Sarah Ashley, an English aristocrat who comes to Australia in 1939 to find out if her husband Maitland has managed to bankrupt the remote cattle station he's been running with her money. Jackman is The Drover, the rough cowboy her husband pays to pick her up in Darwin. The two characters meet and predictably hate each other on sight. The Drover drives her to Faraway Downs, the cattle station in question, only to find that Maitland has already been murdered. The most likely suspect is local Aboriginal shaman King George, whose mixed-race grandson Nullah lives on the station.

Sarah, who cannot have children, and the orphaned boy soon form a bond and she decides to stay on the farm and make a go of the business. But she faces two obstacles: the 1,500 cattle must be brought to Darwin to be sold and cattle magnate King Carney (Bryan Brown) is determined to stop her and maintain his monopoly of the beef market.

The first half of the film, which sees Sarah engaging The Drover's services in order to drive the cattle to Darwin across an unforgiving landscape and against incredible odds, is brilliantly done and plays out like a true Australian Western. The finale, which takes place in World War II-era Darwin, is also involving and effective. I'd argue that the part in the middle sags badly and that this is where scenes could definitely have been cut. The film's other main problem are the villains, in particular Carney's henchman Fletcher (David Wenham). They are simply moustache-twirling stock baddies who could have been fleshed out a lot more.

But the good outweighs the bad - Nicole Kidman is better than I've seen her in ages and she is matched by Hugh Jackman who is perfect as the macho hero. Brandon Walters is outstanding in his debut role as Nullah and steals every scene he is in. Overshadowing the storyline is the Australian government's horrifying policy of taking mixed-race Aboriginal children away from their families and placing them in church care. Both the opening and closing subtitles refer to this atrocity and it is this that remains in your mind after seeing the film - that and the incredible beauty that is Australia.

Epic Australia

Finally prised myself off the sofa today and put aside the junk food and the remote control to go and see Australia. I will admit, this wasn't my first choice (that would have been Yes Man cos I'm reading the book) but I had to go and see something non-comedic because I was going with my sister who has a chest infection and laughter of any sort pre-empts a scary coughing fit.

However, I was glad I saw Australia in the end as it was highly entertaining despite its length (165 minutes) and was full of gorgeous imagery. Seriously - if it emerges that Baz Luhrman was paid by the Australian government to make this film as tourism propaganda, I will have no trouble believing it. The country has never looked more inviting.

The film has epic written all over it. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman play parts that you can just imagine stars like Clark Gable and Ingrid Bergman pulling off. She's Lady Sarah Ashley, an English aristocrat who comes to Australia in 1939 to find out if her husband Maitland has managed to bankrupt the remote cattle station he's been running with her money. Jackman is The Drover, the rough cowboy her husband pays to pick her up in Darwin. The two characters meet and predictably hate each other on sight. The Drover drives her to Faraway Downs, the cattle station in question, only to find that Maitland has already been murdered. The most likely suspect is local Aboriginal shaman King George, whose mixed-race grandson Nullah lives on the station.

Sarah, who cannot have children, and the orphaned boy soon form a bond and she decides to stay on the farm and make a go of the business. But she faces two obstacles: the 1,500 cattle must be brought to Darwin to be sold and cattle magnate King Carney (Bryan Brown) is determined to stop her and maintain his monopoly of the beef market.

The first half of the film, which sees Sarah engaging The Drover's services in order to drive the cattle to Darwin across an unforgiving landscape and against incredible odds, is brilliantly done and plays out like a true Australian Western. The finale, which takes place in World War II-era Darwin, is also involving and effective. I'd argue that the part in the middle sags badly and that this is where scenes could definitely have been cut. The film's other main problem are the villains, in particular Carney's henchman Fletcher (David Wenham). They are simply moustache-twirling stock baddies who could have been fleshed out a lot more.

But the good outweighs the bad - Nicole Kidman is better than I've seen her in ages and she is matched by Hugh Jackman who is perfect as the macho hero. Brandon Walters is outstanding in his debut role as Nullah and steals every scene he is in. Overshadowing the storyline is the Australian government's horrifying policy of taking mixed-race Aboriginal children away from their families and placing them in church care. Both the opening and closing subtitles refer to this atrocity and it is this that remains in your mind after seeing the film - that and the incredible beauty that is Australia.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twilight - the review



Just saw Twilight and here's what I thought:

The money-making machine that is Twilight has hit Irish screens - and if the (mostly teenage) audience reaction in my cinema is anything to go by, resistance is futile.

Based on the first of Stephenie Mayer’s bestselling series of novels, Twilight tells the story of teenager Bella Swann, who moves to the town of Forks in Washington State to live with her dad. Her father is the local police chief and soon finds himself investigating a spate of deaths that apparently involve a wild animal. Or do they?

Meanwhile, Bella starts at the local high school where she encounters the mysterious Cullen siblings and in particular the enigmatic 17-year-old Edward. The Cullens are a family of foster children and this, as well as their aloof manner and deathly-pale skin, sets them apart from the other kids. Edward seems to detest Bella on sight, but a series of strange events and a growing attraction to each other conspire to bring them together and expose his family’s secret. It comes as no surprise at all, of course, that they are vampires, albeit vegetarian ones (they only drink the blood of animals). But though we have seen the vampire family idea before, it is done in a fresh and surprisingly funny manner – “It gives us an excuse to use the kitchen for the first time.” says Edward’s mother when Bella visits the family house for dinner.

The good and bad vampires idea – for there are also vampires who are only too happy to hunt people – has also been done before in films like The Lost Boys and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and arguably, these previous efforts did it better. This is a 12A film so obviously it is low on gore but did it have to be so low on scares? The evil vampires, led by Cam Gigandet, are a toothless bunch and don’t present much of a threat.

The real threat in this film, of course, comes from Edward himself. He and Bella fall in love, but can’t consummate their relationship or even kiss for fear that Edward will lose control and kill her with a bite. This has inevitably led to a comparison with sexual abstinence movements in the U.S. (and the fact that Meyer is herself a Mormon has added to the argument). I think that if anything, though, this is reading too much into what is a clever and compelling plot device.

I will confess that I haven’t read the novel and had little or no expectations walking into the cinema. That I enjoyed the film and would pay to see a sequel is mainly down to the well-drawn heroine and the amusingly-written supporting characters. Kristen Stewart is likeable as Bella, despite playing possibly the most angst-ridden teenage girl I’ve seen on screen in a long time. Her school friends are realistically-played and the vampire family, especially the parents portrayed by Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser, are interesting characters that could be developed much better in any future films. It is ironic, seeing as he plays the supposedly charismatic Edward, that Robert Pattinson’s is possibly the least-engaging character. Whether Pattinson can do more than pout and look mysterious or whether he’s going to get typecast like Orlando Bloom, only time will tell.

In the meantime, Twilight is an engaging and beautifully-shot teenage movie that parents will probably enjoy more than they will admit.

Twilight - the review



Just saw Twilight and here's what I thought:

The money-making machine that is Twilight has hit Irish screens - and if the (mostly teenage) audience reaction in my cinema is anything to go by, resistance is futile.

Based on the first of Stephenie Mayer’s bestselling series of novels, Twilight tells the story of teenager Bella Swann, who moves to the town of Forks in Washington State to live with her dad. Her father is the local police chief and soon finds himself investigating a spate of deaths that apparently involve a wild animal. Or do they?

Meanwhile, Bella starts at the local high school where she encounters the mysterious Cullen siblings and in particular the enigmatic 17-year-old Edward. The Cullens are a family of foster children and this, as well as their aloof manner and deathly-pale skin, sets them apart from the other kids. Edward seems to detest Bella on sight, but a series of strange events and a growing attraction to each other conspire to bring them together and expose his family’s secret. It comes as no surprise at all, of course, that they are vampires, albeit vegetarian ones (they only drink the blood of animals). But though we have seen the vampire family idea before, it is done in a fresh and surprisingly funny manner – “It gives us an excuse to use the kitchen for the first time.” says Edward’s mother when Bella visits the family house for dinner.

The good and bad vampires idea – for there are also vampires who are only too happy to hunt people – has also been done before in films like The Lost Boys and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and arguably, these previous efforts did it better. This is a 12A film so obviously it is low on gore but did it have to be so low on scares? The evil vampires, led by Cam Gigandet, are a toothless bunch and don’t present much of a threat.

The real threat in this film, of course, comes from Edward himself. He and Bella fall in love, but can’t consummate their relationship or even kiss for fear that Edward will lose control and kill her with a bite. This has inevitably led to a comparison with sexual abstinence movements in the U.S. (and the fact that Meyer is herself a Mormon has added to the argument). I think that if anything, though, this is reading too much into what is a clever and compelling plot device.

I will confess that I haven’t read the novel and had little or no expectations walking into the cinema. That I enjoyed the film and would pay to see a sequel is mainly down to the well-drawn heroine and the amusingly-written supporting characters. Kristen Stewart is likeable as Bella, despite playing possibly the most angst-ridden teenage girl I’ve seen on screen in a long time. Her school friends are realistically-played and the vampire family, especially the parents portrayed by Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser, are interesting characters that could be developed much better in any future films. It is ironic, seeing as he plays the supposedly charismatic Edward, that Robert Pattinson’s is possibly the least-engaging character. Whether Pattinson can do more than pout and look mysterious or whether he’s going to get typecast like Orlando Bloom, only time will tell.

In the meantime, Twilight is an engaging and beautifully-shot teenage movie that parents will probably enjoy more than they will admit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Write a Christmas hit, make millions....

It's at this time of year that I usually start thinking about writing a Christmas movie. It just seems like such an obvious idea - every time a movie you've written gets shown on the telly, you get a royalty payment. And at this time of year every Christmas movie ever made, no matter how bad, seems to get at least one outing. It's a no-fail way to make money! If I could write music I'd write a Christmas song, too. And one about birthdays - there aren't enough songs about those.

I was thinking, therefore, about good and bad Christmas movies. I think one of the worst I've ever seen was Mary Christmas (starring Jenny McCarthy, about Santa's errant daughter). Bet the guy who wrote it is still making money though! Here's my top five favourite Christmas films...

Seasonal crackers
Miracle on 34th Street - I've never seen the original, only the 1994 version with Richard Attenborough. But I get a lump in my throat every time I watch it. Every department store Santa should be like him!

It's a Wonderful Life - What's brilliant about IaWL is that it has this great bleak side to it as well as the heartwarming side. All Christmas movies should have this sort of duality cos this is a time of year when tempers are fraying and people are getting family-rage. I even had butcher shop-rage this year when a granny tried to start something with me in FX Buckleys.

Scrooged - You can't have a Christmas movie list without a version of Scrooge and this has Bill Murray in it when he was still funny, so it's a winner. I've seen this film a dozen times and it's still hilarious. A bit like...

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - Again, I've seen this nearly every Christmas I've been alive and I still laugh at the squirrel in the Christmas tree and the granny who's wrapped her cat up as a gift.

Die Hard - a strange choice, maybe, but it all takes place at Christmas and Holly Gennaro McClane's colleagues are just trying to have an office party - damn those pesky terrorists and their gatecrashing! Holly is clearly cursed at Christmas (despite her festive name) cos terrorists interruped the season for her again in Die Hard 2.

Get this lot on DVD and you won't be stuck for something to watch!

Write a Christmas hit, make millions....

It's at this time of year that I usually start thinking about writing a Christmas movie. It just seems like such an obvious idea - every time a movie you've written gets shown on the telly, you get a royalty payment. And at this time of year every Christmas movie ever made, no matter how bad, seems to get at least one outing. It's a no-fail way to make money! If I could write music I'd write a Christmas song, too. And one about birthdays - there aren't enough songs about those.

I was thinking, therefore, about good and bad Christmas movies. I think one of the worst I've ever seen was Mary Christmas (starring Jenny McCarthy, about Santa's errant daughter). Bet the guy who wrote it is still making money though! Here's my top five favourite Christmas films...

Seasonal crackers
Miracle on 34th Street - I've never seen the original, only the 1994 version with Richard Attenborough. But I get a lump in my throat every time I watch it. Every department store Santa should be like him!

It's a Wonderful Life - What's brilliant about IaWL is that it has this great bleak side to it as well as the heartwarming side. All Christmas movies should have this sort of duality cos this is a time of year when tempers are fraying and people are getting family-rage. I even had butcher shop-rage this year when a granny tried to start something with me in FX Buckleys.

Scrooged - You can't have a Christmas movie list without a version of Scrooge and this has Bill Murray in it when he was still funny, so it's a winner. I've seen this film a dozen times and it's still hilarious. A bit like...

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - Again, I've seen this nearly every Christmas I've been alive and I still laugh at the squirrel in the Christmas tree and the granny who's wrapped her cat up as a gift.

Die Hard - a strange choice, maybe, but it all takes place at Christmas and Holly Gennaro McClane's colleagues are just trying to have an office party - damn those pesky terrorists and their gatecrashing! Holly is clearly cursed at Christmas (despite her festive name) cos terrorists interruped the season for her again in Die Hard 2.

Get this lot on DVD and you won't be stuck for something to watch!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Comedians - do they have a sell-by date?

Every couple of years a new batch of comedians hit the scene and everything they touch turns to gold (or ticket sales). But four or five years later they inevitably start to churn out more turkeys than a turkey farmer on a turkey farm at Christmas time. So who are the current old guard, who are the new boys and who’s just starting to fray at the edges?

The Old

Steve Martin – he’s had many highs (The Man With Two Brains, The Jerk, Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and lows (too many to mention but I’m going to single out The Pink Panther remake). But he’s still standing and still sells tickets.

Chevy Chase – a blast from the past who hasn’t had a hit movie in well over a decade, but a friend of mine who works at Dublin airport saw Mr. Chase pass through recently and get swamped by fans looking for autographs. Not surprising, considering that the Lampoon films and Caddyshack are on constant re-runs on TV.

Bill Murray – the grumpiest legend of all, Bill hasn’t done a straight-up comedy in a while. Will he fulfil my dream in 2009 and re-unite The Ghostbusters for number 3? I really hope so…..

Fraying at the Edges

Jim Carrey – Carrey is another comedian who has spent the last few years avoiding comedy with mixed results (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was excellent, Number 23 was not). But he’s making a comeback this month with Yes Man. Danny Wallace’s book was hilarious – let’s hope for Jim’s sake that the film is too cos he needs a hit.

Adam Sandler – Zohan was bad in an unfunny way and Bedtime Stories looks bad in a cloyingly-cute Disney way. To be honest, I haven’t laughed at an Adam Sandler movie since The Wedding Singer.

The Frat Pack – They’re all way too old to be still doing this shit, and judging from the desperation in their eyes, they know it. Yes, Messrs. Wilson, Ferrell and Vaughn, that’s you. I’m giving Ben Stiller a temporary reprieve because Tropic Thunder was so brilliant it made me snort Fanta through my nose.

The New

Judd Apatow’s stable – Apatow has more or less taken over Hollywood comedy and for now, at least, his line-up of actors are the hottest names in Hollywood. And this despite the fact that Seth Rogen et al look like they should be crunching code for Microsoft rather than appearing in movies with babes.

But if there’s one thing they should know it’s that the public tires of comedy performers just as fast as they fall in love with them. Sooner or later, just like the comedians that have gone before them, the hits will dry up and their jokes will start to stink like old cheese. But will they rise to the top like Bill Murray and keep coming back for more or sink like Chevy Chase and become the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question? Only time will tell…..

Comedians - do they have a sell-by date?

Every couple of years a new batch of comedians hit the scene and everything they touch turns to gold (or ticket sales). But four or five years later they inevitably start to churn out more turkeys than a turkey farmer on a turkey farm at Christmas time. So who are the current old guard, who are the new boys and who’s just starting to fray at the edges?

The Old

Steve Martin – he’s had many highs (The Man With Two Brains, The Jerk, Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and lows (too many to mention but I’m going to single out The Pink Panther remake). But he’s still standing and still sells tickets.

Chevy Chase – a blast from the past who hasn’t had a hit movie in well over a decade, but a friend of mine who works at Dublin airport saw Mr. Chase pass through recently and get swamped by fans looking for autographs. Not surprising, considering that the Lampoon films and Caddyshack are on constant re-runs on TV.

Bill Murray – the grumpiest legend of all, Bill hasn’t done a straight-up comedy in a while. Will he fulfil my dream in 2009 and re-unite The Ghostbusters for number 3? I really hope so…..

Fraying at the Edges

Jim Carrey – Carrey is another comedian who has spent the last few years avoiding comedy with mixed results (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was excellent, Number 23 was not). But he’s making a comeback this month with Yes Man. Danny Wallace’s book was hilarious – let’s hope for Jim’s sake that the film is too cos he needs a hit.

Adam Sandler – Zohan was bad in an unfunny way and Bedtime Stories looks bad in a cloyingly-cute Disney way. To be honest, I haven’t laughed at an Adam Sandler movie since The Wedding Singer.

The Frat Pack – They’re all way too old to be still doing this shit, and judging from the desperation in their eyes, they know it. Yes, Messrs. Wilson, Ferrell and Vaughn, that’s you. I’m giving Ben Stiller a temporary reprieve because Tropic Thunder was so brilliant it made me snort Fanta through my nose.

The New

Judd Apatow’s stable – Apatow has more or less taken over Hollywood comedy and for now, at least, his line-up of actors are the hottest names in Hollywood. And this despite the fact that Seth Rogen et al look like they should be crunching code for Microsoft rather than appearing in movies with babes.

But if there’s one thing they should know it’s that the public tires of comedy performers just as fast as they fall in love with them. Sooner or later, just like the comedians that have gone before them, the hits will dry up and their jokes will start to stink like old cheese. But will they rise to the top like Bill Murray and keep coming back for more or sink like Chevy Chase and become the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question? Only time will tell…..

Friday, November 28, 2008

Four Christmases (and two good jokes)

Just saw Four Christmases and was SO disappointed. As I've mentioned before, I first read of the concept for this film ages ago and thought it was such a brilliant idea for a Christmas movie. It had nearly unlimited comedic potential and had the promise of being a year-on Xmas classic. Well, they blew it.

Despite a great initial idea and a top cast (Robert Duval, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight, all wasted in minor roles as the divorced parents), the film is a badly-written, lazily-directed series of cliches. There are two funny bits - Reese Witherspoon getting trapped in a jumping castle and Vince Vaughn falling off his dad's roof while trying to fix the TV aerial. Otherwise the movie bored me (and most of the audience, judging by the muted reactions) to tears.

One of the problems is that Vaughn, who is likeable and funny in small doses, was let completely off the leash in this one and is just obnoxious. Reese Witherspoon, as his supposedly adoring fiancee, could barely hide her dislike....

It just goes to show that you can start with a diamond and end up with a lump of coal.

Four Christmases (and two good jokes)

Just saw Four Christmases and was SO disappointed. As I've mentioned before, I first read of the concept for this film ages ago and thought it was such a brilliant idea for a Christmas movie. It had nearly unlimited comedic potential and had the promise of being a year-on Xmas classic. Well, they blew it.

Despite a great initial idea and a top cast (Robert Duval, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight, all wasted in minor roles as the divorced parents), the film is a badly-written, lazily-directed series of cliches. There are two funny bits - Reese Witherspoon getting trapped in a jumping castle and Vince Vaughn falling off his dad's roof while trying to fix the TV aerial. Otherwise the movie bored me (and most of the audience, judging by the muted reactions) to tears.

One of the problems is that Vaughn, who is likeable and funny in small doses, was let completely off the leash in this one and is just obnoxious. Reese Witherspoon, as his supposedly adoring fiancee, could barely hide her dislike....

It just goes to show that you can start with a diamond and end up with a lump of coal.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas presents and upcoming movies

Two flicks I can't wait to see are Four Christmases and Twilight. Four Christmases because I first read of the premise for this film in Blake Snyder's brilliant Save the Cat book and thought it was such a great idea: a newly-married couple have to spend part of Christmas day with each of their divorced parents (so four Christmases in one day). Let's hope they haven't dropped the ball in executing it and ruined what promises to be the sort of funny Xmas movie we can all identify with.

Twilight I have to see simply because the teenage girls' reaction to star Robert Pattinson appearing at the Austin Film Festival was so insane that I have to see what the fuss is about. I didn't think he was fantastic in How to Be, the film actually showing at the festival, so am curious to see what he'll be like in Twilight.

It's based on a novel (which I haven't read yet), which brings me neatly onto my tip for Christmas presents: buy novels that are about to be made into films next year. It can be person/age appropriate, i.e. get children's books for the kiddies, something like Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane for people who like thrillers etc. That way, when the films come out in the theatre, they can be all smug and say "Well, of course I've read that already". It's a no-brainer: people love being ahead of the pack....

Christmas presents and upcoming movies

Two flicks I can't wait to see are Four Christmases and Twilight. Four Christmases because I first read of the premise for this film in Blake Snyder's brilliant Save the Cat book and thought it was such a great idea: a newly-married couple have to spend part of Christmas day with each of their divorced parents (so four Christmases in one day). Let's hope they haven't dropped the ball in executing it and ruined what promises to be the sort of funny Xmas movie we can all identify with.

Twilight I have to see simply because the teenage girls' reaction to star Robert Pattinson appearing at the Austin Film Festival was so insane that I have to see what the fuss is about. I didn't think he was fantastic in How to Be, the film actually showing at the festival, so am curious to see what he'll be like in Twilight.

It's based on a novel (which I haven't read yet), which brings me neatly onto my tip for Christmas presents: buy novels that are about to be made into films next year. It can be person/age appropriate, i.e. get children's books for the kiddies, something like Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane for people who like thrillers etc. That way, when the films come out in the theatre, they can be all smug and say "Well, of course I've read that already". It's a no-brainer: people love being ahead of the pack....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Being patient - and a pleading letter to Ewan McGregor

I've started work on The Heartstoppers, my U.S.-set comedy horror and it's going well. The reason - and the thing that's changed my screenwriting life - is that I sat down first and wrote a ten-page treatment for it. Never again will I try to write a script without a treatment. Therein lies madness! And a lot of frustration and pacing up and down....

After some good news about my Irish thriller Summer Tide, things seem to have gone quiet again. However, I'm trying to learn to be patient about these scriptwriting go-slows so I'm cracking on with other projects and leaving all that to percolate, at least for a while.

I haven't seen any films in the theatre since Easy Virtue, which is shocking. However, I see Ewan McGregor is in cinemas with another complete turkey, i.e. Incendiary. What's happened?? He used to be one of my favorite actors . I've sat through some humdingers in the past few years because he was in them and I figured they couldn't be that bad (I was wrong).

In the spirit of Empire's hilarious open letter to Mark Walhlberg ( http://www.empireonline.com/empireblog/post.asp?id=308), I'm writing a letter to Ewan to ask him to get his act together already:

Dear Ewan McGregor,

I'm been a fan of yours since I saw Shallow Grave 15 years ago. You immediately endeared yourself to me with your great acting, adventurous role choices and willingness to get your kit off at every opportunity. You were jaw-dropping in Trainspotting (I'm ignoring Blue Juice), great in Emma and lovable in Brassed Off and if A Life Less Ordinary was less than brilliant, it wasn't really your fault. Up to 2004 I'd have defended you to anyone who criticised you but in the last four years you have made it seriously difficult to be your fan.

First of all, your film choices have been more and more random. I still can't believe I paid good money to see The Island. What a load of crap. You looked silly, you had no chemistry with Scarlett Johansson and frankly, Steve Buscemi acted you off the screen. The latest crime against movies that you participated in (that I've seen anyway), was Deception. Yes, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams should be ashamed of themselves too, but at least they gave it their all. You looked like you were thinking of the bike trip you were going to fund with your fee.

I think the rot started with Star Wars. For some reason George Lucas is able to take perfectly good actors and suck all the life out of them and that's what happened in this case. You were supposed to be heroic and I just wanted to smack you. Please, whatever George says to you on the phone, no more Obi Wan.

The other big mistake was teaming up with Charley Boorman to do that stupid TV series. Every group of male friends seems to include someone like Charley Boorman and he's usually the guy all the female partners wish would disappear. When I watch this show I feel for Mrs. McGregor, at home with the kids while two self indulgent idiots with too much money and time on their hands faff around the world on their penis-extension machines. Ewan, sometimes it's nice to maintain some mystery, and letting all your fans see you at your macho worst wasn't the best move.

It's not too late - you can get back to doing what you do best and take on brave, brilliant parts. But please, Ewan, sooner rather than later. I want to be able to go to the cinema and NOT come out cringing or annoyed. I want to be blown away again - and I know you can do it.

Best,

Eilis

Being patient - and a pleading letter to Ewan McGregor

I've started work on The Heartstoppers, my U.S.-set comedy horror and it's going well. The reason - and the thing that's changed my screenwriting life - is that I sat down first and wrote a ten-page treatment for it. Never again will I try to write a script without a treatment. Therein lies madness! And a lot of frustration and pacing up and down....

After some good news about my Irish thriller Summer Tide, things seem to have gone quiet again. However, I'm trying to learn to be patient about these scriptwriting go-slows so I'm cracking on with other projects and leaving all that to percolate, at least for a while.

I haven't seen any films in the theatre since Easy Virtue, which is shocking. However, I see Ewan McGregor is in cinemas with another complete turkey, i.e. Incendiary. What's happened?? He used to be one of my favorite actors . I've sat through some humdingers in the past few years because he was in them and I figured they couldn't be that bad (I was wrong).

In the spirit of Empire's hilarious open letter to Mark Walhlberg ( http://www.empireonline.com/empireblog/post.asp?id=308), I'm writing a letter to Ewan to ask him to get his act together already:

Dear Ewan McGregor,

I'm been a fan of yours since I saw Shallow Grave 15 years ago. You immediately endeared yourself to me with your great acting, adventurous role choices and willingness to get your kit off at every opportunity. You were jaw-dropping in Trainspotting (I'm ignoring Blue Juice), great in Emma and lovable in Brassed Off and if A Life Less Ordinary was less than brilliant, it wasn't really your fault. Up to 2004 I'd have defended you to anyone who criticised you but in the last four years you have made it seriously difficult to be your fan.

First of all, your film choices have been more and more random. I still can't believe I paid good money to see The Island. What a load of crap. You looked silly, you had no chemistry with Scarlett Johansson and frankly, Steve Buscemi acted you off the screen. The latest crime against movies that you participated in (that I've seen anyway), was Deception. Yes, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams should be ashamed of themselves too, but at least they gave it their all. You looked like you were thinking of the bike trip you were going to fund with your fee.

I think the rot started with Star Wars. For some reason George Lucas is able to take perfectly good actors and suck all the life out of them and that's what happened in this case. You were supposed to be heroic and I just wanted to smack you. Please, whatever George says to you on the phone, no more Obi Wan.

The other big mistake was teaming up with Charley Boorman to do that stupid TV series. Every group of male friends seems to include someone like Charley Boorman and he's usually the guy all the female partners wish would disappear. When I watch this show I feel for Mrs. McGregor, at home with the kids while two self indulgent idiots with too much money and time on their hands faff around the world on their penis-extension machines. Ewan, sometimes it's nice to maintain some mystery, and letting all your fans see you at your macho worst wasn't the best move.

It's not too late - you can get back to doing what you do best and take on brave, brilliant parts. But please, Ewan, sooner rather than later. I want to be able to go to the cinema and NOT come out cringing or annoyed. I want to be blown away again - and I know you can do it.

Best,

Eilis

Friday, November 7, 2008

Two films, one stinker.

A quiet-ish week - saw Burn After Reading and Easy Virtue. One was a complete disappointment and the other was a nice surprise. And not the one you'd think!

Burn After Reading was actually a disaster. I've rarely been so disappointed by a film: the weird thing is that this means the Coen Brothers have now made my favorite film of the last year AND my least favorite. They managed to write a script in this case with not one likeable character, and wasted the talents of Malkovich, Clooney et al. I'm not saying every film has a have a "save the cat" type moment, but if you don't see any reason to like the main character after 30 minutes have passed, then the film-makers have lost you. It was a same problem with Eagle Eye - Shia La Boeuf did his best to make his character someone you would root for, but he was saddled with playing a guy who cheats his friends out of money, owes his landlady rent, whines at his dad and has a twin complex. Suck it up!

If you want to see properly written characters and some great performances, go to Easy Virtue instead. I've never been sure about Jessica Biel's acting ability but she was excellent as the flashy Larita and has the film's best line (about her in-law's draughty English mansion), "I can't live here. Nothing can".

Two films, one stinker.

A quiet-ish week - saw Burn After Reading and Easy Virtue. One was a complete disappointment and the other was a nice surprise. And not the one you'd think!

Burn After Reading was actually a disaster. I've rarely been so disappointed by a film: the weird thing is that this means the Coen Brothers have now made my favorite film of the last year AND my least favorite. They managed to write a script in this case with not one likeable character, and wasted the talents of Malkovich, Clooney et al. I'm not saying every film has a have a "save the cat" type moment, but if you don't see any reason to like the main character after 30 minutes have passed, then the film-makers have lost you. It was a same problem with Eagle Eye - Shia La Boeuf did his best to make his character someone you would root for, but he was saddled with playing a guy who cheats his friends out of money, owes his landlady rent, whines at his dad and has a twin complex. Suck it up!

If you want to see properly written characters and some great performances, go to Easy Virtue instead. I've never been sure about Jessica Biel's acting ability but she was excellent as the flashy Larita and has the film's best line (about her in-law's draughty English mansion), "I can't live here. Nothing can".

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The name is....

I've been dying to see Quantum of Solace for ages and finally got the chance tonight.

It's not the most fun Bond movie that's ever been but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. I loved the way they updated Bond in the sense that it's now a much more uncertain world. He doesn't necessarily defeat the villain (or at least not in the way you would think), he doesn't get as much bedroom action as he used to - and as for saving the world, in this one it's more Bond versus global warming than Bond versus some Blofeld-type villain. And all the better for it!

The stunts are amazing: maybe not as amazing as Casino Royale with the cool free-running sequence but pretty damn good. There are some nice touches - one of my cinema accomplices pointed out a sweet little stunt where Daniel Craig walks nonchalently along a thin parapet. Hard to imagine Roger Moore managing that one!

As for the villain, well the real villain is the super-secretive Quantum organisation but as its human face in the movie, Mathieu Amalric is utterly malevolent. I don't know whether I was more freaked out by his cold eyes or the fact that he looks really like a younger version of Roman Polanski.

Bond 21 - check it out.

In other news, no need to ask anymore whatever happened to Corey Haim because he's back! Pictures from the set of Crank 2 show Corey getting his ass kicked by the female star Amy Smart (see here). Corey, it's good to have you back - next let's see you in a movie I will actually pay to see...

The name is....

I've been dying to see Quantum of Solace for ages and finally got the chance tonight.

It's not the most fun Bond movie that's ever been but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. I loved the way they updated Bond in the sense that it's now a much more uncertain world. He doesn't necessarily defeat the villain (or at least not in the way you would think), he doesn't get as much bedroom action as he used to - and as for saving the world, in this one it's more Bond versus global warming than Bond versus some Blofeld-type villain. And all the better for it!

The stunts are amazing: maybe not as amazing as Casino Royale with the cool free-running sequence but pretty damn good. There are some nice touches - one of my cinema accomplices pointed out a sweet little stunt where Daniel Craig walks nonchalently along a thin parapet. Hard to imagine Roger Moore managing that one!

As for the villain, well the real villain is the super-secretive Quantum organisation but as its human face in the movie, Mathieu Amalric is utterly malevolent. I don't know whether I was more freaked out by his cold eyes or the fact that he looks really like a younger version of Roman Polanski.

Bond 21 - check it out.

In other news, no need to ask anymore whatever happened to Corey Haim because he's back! Pictures from the set of Crank 2 show Corey getting his ass kicked by the female star Amy Smart (see here). Corey, it's good to have you back - next let's see you in a movie I will actually pay to see...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to winter...

Back in Ireland and it is freezing! Thought NY was cold until we got off the plane in Dublin and it was 4 degrees. I was so cold when I got to New York from Austin (by comparison!) that I bought a puffa jacket which is getting a lot of use now.

IFTN have published my diary piece, which gives the main lowdown on what happened in Austin. I'm definitely heading back to Austin next year - by then I plan to have entered The Heartstoppers in the AFF screenwriting competition and hopefully have got somewhere with getting one of my films made over here.

On that, I had some good news this week. A director may be interested in making my film Summer Tide! I'll post more news on this as I have it: it's really early days but I'm excited about it nonetheless. Fingers crossed!

Back to winter...

Back in Ireland and it is freezing! Thought NY was cold until we got off the plane in Dublin and it was 4 degrees. I was so cold when I got to New York from Austin (by comparison!) that I bought a puffa jacket which is getting a lot of use now.

IFTN have published my diary piece, which gives the main lowdown on what happened in Austin. I'm definitely heading back to Austin next year - by then I plan to have entered The Heartstoppers in the AFF screenwriting competition and hopefully have got somewhere with getting one of my films made over here.

On that, I had some good news this week. A director may be interested in making my film Summer Tide! I'll post more news on this as I have it: it's really early days but I'm excited about it nonetheless. Fingers crossed!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Update from the Lone Star State!

I'm still in Texas and nearly finished this leg of the trip - it's been a crazy, action-packed few days. I'm writing a diary account of my festival journey for the Irish Film and Television Network when I get back, but in the meantime let me tell you that if you've ever thought about making scriptwriting your career, the Austin Film Festival is definitely worth a trip. The people I've met and the stories I've heard will stay with me for a long time - when it's zero degrees in January and I'm wondering if I can ever make it as a scriptwriter, this experience will be there to cheer me up!

I'm not saying that lightly because it was an unbelievably long day last Thursday getting here - my geography is terrible and I had NO idea how far south Texas was! But it was brilliant the next day getting up and going to a Q&A with the great Mr. Terry Rossio. I got to ask him a few questions and he gave us some really interesting tips about pitching (trust your content and your ideas above all else). He didn't end up being my pitching judge after all - which was probably a good thing considering how nervous that would have made me - but the pitching itself went well. See the news section of IFTN for lots more details!

In the meantime, here are some pictures from the festival:


Charlie Kaufman talks about the (baffling, for me anyway!) Synecdoche New York....


Danny Boyle answers questions on the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire....














Heroes creator Tim Kring and comedy writers Phil Rosenthal and Greg Daniels talk TV writing, product placement and dealing with the networks....



The fabulous motel pool.....


My equally fabulous motel room - check out the cowboy boots....



Logan Steiner and I show off our all-access badges....



"Raiders of the Lost Ark" legend Laurence Kasdan, "Whip It!" writer Shauna Cross and "Go"'s John August talk inspiration....

Update from the Lone Star State!

I'm still in Texas and nearly finished this leg of the trip - it's been a crazy, action-packed few days. I'm writing a diary account of my festival journey for the Irish Film and Television Network when I get back, but in the meantime let me tell you that if you've ever thought about making scriptwriting your career, the Austin Film Festival is definitely worth a trip. The people I've met and the stories I've heard will stay with me for a long time - when it's zero degrees in January and I'm wondering if I can ever make it as a scriptwriter, this experience will be there to cheer me up!

I'm not saying that lightly because it was an unbelievably long day last Thursday getting here - my geography is terrible and I had NO idea how far south Texas was! But it was brilliant the next day getting up and going to a Q&A with the great Mr. Terry Rossio. I got to ask him a few questions and he gave us some really interesting tips about pitching (trust your content and your ideas above all else). He didn't end up being my pitching judge after all - which was probably a good thing considering how nervous that would have made me - but the pitching itself went well. See the news section of IFTN for lots more details!

In the meantime, here are some pictures from the festival:


Charlie Kaufman talks about the (baffling, for me anyway!) Synecdoche New York....


Danny Boyle answers questions on the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire....














Heroes creator Tim Kring and comedy writers Phil Rosenthal and Greg Daniels talk TV writing, product placement and dealing with the networks....



The fabulous motel pool.....


My equally fabulous motel room - check out the cowboy boots....



Logan Steiner and I show off our all-access badges....



"Raiders of the Lost Ark" legend Laurence Kasdan, "Whip It!" writer Shauna Cross and "Go"'s John August talk inspiration....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nearly there.....

I've waited so long for this trip and it's mad to think it's only a few days away.

I'm decided on The Heartstoppers as my pitching script - I've done a treatment for it whereas the other script just isn't at that point yet. I've been practicing by speaking my pitch into a recorder and playing it back - it's unbelievable how bad your own voice sounds when you hear it like that...

Have no idea what I'm going to pack - Austin is meant to be really hot but I'm flying to New York after the festival and it's apparently not much warmer than here. Good thing I'm bringing an utterly massive case....

Nearly there.....

I've waited so long for this trip and it's mad to think it's only a few days away.

I'm decided on The Heartstoppers as my pitching script - I've done a treatment for it whereas the other script just isn't at that point yet. I've been practicing by speaking my pitch into a recorder and playing it back - it's unbelievable how bad your own voice sounds when you hear it like that...

Have no idea what I'm going to pack - Austin is meant to be really hot but I'm flying to New York after the festival and it's apparently not much warmer than here. Good thing I'm bringing an utterly massive case....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pitching questions...

With one week to go before Austin I have my treatment for The Heartstoppers (my comedy horror) finished and am starting on the pitch. The other film I could pitch is an adventure thriller about a diplomat who ends up in the middle of a coup in a foreign country. It’s a film I could really see getting made. The problem is that I can’t even think of a title for it and overall it’s proving to be a lot more work than Heartstoppers, which just burst out of me as if it had been waiting to get out...

Still don’t know who I’m pitching to, so keeping both films in mind seems like a good idea.

Pitching questions...

With one week to go before Austin I have my treatment for The Heartstoppers (my comedy horror) finished and am starting on the pitch. The other film I could pitch is an adventure thriller about a diplomat who ends up in the middle of a coup in a foreign country. It’s a film I could really see getting made. The problem is that I can’t even think of a title for it and overall it’s proving to be a lot more work than Heartstoppers, which just burst out of me as if it had been waiting to get out...

Still don’t know who I’m pitching to, so keeping both films in mind seems like a good idea.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How to Lose Friends - Plus Who I'll be Pitching to in Austin

Went to see How to Lose Friends And Alienate People today - not half bad. Much funnier than the trailer would make you think and not deserving of a lot of the poor reviews it's received. Simon Pegg's dancing has to be seen to be believed and Miriam Margoyles is brilliant as his landlady. It doesn't have as much bite as it could have had but all in all a good time at the cinema and worth the price of a ticket.

I got an email from the Austin Film Festival yesterday giving me a list of eight two-person panels that I could be pitching my movie to. I had to choose my top three choices and send them back - top of the list had to be Terry Rossio, not just because he's co-written the Pirates trilogy and Shrek but but because he penned Small Soldiers, an underrated gem. Also in my top three was Mark Vahradian (produced Transformers) and Lauren Levy (Miramax executive). I can't wait to see who I get to pitch to!

I've written three feature-length movies, but they're all set in Ireland. So for this pitch I have to choose between two films I only have treatments for. They are: a comedy horror set in Maine (think an updated version of the Cat and the Canary) and an adventure thriller set in Central Asia (sort of The Last King of Scotland meets Romancing the Stone). And I only have 13 days to decide which one to pitch - and practice.....

How to Lose Friends - Plus Who I'll be Pitching to in Austin

Went to see How to Lose Friends And Alienate People today - not half bad. Much funnier than the trailer would make you think and not deserving of a lot of the poor reviews it's received. Simon Pegg's dancing has to be seen to be believed and Miriam Margoyles is brilliant as his landlady. It doesn't have as much bite as it could have had but all in all a good time at the cinema and worth the price of a ticket.

I got an email from the Austin Film Festival yesterday giving me a list of eight two-person panels that I could be pitching my movie to. I had to choose my top three choices and send them back - top of the list had to be Terry Rossio, not just because he's co-written the Pirates trilogy and Shrek but but because he penned Small Soldiers, an underrated gem. Also in my top three was Mark Vahradian (produced Transformers) and Lauren Levy (Miramax executive). I can't wait to see who I get to pitch to!

I've written three feature-length movies, but they're all set in Ireland. So for this pitch I have to choose between two films I only have treatments for. They are: a comedy horror set in Maine (think an updated version of the Cat and the Canary) and an adventure thriller set in Central Asia (sort of The Last King of Scotland meets Romancing the Stone). And I only have 13 days to decide which one to pitch - and practice.....

Friday, October 3, 2008

Upcoming Movies You’d Chew Your Arm Off to See

It’s been a strange year for movies – nothing good out for ages and then several brilliant movies come along at once. I’m thinking of Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, two hilarious comedies at the same time just when I’d given up hope on comedy flicks.

When I think back on the summer, the two films I enjoyed the most were Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Maybe I’m becoming a comic book nerd in my old age cos I can’t wait for The Spirit next year. Out of the two, though, Iron Man rules – it was much more fun than the Knight and it was a great career comeback for Robert Downey Jnr, who’s one of my favorite actors. The sequel will be one to watch.

Ten movies I’m looking forward to:

1. Quantum of Solace - even though Daniel Craig does NOT get into the tiny blue trunks again: shame on you Daniel!

2. Eagle Eye – trailer looks good, will the movie deliver?

3. Burn After Reading – The Coens have their hits and their misses but No Country for Old Men is already on my top 20 films list so this new one is a must-see.

4. Frost/Nixon – Michael Sheen is one of the most underrated actors around and this could finally be his breakthrough movie.

5. W – how brilliant is it to have a film about a President in theatres when the real thing has barely finished cleaning his hair out of the White House shower?

6. Revolutionary Road – Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet re-united. Will this be as big as Titanic? And will the acting be better?

7. Valkyrie – Tom Cruise as a Nazi? This I have to see…

8. Bride Wars – Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson in bitch mode over a wedding sounds like chick-flick heaven.

9. Marley and Me – this I have to see purely on the basis of the teaser trailer, with the doggie making like Chariots of Fire on the beach.

10. Jennifer’s Body – this sounds like a completely demented episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is written by Diablo Cody – worth a look.

One gripe – where are all the cool action films? And no, ones starring Jason Statham don’t count.
However, the granddaddy of action movies is rumoured to be making Under Siege 3 – yes, Mr. Steven Siegel. But will this be cool like Under Siege 1 or crap like Exit Wounds?

Upcoming Movies You’d Chew Your Arm Off to See

It’s been a strange year for movies – nothing good out for ages and then several brilliant movies come along at once. I’m thinking of Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, two hilarious comedies at the same time just when I’d given up hope on comedy flicks.

When I think back on the summer, the two films I enjoyed the most were Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Maybe I’m becoming a comic book nerd in my old age cos I can’t wait for The Spirit next year. Out of the two, though, Iron Man rules – it was much more fun than the Knight and it was a great career comeback for Robert Downey Jnr, who’s one of my favorite actors. The sequel will be one to watch.

Ten movies I’m looking forward to:

1. Quantum of Solace - even though Daniel Craig does NOT get into the tiny blue trunks again: shame on you Daniel!

2. Eagle Eye – trailer looks good, will the movie deliver?

3. Burn After Reading – The Coens have their hits and their misses but No Country for Old Men is already on my top 20 films list so this new one is a must-see.

4. Frost/Nixon – Michael Sheen is one of the most underrated actors around and this could finally be his breakthrough movie.

5. W – how brilliant is it to have a film about a President in theatres when the real thing has barely finished cleaning his hair out of the White House shower?

6. Revolutionary Road – Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet re-united. Will this be as big as Titanic? And will the acting be better?

7. Valkyrie – Tom Cruise as a Nazi? This I have to see…

8. Bride Wars – Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson in bitch mode over a wedding sounds like chick-flick heaven.

9. Marley and Me – this I have to see purely on the basis of the teaser trailer, with the doggie making like Chariots of Fire on the beach.

10. Jennifer’s Body – this sounds like a completely demented episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is written by Diablo Cody – worth a look.

One gripe – where are all the cool action films? And no, ones starring Jason Statham don’t count.
However, the granddaddy of action movies is rumoured to be making Under Siege 3 – yes, Mr. Steven Siegel. But will this be cool like Under Siege 1 or crap like Exit Wounds?

Friday, September 26, 2008

How far would you go to try to get your movie made?

How about nearly 4,500 miles?

That's how far I'm going on 16th October - from Dublin, Ireland to the Austin Film Festival in Texas, to try to meet some people who can help me achieve my dream. I've never had a movie made. I don't know anyone else going to the festival. In fact, I don't know if there are any other Europeans going. The trip is going to make a hole in my savings. And last but not least, I've signed up to do a pitch on one of my spec scripts, in front of a roomful of film industry types.

And I can't wait!!!!! Roll on 16th October, roll on the famous Texas barbecue, the Stetson hats, the bridge with the famous bats (??) and lots and lots of movies...

How far would you go to try to get your movie made?

How about nearly 4,500 miles?

That's how far I'm going on 16th October - from Dublin, Ireland to the Austin Film Festival in Texas, to try to meet some people who can help me achieve my dream. I've never had a movie made. I don't know anyone else going to the festival. In fact, I don't know if there are any other Europeans going. The trip is going to make a hole in my savings. And last but not least, I've signed up to do a pitch on one of my spec scripts, in front of a roomful of film industry types.

And I can't wait!!!!! Roll on 16th October, roll on the famous Texas barbecue, the Stetson hats, the bridge with the famous bats (??) and lots and lots of movies...