Wednesday, 26 June 2013

New Wolverine ink one sheets arrive

20th Century Fox has released four new promotional one sheets for James Mangold's The Wolverine. This latest batch of Japanese art influenced posters, confirm recent rumours that old flame Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) will indeed be returning.

Based on the celebrated comic book arc created by Chris Claremont & Frank Miller, this outing takes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the most iconic character of the X-Men universe, to modern day Japan. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality.

James Mangold has recently opened up about how the film will sit alongside Bryan Singer’s in-production X-Men: Days Of Future Past, with the answer basically that Logan’s trip to Japan stands alone.

"Bryan and I have talked and he’s seen what we’ve done," Mangold told SFX. "Clearly the reality is that we are all trying to work together and make things groove together. But the trick is we were making our movie before Bryan came on and before I knew what they were up to in that film. Our agenda was always our agenda and our movie stands alone, so the journey we take Logan on inThe Wolverine, we bring to a close."

Alongside the returning Hugh Jackman (The Prestige, Australia, Les Misérables) and Famke Janssen (Goldeneye, X-Men, Taken) are Svetlana Khodchenkova (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Brian Tee, Will Yun Lee and Hal Yamanouchi.

The Wolverine hits UK cinemas on July 25.

In the meatime, you can check out the latest trailer here and the rest of the promotional one sheets here.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

"I knew it was a great mistake for a man like me to fall in love..."

While being no stranger to the high life, or indeed the bottom of a Martini glass, it is unlikely F. Scott Fitzgerald ever imagined his fabled Jazz Age spiked with a triple shot of CGI, 3D and Jay-Z. First published in 1925 and widely considered the greatest American novel, there is a mystique about Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby that has proved unattainable to filmmakers. Four previous attempts have fallen short of the book's eerie projections of an America succumbing to the drug of money. Gatsby is as big a player in American literature as Moby Dick. He's a metaphor for aspiration, greed, hope and the frailty of memory. He is America itself. Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia), despoiler of arch reputations, purveyor of state of the art hysteria, cuts straight to the surface of the story.

Set during the Roaring Twenties of Long Island, The Great Gatsby follows would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922. An era of loose morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to the mysterious, party-giving millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and across the bay from his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her philandering, blue-blooded husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Nick soon finds himself drawn into a captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness to unfolding events, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams, obsession and high-octane tragedy.

Impossible love and high-octane tragedy are clearly themes Baz Luhrmann finds himself attracted to.

Romeo + Juliet (1996) saw Luhrmann take his audience on a unique ride through one of the Bard's best-known texts, delivering a vision that was bold, brassy, hugely inventive and accessible. Just as West Side Story appropriated the source material to make the tale of young, tragic love contemporary in the early 1960s, Luhrmann contextualised the original text into a modern visual idiom. Verona became Verona Beach and while a rapier was still a weapon, here it became the brand name of a particularly popular handgun. A world in which popular songs became audio motifs for the action, punctuating scenes as non-verbal metaphors. It was also the first time Luhrmann had worked with Leonardo DiCaprio, casting him as the ill-fated Romeo.

Moulin Rouge (2001) saw Luhrmann expand this use of popular music to create a delightfully quirky and intoxicating art house musical. Elaborating the self-consciously artificial 'Red Curtain' technique that he developed in his previous films.

Drawing from influences as diverse as Bollywood to grand opera, the result was a gaudy, opulent and invigorating spectacle. Shakespearean in its structure and emotional simplicity, the plot saw idealistic poet Christian (Ewan McGregor) and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) battle the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the pursuit of their passionate, secret love. Around them revolved a cacophony of dancing girls, freaks, dastardly villains and slippery characters, Absinthed up to the eyeballs and camping it up for all they're worth.

A breathtaking baroque film that married the best of theatre, opera and cinematic technique.

Just as Moulin Rouge masterfully repurposed classic pop standards, Luhrmann's Fitzgerald adaptation neatly blends jazz with its modern equivalent, hip-hop. Jay Z’s 100$ Bill sets a striking tone, consolidated by tracks from Beyoncé and Yet it's the beguiling melancholy of Lana Del Rey, Gotye, Sia and Florence + The Machine, with Craig Armstrong's gorgeously thick string arrangements, that captures the darkness of doomed love.

"Fitzgerald described contemporary music in his books," Luhrmann points out. "People would say, 'Why have you put all this silly jazz pop music in there?'"

Equally as inspired is his casting of Gatsby. If there's ever an actor who can pull off a candyfloss pink suit, it's DiCaprio. With a blush of Romeo's boyishness still on his cheeks, DiCaprio's Gatsby is dressed and preened, ready to unravel. Luhrmann gives Gatsby a spectacular entrance. Arguably the standout moment of the movie with literal fireworks. Whether by special effect, or simply good lighting, DiCaprio glows.

He also seems to have a slightly better grasp of the source material than his director, sensing the depths beneath the character. His Gatsby, the American Dream wreathed in golden hair, is an unhinged romantic holding court in his own faked reality. He is already broken – a man performing as a man performing.

Not everyone gets to be as great as Gatsby though. Mulligan, naturally too emphatic and open an actress, struggles to embody Daisy's place as victim and catalyst of tragedy. Edgerton offers one note charisma as her unfaithful and volatile husband, Tom. And Maguire feels too placid as Carraway, the observer both "within and without" this dissolute scene, endlessly gawping at his surroundings like Harry Potter during his first day at Hogwarts.

Luhrmann doesn't so much harken to the needs of the book as shower them in glitter. This is Luhrmann's vision, where the author's precisely projected sense of a man and a time teetering on collapse, comes supercharged with postmodern glitz. Luhrmann is effectively commenting upon decadence with decadence. Arguably mistaking Fitzgerald for Gatsby, the glorious faker. He presents the book as an ultra-lavish pop-deco fairy tale, lacquered in technicolour CGI.

The Great Gatsby also sees Luhrmann using 3D for the first time to dazzling effect. Showcasing his cinematic technique of massing more and more until the screen is ready to burst. The decadence and superficiality. Dance numbers, speakeasies, sepia-toned flashbacks, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan winking beneath a white fedora, plus movie references as far afield as Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Citizen Kane (1941). The theatrical kinetic surge of it all may be relentless, but always impresses.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

"Here's to the crazy ones..."

The first official trailer for Ashton Kutcher's Jobs has gone online courtesy of Yahoo.

Given that most of us are used to seeing him bearded and sporting a black turtle neck, announcing the release of the next shiny piece of Apple kit at keynote addresses, it’s hard to imagine Steve Jobs as the young trail blazer. But that’s exactly what the filmmakers behind Jobs have done, with an uncanny Ashton Kutcher (Valentine's Day, No Strings Attached) as the Mac man himself in his early years.

Jobs tells the story of the young Steve, the impressionable youth and wayward hippie, who drops out of college to forge his own path. A chance meeting with Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) changes everything and sets him on a path to visionary technical innovator and global icon.

Yet the journey to his big finale as the boss of a reborn Apple didn’t come without serious roadblocks and issues, not least of which was Steve’s own roaring ego and determination. Along the way he also dealt with patent disagreements, corporate revolts and losing his own company. Since this is 'inspired' by true events, don’t expect total biographical accuracy here.

With Swing Vote (2008) director Joshua Michael Stern at the helm and James Woods, Dermot Mulroney, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, Matthew Modine and Ron Eldard among the cast Jobs downloads into US cinemas on 16 August. No news as yet to a UK release date.

Friday, 21 June 2013

James Gandolfini: Sopranos star dies aged 51

James Gandolfini, the US actor best known for his role as a therapy-seeking mob boss in The Sopranos, has died at the age of 51.

Gandolfini died after suffering a possible cardiac arrest while on holiday in Rome. The New Jersey-born star had also been in Italy to attend the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily.

Family friend Michael Kobald told a news conference in Rome that Gandolfini had experienced "a medical emergency" in his hotel room, where he was found by a family member.

"It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy," said his managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders.

"Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply."

Gandolfini was born in 1961 in Westwood, New Jersey, to a school dinner lady and a bricklayer-turned-school caretaker, both of Italian background.

He graduated with a degree in communications from New Jersey's Rutgers University, before moving to New York, where he worked as a bartender and a club manager.

Gandolfini's acting career finally took off in 1992 when he landed a part in a Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

His breakthrough role, though, came a year later playing a mobster in the movie True Romance (1993). Gandolfini's more recent film credits included In The Loop (2009), Killing Them Softly (2012) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

He was also nominated for a Tony theatre award in 2009 for his role in the Broadway hit God of Carnage. Not to mention winning three Emmy awards for his role as Tony Soprano, a mafia boss juggling his criminal career and family life.

Sopranos creator David Chase said Gandolfini "was a genius".

"Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."

Actress Edie Falco, who played his on-screen wife Carmela, said: "I am shocked and devastated by Jim's passing. He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words. I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague.

"My heart goes out to his family. As those of us in his pretend one hold on to the memories of our intense and beautiful time together. The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."

Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony Soprano's psychiatrist, Dr Jennifer Melfi, in the TV drama, said: "We lost a giant today. I am utterly heartbroken."

Jeff Daniels, who starred with Gandolfini in God of Carnage, said: "If Broadway has a version of a guy you want in your foxhole, Jim Gandolfini was mine."

HBO also said that the star of The Sopranos, which ran for six series on the cable channel from 1999-2007, would be "deeply missed".

"He was a special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone, no matter their title or position, with equal respect," said their statement.

"He touched so many of us over the years with his humour, his warmth and his humility."

Gandolfini is survived by his second wife, Deborah Lin, a former model from Hawaii, whom he married in 2008, and their daughter, Liliana, born last year.

He also leaves a teenage son, Michael, from his first marriage to Marcy Wudarski, his former personal assistant. They wed in 1999 and split three years later.

Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

First Lego Movie trailer assembles an all star cast

Warner Bros have just released the first trailer for The Lego Movie, an original full length feature based on the ever popular plastic building blocks.

Billed as "the greatest movie ever assembled", the 'realistic' computer animated adventure follows ordinary Lego Minifigure Emmet (Chris Pratt), who gets mistaken for the great Master Builder and recruited to prevent an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe together. He'll have help from Morgan Freeman's Vitruvius, Will Arnett's Batman and encounter characters voiced by Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie and Nick Offerman.

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the guys behind Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009), The Lego Movie is due in cinemas on 14 February next year.

"The news team is back!"

The first full trailer for Anchorman: The Legend Continues has arrived, with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his team of eccentric news types bringing their "salon-quality hair" roaring into the 80's.

The new film, which arrives more than nine years after the release of 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, sees Will Ferrell's mustachioed Lothario transferring to a new 24-hour news channel in the Big Apple.

Fans of the original will be pleased to note that birdbrained weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), fashion obsessed field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and chauvinistic sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) have all followed their anchor to the Atlantic coast, and the new film will also find room for Christina Applegate as fellow news presenter Veronica Corningstone. This time around, however, Burgundy seems to be more interested in "romancing" a new colleague, played by Meagan Good (Stomp The Yard, Californication). During a dinner at her home, it appears that his comprehension of racial politics is even more primitive than his understanding of feminism proved back in sunny San Diego.

As Adam McKay told Empire last year, there's plenty here on Burgundy and the boys butting heads with multi-cultural newscasters. "We know these guys never deal well with change," says McKay, "and the good thing is that there's a big blast of change coming, according to the regular time line. We're going to be throwing a lot of innovation at them, and they're not going to handle it well."

"It's right when all the news started changing with the 24-hours news cycle in '78 or '79," McKay explains. "All of a sudden, local news stations diversified and had Latino anchors and African-American anchors, and any time you're talking about diversity and the Action News team, that's always fun to deal with."

Anchorman: The Legend Continues also features the return of Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Greg Kinnear, while there are said to be cameos from Harrison Ford, Nicole Kidman, Sacha Baron Cohen and Jim Carrey, among others. The new trailer also features James Marsden (Enchanted, Robot & Frank), as a younger rival anchorman and a bubble permed Kristen Wiig (Paul, Bridesmaids), as potential love interest for Carell's Tamland.

Directed by a returning Adam McKay (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Eastbound & Down) and co-written with Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend Continues arrives in cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic on 20 December.

Jurassic Park 4 planned for 2015

The dino-franchise has been trapped in Hollywood's equivalent of amber since 2002, but now it looks as though Jurassic Park IV is finally thumping it's way ominously towards the big screen.


Those eagle-eyed folk at Coming Soon have spotted a Jurassic Park IV banner at this years Licensing Expo in Las Vegas that seems to confirm it. With a date clearly set for 2015, a year later than the originally mooted June 2014 release, it also confirms that the film will be in 3D. Although whether it's to be shot in stereo or post-converted remains unconfirmed.

The latest Jurassic Park instalment had been delayed only last month, officially to give to give "the studio and filmmakers adequate time to bring audiences the best possible version of the fourth instalment in Universal’s beloved franchise", but more likely because the script wasn't quite where it needed to be. Colin Trevorrow and his co-writer Derrick Connelly (Safety Not Guaranteed) have since been beavering away on the draft originally penned by Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes' (2011) Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and are now seemingly closer to having a ready to shoot script.

Expect so see Jurassic Park IV chop it's way to a screen near you summer 2015.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

New featurette for The Lone Ranger

It's not often that a behind-the-scenes featurette drops a genuinely jaw-dropping moment, but that's exactly what happens in this piece for Disney's The Lone Ranger reboot. While shooting a horseback sequence amid the magnificent scenery of the American West, Johnny Depp falls from his horse and gets dragged behind and trampled. Depp's talked a little bit about what happened, but seeing is believing and this is looks like a stunt but is, sadly, nothing so deliberate.

Also in this featurette, Armie Hammer climbs a ridiculously rickety looking tower, over the very rim of the Grand Canyon. Plus director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer talk about their commitment to using practical effects and shooting on location.

Let's hope it was worth the damage to Johnny Depp's rib cage. As Depp says, "the positive thing is, my coccyx didn't take it!".

The Lone Ranger is out in the US on 3 July and in the UK on 9 August.

New Pacific Rim featurette

There's been plenty of action in the impressive trailers for Guillermo del Toro's summer blockbuster, Pacific Rim, but now a new featurette takes the time to show off the giant robots that we've seen battling those huge monsters known as Kaiju.

Showcasing these incredible robots, called Jaegers, this new featurette from Warner Bros, explains their inception and features director Guillermo del Toro talking at great length about how they were designed and just how important the science behind the robots turned out to be.

Pacific Rim lands on our screens on 12 July.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

"They will hunt you to the edge of the world for this..."

The latest trailer for Neill Blomkamp’s (District 9) ambitious sci-fi, Elysium has arrived online and while some of the footage covers what we’ve already seen in previous promos, there are certainly more whizz-bang moments, courtesy of the Weta Digital effects team. If you’re worried about seeing too much though, you might want to consider skipping this lengthy promo.


Elysium blasts us to the year 2154, where society is divided into the haves and have-nots. The wealthy, beautiful and privileged live on the titular orbiting platform, a paradise where every whim is catered for and even serious illnesses are a thing of the past. No poverty, no war and no sickness.

Everyone else is reduced to scrabbling for what they can get on a ruined, filthy Earth. It’s here we find Max De Costa (Matt Damon), stuck in the worst part of Earth. With a criminal record and no chance to get ahead, he’s in a literally dead-end job because the radiation exposure he suffers at work will kill him. Unless, that is, he can pull of an audacious heist to gain access to Elysium’s heavily guarded chambers and get the treatment he needs. Not to mention saving everyone else in the process.

But the task won’t be easy, particularly with Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster) intent on enforcing anti-immigration laws and blacks ops agent Kruger (Blomkamp veteran Sharlto Copley) carrying out her orders.

As with District 9 (2009), there is a sharp political agenda pulsing underneath the sheen (or the grime) of solid genre stuff, and Elysium certainly looks like it has the style and the thrills to it.

With Alice Braga, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura and Diego Luna among the supporting cast, Elysium opens in the US on 9 August and lands here on 23 August.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

"There’s going to be a big meltdown."

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, helping to open the University of Southern California’s new Interactive Media Building, offered a rather bleak prognosis for the future of cinema. Revealing that Lincoln was "this close" to appearing as a HBO serial, Spielberg predicted that a few high-profile blockbuster flops will spark a radical overhaul of the Hollywood business model.

"The big danger is that there’s eventually going to be a big meltdown", Spielberg said, "where three or four, maybe even a half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground. That’s going to change the paradigm again."

"You're at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring", he added, "than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal projects that may get lost in the shuffle."

The veteran directors worries - of fragmenting distribution channels, the vast choice open to audiences and a breakdown of the narrative form – add up to a world in which their own passion projects, Lincoln (2012) and Red Tails (2012), both struggled for distribution.

Citing the popularity of premium cable networks such as HBO, with the rise of on-demand streaming services and consumers with increasingly large screens in their homes, Lucas believes that the multiplex will gradually become a luxury product - with prices to reflect. "You’re going to end up with fewer but bigger theatres [and] going to the movies is gonna cost you $50, $100, maybe even $150." That, even for the most hardcore of blockbuster fans, isn't worth thinking about.

Spielberg adds: "You’re going to have to pay $25 to see the next Iron Man and you’re probably only going to have to pay seven dollars to see Lincoln."

These two fathers of the modern blockbuster, echoed some of the concerns raised recently by Steven Soderbergh. Like Soderbergh, they pointed to the emergence of television as a threat to movie making, as well as an opportunity for up-and-coming talent. "The Lincolns are going to be on television," predicted Lucas, to which Spielberg added, "Mine almost was: ask HBO. This close!"

However, not all filmmakers share their apocalyptic vision. Duncan Jones tweeted that he felt the pair were "out of touch" with emerging movie making ideas.

"I am Siege Face!"

The full trailer for the multi-million dollar action extravaganza Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, has just been released, in which North Norfolk Digital's finest finds himself forced into the role of impromptu hostage negotiator. "Welcome to big school!"

We already knew, from the first teaser trailer, that Chap of Steel and Hectic Danger Day were passed over for the title in favour of Alpha Papa, and that the plot involved a siege at a radio station. Now the full trailer is out, we've got considerably more details to work with. After getting fellow employee Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) sacked, Partridge is sucked in as chief negotiator when Pat returns to the radio station with a "shooter" and holds the place up.

"We’re putting him into a situation," Coogan recently told Empire. "We had to make it filmic without throwing away the DNA that makes him Alan-like. So we kicked around a lot of ideas and ended up with something that’s a bit Dog Day Afternoon and a bit Network. There is a threat level."

With Father Ted veteran Declan Lowney behind the camera, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is set for release on 7 August.

"Nothing will stop the march of my empire!"

Warner Bros have just released the latest trailer for Noam Murro's 300: Rise Of An Empire. Taking a clear cue from the ramped up action, glorious sweeping vistas, oily six-packs and beautiful woman approach in Zack Snyder's 300 (2006), the sequel finds Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempting to unite the cities of Greece by leading a charge that will change the course of the war. Based on the Frank Miller graphic novel Xerxes, the story pits Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Artemisia (Eva Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

This time though, the focus is more on epic aquatic battles, than bloody dusty sand scraps. Though there's clearly quite a bit of that too. "The challenges are numerous in a sense that as technology develops, what happens is we shot this entire movie dry, meaning there was no water involved," Murro tells MTV. "You are really in a situation that you have to create a sense that the boats are really moving and sense that they are really in water, but they're not. It's a challenge from a technological point of view, from a visual point of view, also for the actors and also for me in terms of trying to simulate what that would feel like."

And while Gerard Butler may not be back, Lena Headey takes a sabbatical from being evil on Game Of Thrones to return as the heroic Queen Gorgo, encouraging the troops to triumph in the name of vengeance and justice.

The film is out in the US on 7 March next year. A UK release date has yet to be confirmed.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

First teaser trailer arrives for Dianna

Last year I made an Oscar prediction that Daniel Day-Lewis would take the Best Actor gong for his role in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. Well this year I have another one. Check out this latest teaser trailer for Diana with Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive, 21 Grams, The Impossible) starring as the ill-fated Peoples Princess. While no release date has been announced for the US yet, you can bet they will get to see it before December, just in time for Oscar season.

The film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall, The Invasion) and written by Stephen Jeffreys (The Libertine), focuses on last two years of Diana's life, and looks to tell the story of her relationships with heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) and Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar).

Although the trailer is short, it includes a lot of footage - much of which is recognisable from the many paparazzi shots that were taken and circulated in publication at the time of the story. Watts' performance should prove to be captivating. If there was anyone who could elegantly capture the Princess's grace and vulnerability, I would have put my money on her.

Diana will open in the UK on 5 September.

"Trust me, Bub. You don't want what I've got..."

As the release of James Mangold's (Girl, Interrupted, 3:10 To Yuma) The Wolverine claws ever closer, the latest international trailer has arrived online, offering up some extended footage and more of the story that sets the film in motion.

Here we are introduced to Logan (Hugh Jackman) during the time of the bombing of Hiroshima, when he saves young soldier Yashida. The grateful trooper tries to offer Wolverine his Samurai sword, but our hero tells him to keep it safe and that he’ll be back someday to collect it.

Cut to the present day, as a withdrawn and bearded Logan broods after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Haunted by the loved ones he lost and bitter about his immortal curse, he accepts an offer extended to him by the now elderly Yashida, via the tough Yukio (Rila Fukushima) to visit Japan, where Yashida has since become rich through medical technology.

Yashida offers to take on Logan’s healing powers and let him be mortal, but there’s more to it than meets the eye, especially with Svetlana Khodchenkova’s Viper involved. Soon, Wolverine is falling for Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko and falling afoul of some very powerful people, including Will Yun Lee’s Kenuchio Harada.

There is a lot here to delight hardcore Wolverine fans and the movie is certainly starting to look promising.

We’ll find out whether it can undo the damage of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) on 26 July.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

"If you awaken that beast... it will destroy us all!"

Earlier this week we were treated to the first official one sheet for Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug. Part two of the mammoth trilogy adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Now Warner Bros have just released the first epic teaser trailer.

Following on from where we left Bilbo (Martin Freeman), the dwarves and Ian McKellen’s Gandalf continue on their journey to the Lonely Mountain, where Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest seek to reclaim their homeland from the troublesome squatter, Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch).

The focus here is more on the new faces we can expect in the second film, including Lee Pace’s (The Fall, Lincoln) Elvenking Thranduil, Evangeline Lily (Lost, Real Steel) as elf warrior Tauriel, Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt as shape-changer Beorn, Luke Evans (Immortals, The Raven) as Bard the Bowman and Orlando Bloom returning as the ever athletic Legolas.

We also get our first, full look at Smaug’s snarling reptilian mug, a secret Jackson has been keeping for many years.

With glimpses of the barrel escape, Mirkwood, Beorn the bear, Legolas and Tauriel, Bard the Bowman and Azog the Defiler still hot on their tail, it’s an incredibly revealing teaser and suggests The Desolation Of Smaug will be way more action packed than the first film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug will finish its journey to our screens on 13 December, with The Hobbit: There And Back Again, due on 17 December 2014.

Monday, 10 June 2013

New character banners for The World's End arrive online

The World's End, the epic conclusion to Edgar Wright's unofficially-titled three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, is almost upon us. As the release date draws ever nearer, Empire have a selection of rather fiery new character banners showing the principal cast of pub-crawling protagonists.

The witty use of some of the pub names on the planned route to describe the characters is a bit harsh in a few cases. Simon Pegg's feckless Gary King appears under a mention of The Famous Cock, which might be a compliment but is probably nothing of the sort, while comparing Eddie Marsan's car salesman Peter to The Pickled Newt seems ungenerous. Still, Rosamund Pike's Sam really does look like The Intrepid Fox, so we imagine you can glean a few clues as to everyone's character (and maybe even the plot) from these references. Paddy Considine's architect Steven, Nick Frost's City lawyer Andy and Martin Freeman's estate agent Oliver also get their own banners here, but come off slightly better in the pub name comparisons.

The World's End sees Pegg's Gary, reuniting his old friends to complete the pub crawl they abandoned 20 years ago. Trouble is, rather than simply being a night out on the lash, the group discover that they may be the only chance of saving the world (or at least their home town) from a body snatching alien apocalypse.

The film was written by Pegg and Wright and features bit parts from many familiar faces from previous Cornetto instalments.

The World's End hits cinemas on 19 July in the UK and 23 August in the US.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Esther Williams: Actress and swimming star dies aged 91

US swimming champion and movie star Esther Williams has died in Los Angeles aged 91.

Her spokesman said she died peacefully in her sleep. She had been in declining health due to old age. 

Not every Hollywood icon can claim to have made it big by parlaying a career as a professional swimmer into acting jobs, but Williams most certainly can.

A native of Inglewood, California, she was a water baby from an early age, taking jobs at local pools and at Manhattan Beach, where she also got swimming lessons from male lifeguards – who taught her what were then considered ‘male only’ strokes such as the butterfly, with which she went on to win medals and break records. Indeed Williams became a regional and national swimming champion by the time she was 16.

Her early career aspirations included becoming a P.E. teacher, though she also worked as a stock girl at a department store before starting to model for the business. While working there, she was contacted by impresario Billy Rose to join his Aquacade show, which saw her paired with future Tarzan star and Olympic gold medal winner, Johnny Weissmuller.

After a frustrating attempt to enter the 1940 Summer Olympics (the event was cancelled because of World War II), she attracted the attention of MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, who was looking for a sports star to compete with 20th Century Fox’s skater Sonja Henie. Following a few screen tests and short films, she made her theatrical debut with Andy Hardy’s Double Life in 1942. It would kick off a career of movies such as Take Me Out To The Ballgame (1949) and 'Aquamusicals', specially designed to showcase her aquatic prowess, including Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and Dangerous When Wet (1953).

Williams became one of cinema's biggest box-office stars in the 1940s and 1950s, famously appearing in spectacular swimsuits that capitalised on her physical beauty.

Her films were typically lavish song and dance affairs, following the same formula of many romance, music and comedy films of the time - primarily a lightweight plot that provided enough excuses for the lead actress to get into the water.

Finales usually featured Williams diving into a pool or lagoon before surfacing to a grand orchestral crescendo, with water glistening from her beaming face.

"I look at that girl and I like her," she said on watching her films decades later. "I can see why she became popular with audiences. There was an unassuming quality about her. She was certainly wholesome."

Williams left MGM in 1956 and appeared in a handful of largely unsuccessful non-swimming features.

"I guess what MGM found was that my audience wanted that bathing suit," she said, when her autobiography was released in 1999. "And you know, when Cinemascope came in and you've got that water all wrapped around you and they'd do big close-ups of me... I think it had too much pleasure connected with it for them to change it."

Williams retired from the movies in 1962, following her marriage to her third husband, Hollywood playboy Fernando Lamas.

Once her film career concluded, she dipped into the corporate swimming industry, lending her name to pools, retro swimwear and even instructional children’s videos. She served as commentator for ABC TVs coverage of the synchronised swimming at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Williams was married to Mr Lamas for 20 years until his death in 1982. She and her last husband Edward Bell lived in Los Angeles' Beverly Hills.

Her autobiography also told of her many romances, including one with actor Jeff Chandler. According to Williams, she discovered he was a cross-dresser and walked out, explaining: "Jeff, you're too big for polka dots."

Our thoughts go out to her friends and family.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

"You can save them. You can save all of them..."

It’s been a long road of promotional teasers, trailers, stills and one sheets for Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel, but with the film just one week away from our cinemas, here comes the big final trailer courtesy of Nokia.

Beginning as the campaign itself did with Russell Crowe’s Jor-El narrating what his son Kal-El (Henry Cavill) should aspire to, this last big look at the movie looks to be a rough summary of what to expect. Indeed, an argument could be made that it shows off a little too much.

The movie, which also features Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Antje Traue, Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne, lands in UK cinemas on 14 June.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

"Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are…"

It was at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1968 that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry first declared he would make a film prequel to the hit television series. It took 40 years and several attempts by numerous writers before the USS Enterprise would take it's first voyage with James Tiberius Kirk and Spock, fresh from Starfleet Academy.

Rebooting Roddenberry's seminal 1960s TV show was always going to be a challenging prospect. Following years of franchise fodder missteps, J. J. Abrams' (Lost, Mission: Impossible III, Super 8) first voyage on the USS Enterprise rescued the franchise from its increasingly niche fan base and made it cool for everyone. This new direction eschewed the speechifying, arthritic cast and bad hair of the previous flicks, upping the energy, vibrancy and spectacle, whilst respecting Roddenberry's original vision. Star Trek Into Darkness follows those exact same principles. Only more so.

Taking a leaf out of the James Bond book of blockbusters, we start at the shattering climax of a Trek adventure we'll never fully see. Looking down on a planet rich in garish scarlet fauna, a shaky camera picks out Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) running for their lives from an angry pack of white faced, yellow-hooded natives but careering towards a sheer drop that spells certain death. If that’s not enough, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is being parachuted into a volcano to calcify the lava and save an entire planet. It's a ludicrously enjoyable piece of action cinema with a gloriously cheeky ending. We'll be lucky to see a more exciting, breathless set piece all summer.

Yet rather than pausing to take breath, Star Trek Into Darkness punches it and immediately turns into a manhunt movie. After a bomb goes off at a Starfleet archive in 23rd Century London, the race is on to track down the terrorist responsible. Enter well coutured renegade John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Abrams' first Trek movie was criticised for not following the Roddenberry tenet of holding up a mirror to real world issues. Into Darkness couldn't be more prescient. Just weeks after the events in Boston, this keys into a hunt for a bomber, with Kirk given orders to forgo a fair trial and terminate Harrison with Star Trek's version of extreme prejudice, namely undetectable photon torpedoes.

Cumberbatch's Harrison may well be dressed for a cover shoot but he is, in essence, a one-man army. Watch him waste a garrison of helmeted marauders or take a vicious beating from Kirk with barely a flinch, or brutally batter some Federation flunkies. Yet, as you might expect from an actor who can comfortably portray Sherlock Holmes and Stephen Hawking, Harrison is as cerebral as he is muscular. His overall master plan may share some of the bonkers logic of Silva's hokey Skyfall schemes, but Cumberbatch's detached quality lifts the character out of mawkish cliche. It is a testament to the power of his performance that, although his early appearances are greeted with the most over the top musical motifs imaginable, he manages to make Harrison ambiguous and chilling throughout.

If the first film was about the coming together of the Enterprise crew, then Harrison's threat means they have to divide to conquer. The strong ensemble have etched likable sketches of the nascent TV icons, but ultimately you would like time to hang out with them a bit more. Similarly, you long for a sustained Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling duel of wits between Kirk and Harrison, but it never quite happens. Abrams has real skill at dropping character beats in the heat of battle. Kirk and Spock get slivers of interesting arcs – the former learning to become a captain, the latter learning to be a friend – yet the film doesn't give these emotions space to resonate and take hold.

As with the first movie, there are some knowing nods to Trek history, both from TV and film. Some are smart and subtle, others feel blatant and misjudged. Yet more than the first outing, these engage with Trek's long-held thematic ideals, be it the importance of the Prime Directive (don't interfere with alien cultures) or the dynamics between instinct versus logic, pacifism versus savagery. Still, Abrams never lets respect for all things Trek spoil the party. Keep your ears peeled for a fabulous joke at the behest of an iconic sound effect.

Happily, this sense of play is all over Star Trek Into Darkness. Not to mention sexy, both literally (Kirk in a three-way with alien chicks with tails) and figuratively. Cinematographer Dan Mindel gives everything a sleek science fiction look that somehow feels warm and organic. Abrams still directs with lots of flare but, more importantly, flair. His style somewhere between the machine tooled work of James Cameron and the manic intensity of Michael Bay, efficient but still loose and seemingly improvised.

Working again with screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, Abrams can flip between different tones in a heartbeat – a comedic domestic in the midst of battle turns into an affecting meditation on fear — and will leave no stone unturned in trying to entertain. Tense bomb disposal, intense political inter-race negotiations, warp speed chases, epic disaster movie mayhem, Alice Eve in black undies and Simon Pegg back in a bigger, funnier role as engineer Scotty. Not all of it works though. Compared to the opener, the last reel action is enjoyable rather than jaw dropping. But there is no denying the sense of a true showman at work. Like George Lucas, Abrams doesn't care about science fiction, cold fusion doohickeys and transwarp doodahs. He just wants you to have as much as fun as humanly possible.

Abrams next outing will be revitalising the Star Wars saga and it's hard not to over analyse Star Trek Into Darkness for clues into Episode VII. Abrams clearly prefers proper sets to green screens, doesn't shy from men in suits and old school camera trickery, fostering lovely grace notes to stellar ILM special effects and gives good running down corridors. If he just takes his time and lets his patent skill with characters breathe, he'll make The Empire Strikes Back. Given the evidence here, 2015 can't come soon enough.

If this is to be Abrams' final frontier, he has left Star Trek in a good place, both in the fictional universe and as a franchise. In many ways the bleak title is misleading. Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun, funny, spectacular and exhilarating.

Monday, 3 June 2013

New 13 minute Man Of Steel featurette flies in

Warner Bros have really gone to town with the range of TV spots, trailers, teasers, posters and stills for Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel, and Superman fans have been eager to catch them all. This latest 13 minute featurette, however, is something quite special, packed full with new footage and behind the scenes goodness.

There's much to be taken from the super-clip, but the stand-out moments include the rationale behind Superman's globally recognised 'S' glyph and exactly why director Zack Snyder decided to skip supes unfortunate underwear over the tights habit. Apparently we can blame the Victorians.

Man Of Steel, as you’ll no doubt know by now, finds writer/producers Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) and David S Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins, The Unborn) working with director Zack Snyder on a fresh interpretation of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) origin. The usual story of the Kryptonian orphan who displays super powers thanks his alien origin is present and correct, only filtered through more self-discovery and wrangling with his place in our society.

Even as he’s discovered by humanity at large, there is fresh danger from General Zod (Michael Shannon), who arrives on Earth and decides that Kal-El should really be more loyal to him than to the human race.

The movie, which also features Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Antje Traue, Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne, lands in UK cinemas on 14 June.