Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Jameson Dublin Film Festival is approaching faster than a speeding bullet...

…And I can’t wait! I was lucky enough to win a season ticket for this year’s festival by correctly guessing the Surprise Film last year (The Escapist). Went along last night to pick it up and ended up getting an advance copy of the programme and booking tickets for 25 films. I have that week off work and this seemed like a great way to spend it. Reckon the people in the box office think I’m completely mad, however – said none of them could stand to see so many films in a week!

Anyway, the films I’m dying to see are Doubt, The Burning Plain, The Class and Il Divo (thankfully not about the cheesy all-male opera group). And the Surprise Film again, of course! I'm really looking forward to the festival in general and I highly recommend that you check it out.

The festival also has a screenwriting award this year, which sounds really exciting – it has a judging panel made up of the likes of Irvine Welsh, John Hurt and Lenny Abrahamson and the prize is €7,500. I have two scripts entered (two of my Irish-based ones) so am on tenterhooks to see if they get anywhere….

The Jameson Dublin Film Festival is approaching faster than a speeding bullet...

…And I can’t wait! I was lucky enough to win a season ticket for this year’s festival by correctly guessing the Surprise Film last year (The Escapist). Went along last night to pick it up and ended up getting an advance copy of the programme and booking tickets for 25 films. I have that week off work and this seemed like a great way to spend it. Reckon the people in the box office think I’m completely mad, however – said none of them could stand to see so many films in a week!

Anyway, the films I’m dying to see are Doubt, The Burning Plain, The Class and Il Divo (thankfully not about the cheesy all-male opera group). And the Surprise Film again, of course! I'm really looking forward to the festival in general and I highly recommend that you check it out.

The festival also has a screenwriting award this year, which sounds really exciting – it has a judging panel made up of the likes of Irvine Welsh, John Hurt and Lenny Abrahamson and the prize is €7,500. I have two scripts entered (two of my Irish-based ones) so am on tenterhooks to see if they get anywhere….

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An update on my list of (great) upcoming movies

I've been writing this blog for 4 months now and looking back over my previous stuff I see that I was looking forward in particular to ten upcoming films. Some I've seen, some haven't been released yet. Some of the ones I have seen were okay (Quantum of Solace, W) and some were butt-clenchingly awful (I'm thinking of Bride Wars, Burn After Reading and Eagle Eye - three vats of "I can't believe I paid to watch this" disappointment). Bride Wars actually made me ashamed of my gender - three days after seeing it I'm still angry about how it portrays women in general as a shallow, bird-brained bunch of harpies.

Anyway, enough of the past and more of the future. Here are the 10 movies I'm most looking forward to in 2009:
1. Revolutionary Road – nearly here! The trailer looks great, the Fifties detail amazing and the acting outstanding. Let's hope it's not in the vat of disappointment category four months from now.
2. Jennifer’s Body – sounds insane but highly entertaining. I still really want to see this and it's not out til next autumn! Grrr.
3. Watchmen - my gut feeling is that this is going to be either a work of genius or a complete disaster - nothing in between.
4. Terminator Salvation - This always seemed like a logical thing to do: fleshing out the futuristic bits with an adult John Connor that we saw in the first three Terminator flicks. Christian Bale stars and I think that alone is worth the price of admission.
5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - I must admit, I never really got the X-Men in general but Wolverine was a great character who deserved his own franchise and he will no doubt be ably supported by the likes of Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston.
6. Star Trek - I'm a bit worried by the nerd factor of this list so far but I'll carry on. I'm dying to see this, mainly to see the great Zachary Quinto play Spock and hear Simon Pegg's Scottish accent.
7. Public Enemies - I LOVED The Untouchables and this sounds like a modern day version starring a mega male cast (Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Billy Crudup, Shawn Hatosy, Rory Cochrane and Stephen Dorff). Have to see this one.
8. Whiteout - hopefully a chance to finally see an ass-kicking female cop in a movie which has an intriguing premise (Antartica's only cop has to solve a murder before winter hits in three days). Kate Beckinsale hasn't done a decent film in ages but I think this could be her comeback part.
9. Inglourious Basterds - virtually the only thing annoying me about this is the misspelt title. Why?! Otherwise, an even more fucked-up version of the Dirty Dozen directed by Tarantino sounds like something I've give up my car to see. Now. In my own private cinema with popcorn and no seat-kickers.
10. Sherlock Holmes - I love Conan Doyle and have read all the stories, so I'm really looking forward to this film. However, there is the good (Robert Downey Jnr., Rachel McAdams) and the bad (Jude Law and Guy Ritchie). I hope the good guys win out.

An update on my list of (great) upcoming movies

I've been writing this blog for 4 months now and looking back over my previous stuff I see that I was looking forward in particular to ten upcoming films. Some I've seen, some haven't been released yet. Some of the ones I have seen were okay (Quantum of Solace, W) and some were butt-clenchingly awful (I'm thinking of Bride Wars, Burn After Reading and Eagle Eye - three vats of "I can't believe I paid to watch this" disappointment). Bride Wars actually made me ashamed of my gender - three days after seeing it I'm still angry about how it portrays women in general as a shallow, bird-brained bunch of harpies.

Anyway, enough of the past and more of the future. Here are the 10 movies I'm most looking forward to in 2009:
1. Revolutionary Road – nearly here! The trailer looks great, the Fifties detail amazing and the acting outstanding. Let's hope it's not in the vat of disappointment category four months from now.
2. Jennifer’s Body – sounds insane but highly entertaining. I still really want to see this and it's not out til next autumn! Grrr.
3. Watchmen - my gut feeling is that this is going to be either a work of genius or a complete disaster - nothing in between.
4. Terminator Salvation - This always seemed like a logical thing to do: fleshing out the futuristic bits with an adult John Connor that we saw in the first three Terminator flicks. Christian Bale stars and I think that alone is worth the price of admission.
5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - I must admit, I never really got the X-Men in general but Wolverine was a great character who deserved his own franchise and he will no doubt be ably supported by the likes of Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston.
6. Star Trek - I'm a bit worried by the nerd factor of this list so far but I'll carry on. I'm dying to see this, mainly to see the great Zachary Quinto play Spock and hear Simon Pegg's Scottish accent.
7. Public Enemies - I LOVED The Untouchables and this sounds like a modern day version starring a mega male cast (Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Billy Crudup, Shawn Hatosy, Rory Cochrane and Stephen Dorff). Have to see this one.
8. Whiteout - hopefully a chance to finally see an ass-kicking female cop in a movie which has an intriguing premise (Antartica's only cop has to solve a murder before winter hits in three days). Kate Beckinsale hasn't done a decent film in ages but I think this could be her comeback part.
9. Inglourious Basterds - virtually the only thing annoying me about this is the misspelt title. Why?! Otherwise, an even more fucked-up version of the Dirty Dozen directed by Tarantino sounds like something I've give up my car to see. Now. In my own private cinema with popcorn and no seat-kickers.
10. Sherlock Holmes - I love Conan Doyle and have read all the stories, so I'm really looking forward to this film. However, there is the good (Robert Downey Jnr., Rachel McAdams) and the bad (Jude Law and Guy Ritchie). I hope the good guys win out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Role Models - worth a look

Role Models did not, at first glance, look like a good bet for a movie (at least to me!). It starred Seann William Scott, was a ribald comedy about men who needed to grow up and had no less than four screenwriters on the credits – generally the sure signs of a stinker.

However, two of the other writers were Paul Rudd and a chap called David Wain, who also directed it. Having good memories of David Wain (he delivered an entertaining talk at the AFF), I decided to give this film the benefit of the doubt. And in fact, this is a highly entertaining and well-written comedy.

Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) are two energy drink salesmen who are merely going through the motions job-wise. While Wheeler is a happy-go-lucky womaniser, however, Danny is a bitter misanthrope who is in a permanent bad mood. His bad mood eventually leads to him losing his lawyer girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) and Wheeler and him getting in trouble for vandalism. They face two choices: jail or 30 days community service at Sturdy Wings, a child-mentoring service.

Of course, you don’t have to be a fortune-teller to predict that they are going to be paired with the kids from hell. Danny is landed with role-playing fanatic Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse from Superbad), while Wheeler tries to keep up with foul-mouthed ten year old Ronnie. Very soon they are both wishing they had opted for jail, with Augie dragging Danny to his interminable medieval battle recreations (hilariously done) and Ronnie stealing Wheeler’s car and generally being a little monster.

I think Scott is a bit of a one-trick pony, and on this viewing so is Mintz-Plasse. Neither of them manage to break out of their respective stereotyped parts and Scott in particular is getting a bit old to be doing the frat-boy act. Paul Rudd, however, is brilliant as Danny and manages to go from being a thoroughly glum bastard at the start to a better human being at the end without being corny. The main weak link is Elizabeth Banks, who is saddled with a part so under-written that I forgot several times that she was in it. The girl can do so much better – give her a good part! Luckily the female corner is well fought by Jane Lynch, the mentoring counsellor who used to eat cocaine for breakfast, lunch (and dinner). She more than holds her own against the two male leads and is probably the character you will remember long after you’ve forgotten the rest of the movie.

Go to see Role Models if you’re after some good, undemanding laughs and enjoy watching Seann William Scott getting tormented by a small boy (and who doesn’t?).

Role Models - worth a look

Role Models did not, at first glance, look like a good bet for a movie (at least to me!). It starred Seann William Scott, was a ribald comedy about men who needed to grow up and had no less than four screenwriters on the credits – generally the sure signs of a stinker.

However, two of the other writers were Paul Rudd and a chap called David Wain, who also directed it. Having good memories of David Wain (he delivered an entertaining talk at the AFF), I decided to give this film the benefit of the doubt. And in fact, this is a highly entertaining and well-written comedy.

Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) are two energy drink salesmen who are merely going through the motions job-wise. While Wheeler is a happy-go-lucky womaniser, however, Danny is a bitter misanthrope who is in a permanent bad mood. His bad mood eventually leads to him losing his lawyer girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) and Wheeler and him getting in trouble for vandalism. They face two choices: jail or 30 days community service at Sturdy Wings, a child-mentoring service.

Of course, you don’t have to be a fortune-teller to predict that they are going to be paired with the kids from hell. Danny is landed with role-playing fanatic Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse from Superbad), while Wheeler tries to keep up with foul-mouthed ten year old Ronnie. Very soon they are both wishing they had opted for jail, with Augie dragging Danny to his interminable medieval battle recreations (hilariously done) and Ronnie stealing Wheeler’s car and generally being a little monster.

I think Scott is a bit of a one-trick pony, and on this viewing so is Mintz-Plasse. Neither of them manage to break out of their respective stereotyped parts and Scott in particular is getting a bit old to be doing the frat-boy act. Paul Rudd, however, is brilliant as Danny and manages to go from being a thoroughly glum bastard at the start to a better human being at the end without being corny. The main weak link is Elizabeth Banks, who is saddled with a part so under-written that I forgot several times that she was in it. The girl can do so much better – give her a good part! Luckily the female corner is well fought by Jane Lynch, the mentoring counsellor who used to eat cocaine for breakfast, lunch (and dinner). She more than holds her own against the two male leads and is probably the character you will remember long after you’ve forgotten the rest of the movie.

Go to see Role Models if you’re after some good, undemanding laughs and enjoy watching Seann William Scott getting tormented by a small boy (and who doesn’t?).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Wrestler gets me in a head lock


Saw The Wrestler at a preview screening last night – it rocks and if Mickey Rourke doesn’t get an Oscar for this one, there is no justice.

Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a sub-WWF star wrestler. The Ram’s heyday was around 1984 and with his glory days long behind him, he is now reduced to fighting at tawdry local bouts. He has no relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and having blown his wrestling money, lives in a trailer and does the odd shift at the local supermarket. His life is out of control and he is able to wrestle only because of a cocktail of steroids. But he can’t bear to give up the ring, despite being far too old to fight for a living.

The theme of people clinging to past glories forms the backbone of this film. Randy signs autographs at a sparsely-attended “Legends” signing session, surrounded by old men who look nothing like the wrestlers they once were. His female counterpart is Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), well over 40 and still stripping at a low-class club. Randy’s inability to change starts to become serious when he suffers a heart attack after a brutal match and is told by the doctors that another fight could kill him. Meanwhile Cassidy, who works to support her young son, realises that she can no longer compete with other, much-younger strippers.

The film raises interesting questions about ageing – specifically what people who depend on their bodies for a living can do once their bodies give up on them. Both Rourke and Tomei seize the challenges that their roles provide and deliver in spades. They aren’t afraid to show their characters at their very worst – the self-pity, the self-delusion and the vanity. There are no real villains in this piece except for the characters’ own stubbornness and their addiction to the cheers of a crowd.

The only thing I’d like to have seen more of was Evan Rachel Wood’s character. Wood did her best with what is an under-written part, but it would have been nice to have found out more about her and what she thought of her dad’s career. But ultimately The Wrestler is a brilliantly-written, brilliantly-acted movie that gets under your skin and won’t let go. I know who I’ll be putting my Oscar money on.

The Wrestler gets me in a head lock


Saw The Wrestler at a preview screening last night – it rocks and if Mickey Rourke doesn’t get an Oscar for this one, there is no justice.

Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a sub-WWF star wrestler. The Ram’s heyday was around 1984 and with his glory days long behind him, he is now reduced to fighting at tawdry local bouts. He has no relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and having blown his wrestling money, lives in a trailer and does the odd shift at the local supermarket. His life is out of control and he is able to wrestle only because of a cocktail of steroids. But he can’t bear to give up the ring, despite being far too old to fight for a living.

The theme of people clinging to past glories forms the backbone of this film. Randy signs autographs at a sparsely-attended “Legends” signing session, surrounded by old men who look nothing like the wrestlers they once were. His female counterpart is Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), well over 40 and still stripping at a low-class club. Randy’s inability to change starts to become serious when he suffers a heart attack after a brutal match and is told by the doctors that another fight could kill him. Meanwhile Cassidy, who works to support her young son, realises that she can no longer compete with other, much-younger strippers.

The film raises interesting questions about ageing – specifically what people who depend on their bodies for a living can do once their bodies give up on them. Both Rourke and Tomei seize the challenges that their roles provide and deliver in spades. They aren’t afraid to show their characters at their very worst – the self-pity, the self-delusion and the vanity. There are no real villains in this piece except for the characters’ own stubbornness and their addiction to the cheers of a crowd.

The only thing I’d like to have seen more of was Evan Rachel Wood’s character. Wood did her best with what is an under-written part, but it would have been nice to have found out more about her and what she thought of her dad’s career. But ultimately The Wrestler is a brilliantly-written, brilliantly-acted movie that gets under your skin and won’t let go. I know who I’ll be putting my Oscar money on.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire is a winner

I originally saw Slumdog Millionaire in Austin back in October 08 and was lucky enough to be at the screening where Danny Boyle was doing a Q&A. He came across as a lovely guy, really enthusiastic about the film and not at all jaded by all the questions. After all that and seeing the film, it was no surprise that he got an achievement award at the AFF Awards Luncheon the next day.

I was a bit concerned about seeing the movie a second time, as this can ruin films you've loved on the first watch. But no, I still came away from this one with a lump in my throat and my faith in the world restored. Yes, it's a crowd-pleaser.

Jamal Malik, the Indian main character, is first seen in a police station getting interrogated (in a very non-human-rights-friendly fashion) by the local cops about his involvement in the show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Jamal is winning the show and is the talk of the country, yet the cops don't believe that a boy from the Mumbai slums can be this lucky. He has to be cheating.

Jamal maintains that he simply knows the answers - and to prove this, he goes through his personal history and shows them how his life to date has led him to this moment and given him the tools he needs to succeed. He is destined to win the show - to quote the opening lines, "It is written".

As Jamal's tough childhood unfolds, growing up in the slums with his brother Salim, we are taken on a colourful journey of the senses, all scored by the great Indian composer A.R. Rahman with the help of Tamil hip-hop star MIA. The plot encompasses poverty, religious persecution, torture, child traffickers, gangland killings and betrayal. Life is hard for those in India's lower castes, and Boyle casts a sympathetic but never patronising eye over it.

The child actors who play Jamal and Salim in their youngest incarnations are outstanding but they are matched by the teenage actors playing them in the present day, most notably Dev Patel, who plays Jamal as the gameshow contestant. Jamal, it emerges, is motivated not so much by the show's prize as the chance it affords to find and win over his childhood friend Latika. I guarantee that by the end of the film you will be on the edge of your seat, anxious to see if he succeeds.

Slumdog Millionaire is the first stone-cold classic of 2009 and a hot contender for this year's Oscars. I for one will be placing my bets....

Slumdog Millionaire is a winner

I originally saw Slumdog Millionaire in Austin back in October 08 and was lucky enough to be at the screening where Danny Boyle was doing a Q&A. He came across as a lovely guy, really enthusiastic about the film and not at all jaded by all the questions. After all that and seeing the film, it was no surprise that he got an achievement award at the AFF Awards Luncheon the next day.

I was a bit concerned about seeing the movie a second time, as this can ruin films you've loved on the first watch. But no, I still came away from this one with a lump in my throat and my faith in the world restored. Yes, it's a crowd-pleaser.

Jamal Malik, the Indian main character, is first seen in a police station getting interrogated (in a very non-human-rights-friendly fashion) by the local cops about his involvement in the show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Jamal is winning the show and is the talk of the country, yet the cops don't believe that a boy from the Mumbai slums can be this lucky. He has to be cheating.

Jamal maintains that he simply knows the answers - and to prove this, he goes through his personal history and shows them how his life to date has led him to this moment and given him the tools he needs to succeed. He is destined to win the show - to quote the opening lines, "It is written".

As Jamal's tough childhood unfolds, growing up in the slums with his brother Salim, we are taken on a colourful journey of the senses, all scored by the great Indian composer A.R. Rahman with the help of Tamil hip-hop star MIA. The plot encompasses poverty, religious persecution, torture, child traffickers, gangland killings and betrayal. Life is hard for those in India's lower castes, and Boyle casts a sympathetic but never patronising eye over it.

The child actors who play Jamal and Salim in their youngest incarnations are outstanding but they are matched by the teenage actors playing them in the present day, most notably Dev Patel, who plays Jamal as the gameshow contestant. Jamal, it emerges, is motivated not so much by the show's prize as the chance it affords to find and win over his childhood friend Latika. I guarantee that by the end of the film you will be on the edge of your seat, anxious to see if he succeeds.

Slumdog Millionaire is the first stone-cold classic of 2009 and a hot contender for this year's Oscars. I for one will be placing my bets....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Yes Man - yes/no?

My first post of '09! I've been a hive of activity during the Christmas break as plague and contagion have badly hit our household and there's been nothing on the TV really. I did a spec synopsis for a thriller called At All Cost which I think I'll do a draft of this year. I also have an idea for a Christmas Movie which may work. Hopefully it will and I'll start next year as a millionaire....



I saw Yes Man last night with a remarkably rowdy audience but as this was a comedy starring Jim Carrey, the rowdiness seemed kind of appropriate. Jim plays Carl Allen, a negative loser who always says "no" to everything - dates, nights out with his mates, work responsibilities, etc. Due to a completely unrealistic encounter with a self-help guru, Carl ends up agreeing to start saying "yes" to everything instead, and hilarity ensues.

Or at least, hilarity sort of ensues. There were bits where I was laughing uncontrollably but these were few and far between compared to some of Jim Carrey's previous films. I've read Danny Wallace's book, which the film is (very loosely) based on, and it has to be said that the film loses a lot of the mundane but really funny obstacles that Wallace actually encountered. For example, having to say yes to chuggers. To phone salesmen. To newspaper small ads. To two parties in one night, necessitating a mad dash across town. These were the little gems that made the book a great read, but instead we have Jim... getting a BJ from his old-lady neighbour. What is this, American Pie?

The script resorts far too often to lazy frat-boy humour when it should have been concentrating more on exploiting the comic possibilities of having to say "Yes". The other thing that bugged me was that Jim's character obviously hated his job - and yet was still in it at the end. Shouldn't he have harnassed the power of Yes to get out of it? Some people have a problem with the age-gap between Jim and his love-interest Zooey Deschanel. Frankly I didn't notice - Deschanel seems a lot more mature than she is and her character is one of the best things about this movie.

Overall, Yes Man is a good antidote to Christmas and has a message we can all learn from - say yes when your friends ask you to go to the pub with them.

Yes Man - yes/no?

My first post of '09! I've been a hive of activity during the Christmas break as plague and contagion have badly hit our household and there's been nothing on the TV really. I did a spec synopsis for a thriller called At All Cost which I think I'll do a draft of this year. I also have an idea for a Christmas Movie which may work. Hopefully it will and I'll start next year as a millionaire....



I saw Yes Man last night with a remarkably rowdy audience but as this was a comedy starring Jim Carrey, the rowdiness seemed kind of appropriate. Jim plays Carl Allen, a negative loser who always says "no" to everything - dates, nights out with his mates, work responsibilities, etc. Due to a completely unrealistic encounter with a self-help guru, Carl ends up agreeing to start saying "yes" to everything instead, and hilarity ensues.

Or at least, hilarity sort of ensues. There were bits where I was laughing uncontrollably but these were few and far between compared to some of Jim Carrey's previous films. I've read Danny Wallace's book, which the film is (very loosely) based on, and it has to be said that the film loses a lot of the mundane but really funny obstacles that Wallace actually encountered. For example, having to say yes to chuggers. To phone salesmen. To newspaper small ads. To two parties in one night, necessitating a mad dash across town. These were the little gems that made the book a great read, but instead we have Jim... getting a BJ from his old-lady neighbour. What is this, American Pie?

The script resorts far too often to lazy frat-boy humour when it should have been concentrating more on exploiting the comic possibilities of having to say "Yes". The other thing that bugged me was that Jim's character obviously hated his job - and yet was still in it at the end. Shouldn't he have harnassed the power of Yes to get out of it? Some people have a problem with the age-gap between Jim and his love-interest Zooey Deschanel. Frankly I didn't notice - Deschanel seems a lot more mature than she is and her character is one of the best things about this movie.

Overall, Yes Man is a good antidote to Christmas and has a message we can all learn from - say yes when your friends ask you to go to the pub with them.