Thursday, 30 May 2013

"And introducing Carlos Estevez!"

If you’re a fan of the Mexpolitation madness that Robert Rodriguez (El mariachi, From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City) showcased in Machete (2010), you’re going to have a blast with this new teaser for the sequel, Machete Kills.

In this brief, explosive and typically over the top promo, Danny Trejo’s ex-Federale is hanging around when he’s asked by the President (Charlie Sheen, credited here by his birth name, Carlos Estevez) to track down a revolutionary and a crazed billionaire arms dealer named Voz (Mel Gibson), who has plans to send a weapon of mass destruction into space.

Returning from the first film are Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, and Rodriguez’ nieces-in-law, Electra and Elise Avellan, with new faces including Sofia Vergara (sporting a weaponised bra), Amber Heard, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding Jr, Marko Zuror, William Sadler, Lady Gaga and Demian Bichir. Rodriguez has also rounded up some veteran collaborators, with Alexa Vega and Antonio Banderas present and correct.

Check out Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara and Lady Gaga in their Grindhouse (2007) spin-off character one sheets below.

Machete Kills is set for a 13 September release in the States, with no word on a UK date just yet.

New Man Of Steel featurette touches down

This latest Man Of Steel featurette focuses on 'The Battle of Smallville' between Superman and his Kryptonian nemeses. This focus on a small town is quite fitting since the video concentrates on the way that director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer, emphasised on Superman's place as the all American, everyman hero.

"Our approach was not a comic book Superman," says Goyer, "it was just to do a more realistic Superman, a Superman that exists in a real world."

Check out the revealing featurette below.

With the release date just weeks away, the promotional material for Man Of Steel shows no signs of slowing. This latest flood of TV spots from Warner Bros and Team Superman give us a mouth watering glimpse of what to expect when Man Of Steel lands in UK cinemas on 14 June.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

"There was something in the woods, David... and I think it's in here with us... now."

"One thing that seems clear to me, looking back at the films that truly scared me, is that most really good horror films are low-budget affairs with special effects cooked up in someone’s basement," said Stephen King.

King has been the source of both clunkers and classics, but it was his quote – "The most ferociously original movie of 1982!" – that helped launch Sam Raimi’s all-but-homemade The Evil Dead upon the world 30 years ago, and his words are worth remembering as the remake hits our screens.

Back in 1982 The Evil Dead shocked audiences and rattled censors, becoming an overnight cult sensation and inspiring a new generation of horror film makers. Written and directed by Sam Raimi (Darkman, Drag Me to Hell, Oz the Geat and the Powerful), the original Evil Dead followed five college students vacationing at an isolated cabin in a woods. There they discover an audiotape that releases a demonic evil, possessing each member of the group one by one, leading to increasingly gory offings and mayhem. Raimi and the cast had produced a short film titled Within The Woods as a prototype to build interest in potential investors, helping them secure the $90,000 needed to produce The Evil Dead. The film went on to gross $2.4 million on it's theatrical run alone.

Opening critical reception was positive and in the years since its release, The Evil Dead has developed a reputation as one of the greatest cult horror classics of all time. It also launched the careers of Raimi and Bruce Campbell (The Majestic, Bubba Ho-Tep, Sky High), who would collaborate on several films together throughout the years, including Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. The film's release, however, was met with controversy. The Evil Dead was considered one of the most violent and grotesque films of its time, and with Raimi showing no interest or care in censorship, led to the film's X rating and reputation as a video nasty in the UK. Joining a list of notorious and banned films that included Cannibal Holocaust (1980), The Driller Killer (1979), I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and The Last House on the Left (1972).

Several sequels followed with Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), securing the film's protagonist Ash Williams (Campbell) as a cult cinematic icon.

Today, studios have been capitalising on the cult status of these once maligned horror classics with a steady stream of big budget remakes. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Amityville Horror. Friday The 13th. A Nightmare On Elm Street. The Last House On The Left. I Spit On Your Grave. The Hills Have Eyes and Halloween have all joined Hollywood's horror recycling project of producing androids. Technically superior, but ultimately little more than lifeless doubles. This remake of The Evil Dead, one of the last titles of the video era to be reset, is helmed by an untested director and features a relatively unknown cast, but earns more goodwill than most. Original Deadites Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are producing, ensuring a keen eye is kept on quality control.

Evil Dead differs from the usual remakes in that it's not a sequel, reboot or reimagining, but an episode. In a pedantic triumph of identikit production design, we're back at the same cabin, same cellar and same dreaded tool shed. Idea being that Ash's old adventures appear to be just another bloody chapter from The Book Of The Dead. The scenery may not have changed, though the victims have.

Logic has never been one of The Evil Dead's strong suits, but this outing at least puts some effort into justifying the group's stay in hell's own shed. Supported by her brother David (Shiloh Fernadez), Mia (Jane Levy) is on a rehab retreat and her friends won't let her leave until she's screamed herself better. The film even dabbles with the idea that this could be a psychotic episode. One of the group has a family history of schizophrenia, another potentially suffering ultra violent cold turkey. The ambiguity doesn't last long though and the concept is tossed out into the woods like a flapping red herring. From the moment the doomed five arrive, Fede Alvarez's eye is on the nail gun. And, to be fair, so is yours.

Shunning CG trickery, the decision to go old school is easily Evil Dead's brightest move. Once hell is unleashed, the effect is like driving through a car wash of gore. Revealing a splatter movie routine feels a bit mean, like you're giving away its jokes (there's a reason why visual effects are called 'gags'). So I'll leave you to discover its razor blade licking delights for yourself. Needless to say this is one the most violent mainstream American movies we've seen in recent years. In terms of visceral impact though, the splatter shocks are hardly groundbreaking or hugely frightening, but the multiple goregasm final reel effectively puts the original's Plasticine massacre to shame.

Still, there's a giant puttering chainsaw in the room that can't be ignored. Bruce Campbell's Ash was as much a part of The Evil Dead as the hose piping gore. Alvarez sidesteps the issue entirely by declining to side with a clear hero. The misdirection keeps you on your toes, though the cost is a fuzzier dramatic focus and thinner characters. Never more evident than in Elizabeth Blackmore's disposable blond, a role so throwaway she only comes to life once she is actually dead. Glitches such as these were forgivable, even lovable, in a 1980s cult film – bad acting, poor dialogue, inconsistent plotting – but can be lesser tolerated a second time around. If the shaky writing and anonymous performances make for a frustrating first hour, it is all the more so because the technical specs are formidable.

Aaron Morton's cinematography makes the woods (actually deepest New Zealand) seem limpid and alive with dark promise, while the practical SFX are distressingly vivid, allowing Alvarez to linger on every flayed limb and shivering flap of skin, of which there are many. Apart from the dashing demon-cam and the odd visual wink, Alvarez steers clear of aping Raimi's hyper kinetic style, instead adding touches of J-horror and early David Cronenberg. But while Alvarez borrows enthusiastically, you sense the voice isn’t quite fully formed.

Where the film is left wanting is in a sense of humour. In this department, Evil Dead slots right in with those recent remakes. It's so terrified of being camp, it overcompensates the moody, mean, portentous style, lurking around gloomily even during its party tricks. You could argue that, since Raimi already remade Evil Dead with Evil Dead 2, reviving his gore-toon madness is self-defeating. This remake is very much a product of the torture porn era, but does it have to be so hard-faced? Whilst it manages to recapture the original’s hardcore nastiness, it could certainly do with taking itself a little less seriously.

I'll leave the final word to Mia. "Promise you'll stay until the end," she pleads in her opening scenes. If you're feeling brave, take the hint – hang about after the closing credits and you might be surprised.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

"We are gonna to get to the World's End if it kills us!"

Most pub crawls usually have a sticky ending, one way or another. Some finish with fisticuffs, most with vomit, others with a mere killer hangover. But Edgar Wright's The World's End promises to take things to a whole new level with an apocalyptic outcome to the reunion of five old friends. Reaching The World's End, it would seem, is the least of their worries.

The film sees Gary King (Simon Pegg), a 40 year old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, attempt to recreate his teenage glory days by reuniting his old friends to complete the pub crawl they once abandoned 20 years ago. Only it turns out that their home town has changed somewhat over the years since they left and now it's crawling with what look very much like alien invaders, as this latest trailer from Universal will testify.

The World's End stars regular Nick Frost, alongside Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine with Pegg as the central quintet of drinkers. Rosamund Pike plays Freeman's sister (and Pegg's old flame) and you'll see a few more familiar faces pop up in this trailer. Edgar Wright, of course, directs this finale to the unofficially titled Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.

The World's End is out in the UK on 19 July.

"You will not win..."

Previous promos had initially suggested a quieter, Terrence Mallick-esque, emotional take on Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). However, last months trailer soon quashed those fears, arguably showing more moments of action in three minutes then in the entirety of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns (2006). 

Now Warner Bros has released their final promo for Zack Snyder's (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) Superman reboot, Man Of Steel. This time Superman takes a backseat to the film's big bad. "My name is General Zod. I have journeyed across an ocean of stars to reach you," says the equally super powered Zod, played by Michael Shannon. "Your world has sheltered one of my citizens. He will look like you, but he is not one of you. For those of you who know his location, the fate of your planet rests in your hands." This trailer offers our closest look yet at Man of Steel's villains as they wreak havoc across the Earth in their search for Superman. And despite his best efforts, our hero may not be enough to stop them: "For every human you save, we will kill a million more," promises Zod's ally Faora (Antje Traue).

With the release date now just weeks away, Warner Bros have clearly reached the point in their Man Of Steel promotional campaign where the character posters come striding out. Welcome, then, Supes himself, General Zod and super-dad Jor-El.

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, 21 May 2013

"What they did to me, what I am, can't be undone."

20th Century Fox has today released a new promo for James Mangold's The Wolverine. This time featuring old flame Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), a gag involving super sharp Katanas, a woman with a tongue like a snake and a fleeting glimpse of the much talked about Silver Samurai.

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.

Accompanying this latest trailer is a new poster, which shows Svetlana Khodchenkova's Viper in the Japanese ink-style that The Wolverine's marketing team have been experimenting with throughout. As far as film posters go, these are actually pretty marvellous (no pun intended).

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.

Monday, 20 May 2013

New Star Wars animated series announced

Production has begun on Star Wars Rebels, an all-new animated television series based on the epic sci-fi saga. Scheduled to premiere in Autumn 2014 as a one hour special broadcast via the Disney Channel, it will be followed by a series on the Disney XD channels globally.

Leading the development of the series is a creative team of credible talent. Screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) is an executive producer on Star Wars Rebels and will also write the premiere episode. He is joined by Dave Filoni as executive producer, who served as supervising director of the Emmy nominated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series since 2008. Executive producer Greg Weisman brings with him a wealth of animation experience with credits such as Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man and Gargoyles.

Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer for Disney Channels Worldwide, said, "The entire team at Lucasfilm has provided extraordinary creativity and innovation for over three decades, and we're thrilled to be bringing the expansive and imaginative world of Star Wars to Disney XD's viewers."

"I couldn't be more excited to explore new corners of the Star Wars universe," said Kathleen Kennedy, president, Lucasfilm. "I think Star Wars Rebels will capture the look, feel and fun that both kids and their parents love about Star Wars."

The new series will be set between the events of Episodes III and IV in an era spanning almost two decades. Star Wars Rebels takes place in a time where the Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights as a fledgling rebellion against the Empire is taking shape. Details about the show are still a closely guarded secret at this point.

Star Wars Rebels will be produced by Lucasfilm Animation, featuring many of the key talents that made Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Fans attending Star Wars Celebration Europe will be the first to get an exclusive look at the new series.

In the meantime Lucasfilm has released a behind the scenes clip regarding the new show, which strongly implies that Ralph McQuarrie's astonishing pre-production concept art for Star Wars: Episode IV will be adapted for the new series and realised via CG. CG Supervisor Joel Aaron stated, "I want to go as far as really trying to get the essence and colour pallet that you see in all of the Ralph McQuarrie prints, and then that feeling... that journalistic feeling... that you get with the lighting, with the colour tones, in A New Hope."

Sunday, 19 May 2013

"In order to fight monsters, we created monsters of our own."

If the previous promos haven’t offered up enough footage of robots throwing down with monsters, then this latest and final trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim should offer enough to whet even the most eager of appetites for destruction.

Whilst previous trailers have set the scene in terms of tone and scale, we now get one that gives us a wider sweep of it's premise. How the massive creatures known as Kaiju have emerged from a portal joining their dimension with our own Pacific Ocean and came roaring out to destroy global population centres such as San Francisco and Manila in an attempt to break the spirit of the human race.

Humanity responded by pouring its resources into creating huge, two-man piloted robot craft, called Jaegers, that could counter this new threat. Not, of course, without causing incredible amounts of collateral damage along the way.

What we can really take away from this final blast of Guillermo del Toro goodness is that it looks like a whole lot of fun. The director is rarely able to contain his glee about the monsters and now they're about to arrive on screen for us all to enjoy.

Pacific Rim arrives on 12 July.

"You know, it's times like these when I realise what a superhero I am."

After Joss Whedon's benchmark-setting Avengers assembler, there was always a danger that the next Marvel standalone feature might feel somewhat of an anti-climax.

So perhaps it is just as well that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), just as he did with with Iron Man (2008), is the one called upon to kick start Marvel's next phase. The self-described "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist" has always been the Marvel universe's life and soul. Put him in the hands of incoming director/co-writer Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and he propels this fourth Iron Man outing like a nuke-fuelled rocket.

Just as Joss Whedon pepped up Avengers Assemble with his unique brand of humour, here, despite the science fiction trimmings and goliath budget, it feels like Black's been given carte blanche by Marvel to do his thing. The result is a swinging caper with wit, balls, heart and exploding baubles. It's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) with extra bang. And arguably the Man In The Can's best solo outing so far.

Together with co-writer Drew Pearce, Black sets out to dismantle Iron Man's armour piece by piece. Like Bond in Skyfall (2012), Tony Stark loses his flash car and big house. He is also, for a large part of the movie, deprived of his super-suits. This is a new, vulnerable side to the playboy philanthropist. On the run, backed in the corner and pausing between quips to suffer breathless anxiety attacks. Post traumatic stress disorder brought on by his near-fatal tangle with that Chitauri wormhole in New York.

But his more pressing concern is the shadowy, ethnically indeterminate figure who goes by the monicker The Mandarin. With the didactic menace of Colonel Kurtz and the helicopter fire power of Colonel Kilgore, this terrorist overlord is regularly forcing his way onto US airwaves to threaten dire "lessons". No one knows his identity, his location or where he buys his fancy video editing software.

This may all sound like the fixings for another brooding threequel. Happily though, the dial is kept firmly on 'fun', as the film hustles from one set piece to the next, balancing the gloom with a lot of big laughs. With Black reigniting the spark he cultivated with Downey Jr on Kiss Kiss, the result is snappy, not snarky. Gone for the most part are the self-satisfied barbs that made Iron Man 2 (2010) a lead weight.

As well as the customary Downey Jr wisecracks, there are sight gags, touches of slapstick, Downton Abbey references and a genius beat involving a suit of armour turning its head. The ominous introduction of a boy sidekick in the second act turns out to yield some of the sparkiest dialogue and ultimately it's Black's scripting nous that makes Iron Man 3 really soar. Not least in the way the former Lethal Weapon scribe skilfully tweaks the buddy formula he practically invented into Stark's ongoing relationship with Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). A character who barely made an impression in the other films, becoming the amusingly square Murtaugh to Tony's Riggs. Wait until you hear his password.

The series' villains have always been an issue. Thor gets Loki. Captain America gets the Red Skull. But so far, Iron Man has faced a bald Jeff Bridges, Mickey Rourke and a cockatoo. While this outing is a marked improvement – credit to Black and Pearce for creating antagonists who aren't just more angry blokes in metal suits – it is still the film's weak point. Based on the Warren Ellis penned six issue 'Extremis' series (2005-06), Iron Man 3 pits Stark against a squad of super-soldiers who can regenerate body parts and survive astounding damage. They may be visually interesting – glowing like human lava lamps as they try to melt Tony's face off – but their motivation is unclear and unconvincing.

Far more successful is the aforementioned Mandarin, who in the original comic books is a super-powered martial artist with magic rings. While a close-up shot reveals that his fingers are adorned by rings, there are surprises beneath the character's sinister hood which I won't spoil. Suffice to say that people will be talking about Sir Ben Kingsley's performance for some time. It's a tricky and delicate role, handled beautifully.

Not every performance hits the mark though. Scanty screen time for Rebecca Hall (The Prestige) as Tony's botanist ex, and US TV stalwart Miguel Ferrer as the Vice President, suggests the existence of a possible extended cut. That said, these are minor niggles in a satisfying blockbuster that mixes up political conspiracy, detective work, DIY weapons and outstanding eye candy. The Iron Man suits (there are now 42 of them) are used ingeniously, not least in the spectacular 'barrel of monkeys' action sequence. This sees Air Force One under assault and its passengers forced to disembark thousands of feet above the Florida coast.

So what's not to like? Well, the now customary 3D post-conversion adds absolutely nothing, other than some irritating plastic glasses to your face and a layer of murk that renders set pieces hard to follow. Coming in at just over two hours, it also suffers from a few saggy sequences (such as Rhodes' detour to Afghanistan) that weigh down the film's convoluted middle act. Meanwhile, efforts to explore Stark's troubled psyche don't go far enough to add any great emotional punch.

As for why the other Avengers aren't getting off their invincible backsides to help is explained away, somewhat unconvincingly, with the line "This isn't superhero business. It's American business!" However, Iron Man 3's greatest achievement is that they're not missed.

Man Of Steel: Behind the Scenes

Man of Steel is really starting to sneak up on us and with so many promotions flying around (pun intended) it is hard to keep up. Now Walmart are getting in on the action to muddy the water.

While this 'behind the scenes' promo is nothing out of the ordinary, it at least seems to cover the central idea of the film. Mainly focusing on Clark Kent’s alien origins which lead him to be virtually indestructible while still being completely vulnerable.

Man Of Steel lands in UK cinemas on 14 June.

"We are here to get annihilated!"

It's been a time of ups and downs for the writing team behind The World's End, director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg, since the duo's last film, Hot Fuzz, brought the buddy cop genre to a small town in rural Gloucestershire back in 2007. Wright won critical acclaim for the wonderfully dry, visually spectacular Canadian comic book caper Scott Pilgrim vs The World, but saw his cost heavy feature become one of 2010's most high profile box office turkeys. Pegg has since become Hollywood's go-to guy for comedic Brit sidekick roles in blockbuster sagas such as J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot and Mission: Impossible, yet has struggled a little when placed centre-stage in middling fare such as last year's A Fantastic Fear of Everything.

The World's End, however, sees the duo back on familiar turf delivering the final bite of the unofficially-titled Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.

Directed by Edgar Wright and starring co-writer Simon Pegg and regular Nick Frost, The Worlds End follows five childhood friends who reunite after twenty years to repeat a legendary pub crawl from their youth (which they originally failed) returning to their hometown once again to attempt to reach the fabled pub 'The World’s End'.

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 the town) from a body snatcher alien apocalypse. Which is a slightly worse fate than learning your local is out of pork scratchings.

With Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley and a potential batch of cameos from other former Cornetto faces, this could well be a much deserved victory lap for the trilogy finale.

We even get a great fence gag, because what would a Cornetto pic be without a fence gag?

The World’s End is set to arrive on 19 July in the UK and in the United States on 23 August.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes begins filming

Twitter has recently emerged as the latest tool in a director's PR arsenal. Various shot-callers are taking to the site to post images from their movies still in production. We have Bryan Singer snapping away on X-Men: Days Of Future Past and Marc Webb going even further with a picture a day from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. With shooting now in full swing, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) is throwing his hat into the ring with the first official shot from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

In full performance capture suit, Andy Serkis (Lord Of The Rings, King Kong, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) saddles up as the brain-boosted chimp Caesar to confront Jason Clarke's (Public Enemies, Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty) human survivor and what looks like Keri Russell (Mission: Impossible III, Dark Skies) in the background in the Northern California woods.

Following on from 2011's sleeper hit Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Dawn's plot finds a growing nation of genetically-evolved apes, led by Caesar, threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species. Our money's on the monkeys - but then, we've seen the later films.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is out on 22 May 2014.

"One day you’re going to have to make a choice... whether to stand proud in front of the human race, or not."

With the release date now just over a month away, the promotional material for Zack Snyder's (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) Man Of Steel is gathering some momentum. TV spots are becoming increasingly frequent and the poster roster is turning into a flood. Thankfully though Warner Bros and Team Superman seem to be resisting the urge to release too many spoilers.

Man Of Steel 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.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

"Whatever you do, don't let go!"

Academy Award® winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney hurtle through outer space in the spectacular new teaser trailer for Alfonso Cuarón's (Y Tu Mamá También, Children Of Men) Gravity.

Best known for her roles in romantic comedies and human interest dramas, Sandra Bullock (The Proposal, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Blind Side) is stepping out of her comfort zone - and into the great beyond - in her latest film. Bullock plays Dr Ryan Stone, a medical engineer in orbit for her first shuttle mission, working alongside veteran space jockey Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), on his last trip before retirement. In true Hollywood fashion, as with police officers, this usually ends badly.

While they're out on a routine spacewalk tragedy strikes and their shuttle is destroyed in a random accident. The pair finds themselves suddenly very much alone, tethered only to each other and floating off into the inky depths of space. There's no radio contact with Earth, and as panic sets in, they discover the only way to get back home might be to go deeper into space.

Much like Tom Hanks' turn in Castaway, Bullock is onscreen by herself for much of the film.

Cuarón first eyed Robert Downey Jr. and Angelina Jolie for the lead roles, but Jolie turned the project down in September 2010, followed by Natalie Portman, who also decided against making it, leading Bullock to take the part. Downey Jr. left the film in October 2010 due to scheduling conflicts, and Clooney took over the role in December that year.

With Basher Savage (World War Z) and, if recent reports are to believed, Ed Harris (Apollo 13, A History Of Violence, Appaloosa) on board as the voice of Mission Control, Gravity sees Cuarón playing on a scale that swings from the grand to the intimate with what looks to be an astonishingly beautiful movie. Boasting a screenplay by Cuarón and his son Jonás, Gravity drifts into our cinemas on 8 November.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Star Wars: Episode VII to be shot in the UK

Lucasfilm have announced today that production of Star Wars: Episode VII will take place in the UK. All of the six previous live action Star Wars movies have included UK production in such famed studios as Elstree, Shepperton, Leavesden, Ealing and Pinewood Studios.

"We've devoted serious time and attention to revisiting the origins of Star Wars as inspiration for our process on the new movie, and I'm thrilled that returning to the UK for production and utilising the incredible talent there can be a part of that," said Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm. "Speaking from my own longstanding connection to the UK with films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun and recently War Horse, it's very exciting to be heading back."

Earlier this year, representatives from Lucasfilm met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in London to establish an agreement to produce Star Wars in the U.K. "I am delighted that Star Wars is coming back to Britain. Today's announcement that the next Star Wars film will be shot and produced in the UK is great news for fans and our creative industries," Osborne said today.

Star Wars: Episode VII will be directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Michael Arndt and is scheduled for a 2015 release.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Crow remake finds it's Eric Draven

After years of development hell, Relativity Media's new franchise reboot of The Crow, seems to have finally gained some momentum. It was announced in January that Spanish director F. Javier Gutierrez (Before The Fall) would be at the helm. But now, after much speculation, we also have an actor signed, sealed and ready to play the unfortunate anti-hero Eric Draven. Welsh actor Luke Evans (The Three Musketeers, Immortals, The Raven) hopes his Crow will finally fly.

Following the announcement of his casting over the weekend, Coming Soon grabbed Luke Evans at a Fast & Furious 6 junket to get the lowdown on the new Crow. "It was a very poignant film from my childhood which I remember vividly," Evans said. "It was such a solid performance that Brandon Lee gave. It was a very tragic end for somebody that would have had a very promising career. I'm [playing] Eric Draven; I'm the same character. Obviously he's been refreshed and brought up to date. We're re-imagining it to a certain extent, but the story and the plot is mostly the same."

Evans has been top of the wish list for a while, but has had an incredibly busy time of recent. He has just been cast as the lead in Dracula Year Zero, and will next be seen as the villain in Fast & Furious 6. Not to mention playing Bard the Bowman in a little movie called The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Initially Evans seemed to be unavailable because of production on Dracula and the publicity treadmill for The Hobbit. The distributor then looked at Tom Hiddleston (Thor, War Horse) and more recently Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, Melancholia), the latter of whom now has a bunch of offers on the table after Warner Bros halted production on it's Tarzan reboot. Ultimately, they have decided to push the start date to early next year to accommodate his schedule in order to secure Evans. He seems an ideal fit for the role originated by Brandon Lee (son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee), who died tragically during production on 1994 revenge story. Directed by Alex Proyas (Dark City, I Robot) and based on the James O’Barr comic book series, The Crow became an instant cult classic.

This new on The Crow was initially kick started by Stephen Norrington in 2009, with the Blade director planning to shoot his own screenplay, which would have taken place in Detroit and the American south-west. Nick Cave wrote a draft in 2010, before Norrington finally walked over creative differences with the studio. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) signed on in early 2011, beating Gutierrez to the gig, but when Fresnadillo moved on later the same year, Gutierrez was back in the game.

During the Norrington days, Mark Wahlberg was in the frame as our possible new Draven. Names in the hat since then have included Bradley Cooper, Channing Tatum, James McAvoy, Alexander Skarsgård and Tom Hiddleston.

But it's Evans who'll be playing the murder victim who returns from the grave to avenge his own death and that of his fiancée, gradually working through the gang responsible. There's an odd coincidence to the fact that he's also playing the Count in the Dracula origin story. For a long time that film was being developed by the original Crow's director Alex Proyas, but Evans only came to it under the guidance of current helmer Gary Shore.

Dracula Year Zero is currently in pre-production with a pencilled-in US release date of August 2014. If all now goes to plan, shooting on The Crow will finally get underway early next year.

In the meantime, if you want to satisfy your Draven cravings, Titan Books published a fantastic new expanded edition of James O'Barr's original graphic novel last year.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

"Is it possible to miss a place you've never been? To mourn a time you never lived?"

Joseph Kosinski's previous work has primarily been CGI based television commercials, such the Starry Night commercial for Halo 3 and the award-winning Mad World commercial for Gears of War. Having cut his teeth on TV commercials he made his big-screen directorial debut with the science fiction film Tron: Legacy (sequel to the 1982 film Tron) for Disney in 2009.

Tron: Legacy showed three things: 1) Kosinski was masterful at creating entirely imagined worlds right down to the tiniest detail - 2) He likes big, psychologically complex plots and allowing time to explore them - and 3) He was a lot better with scenery than he was with people. With Oblivion, Kosinski reasserts those first two points and moderately improves on the third.

Unlike Tron: Legacy, Oblivion is Kosinski's own creation, adapted from the Radical Comics graphic novel he penned shortly after his move to Los Angeles in 2005. Disney had originally acquired the film rights in 2007 but insisted on a PG rating in line with their family-based reputation. Disney later released the rights to Universal Pictures (who had also bid for the original rights) and Kosinksi's PG-13 vision was finally authorised.

Oblivion sees Tom Cruise play Jack Harper, one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth in the year 2073. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs. Currently living in and patrolling floating cities thousands of feet above the Earth, his soaring existence is brought crashing down when he rescues an attractive female stranger from a downed spacecraft. Her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything that he knows as he battles to save mankind.

The single problem with Oblivion is that it has a crowded imagination and an empty heart. It blasts you with information in the opening few minutes. Before you've even had time to finish your first mouthful of popcorn we learn that Earth was attacked by aliens in the late 21st century and that the moon was smashed to space rubble, causing earthquakes and floods that obliterated the population. Nuclear war then followed, which left the place in a bit of a state, so most of humanity left for a new home called Titan. All that remains on Earth are the invaders, scattered in underground tribes, some huge water-processing thingamajigs converting energy from the seas for Titan, and a couple called Jack and Victoria, played by Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible, Magnolia, War of the Worlds) and Andrea Riseborough (Never Let Me Go, Made in Dagenham, Brighton Rock). Day in, day out, they guard the equipment, all alone on Earth floating in their condo in the clouds, full of hard, shiny surfaces that suggest that in the decades ahead, comfort will become deeply unfashionable. Their only contact besides each other is with their prickly contact Sally (Melissa Leo) whose based on a giant monolith that acts as a relay between humanity’s old and new homes.

After this initial onslaught of information, the brakes are finally pulled on and Kosinski takes his time to explore his world, which, given the impressive art direction, becomes a curiously calming, absorbing fantasy travelogue. Jack goes about his business fixing drones and taking time out in a lodge by a lake. All of which feels pretty real, partly due to being shot on actual locations (primarily in Iceland) rather than via the usual green-screen. There’s also a bit of a Mad Max feel to Jack, a man just surviving in a thankless world, and these scenes, in which very little actually happens, are possibly more interesting than when the film decides to pile the plot back on.

Jack finds a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko), whom he feels he knows from his dreams, and some hidden survivors led by Morgan Freeman's Beech. Head of the Human Resistance who refuses to leave Earth. Freeman is wasted here in a role that serves as little more than exposition. It then becomes a puzzle of who knows what, who doesn’t actually know what they think they know, and what the things are that they may or may not in fact know about the things they think they know. For all its convolution though, Kosinski actually lays his plot out rather smoothly. The plot twists have twists, but not to the point that they become difficult to follow, and the ending is at once complex and neat, like the centre of a spider’s web. It is a fine story. Yet it becomes hard to invest in, because the characters are so flimsy

As with Tron: Legacy, there is the sense that Kosinski considers his characters merely tools for getting him to the big reveal. He doesn’t seem interested in exploring who these people are, but instead uses them to explore a grand idea. That’s not always a bad thing. There are plenty of sci-fi movies out there that hinge on you caring about what is going to happen next, rather than about the people it’s happening to. An obvious example being 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which is referenced several times here. But that’s not really the sort of film this is. Its big moments centre on relationships and love, and the primary themes are about humanity and identity, yet the characters aren’t burdened with either. Cruise as an actor will always be fighting to disappear behind a character, but Jack is, more than most of his previous roles, just Tom Cruise. He doesn’t have any personality separate from the man playing him. Riseborough is the only one who really comes off as a complete person, which is all the greater achievement given that hers is the character who, on paper, is the least significant. Her longing and trapped performance lends some humanity to this desolate world.

As a story of a man struggling with his place in the world and with the power of love to conquer all, it’s as lifeless and barren as its nuked landscape. But Oblivion demonstrates a strong sci-fi riddle boldly staged and Kosinski has built a fantasy world that feels real to its core. What's lacking isn't orchestration, but invention. Intelligent, innovative and intimate sci-fi is always welcome, but Oblivion can't quite deliver on it's promise.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Ray Harryhausen: Visual effects master dies aged 92

Visual effects master Ray Harryhausen, whose dazzling and innovative visual effects work on fantasy adventure films such as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and and Clash of the Titans (1981) augured the explosion of effects-driven cinema over the last 30 years, has died aged 92.

Harryhausen made all his models by hand and painstakingly shot them frame by frame to create some of the best-known animated sequences in cinematic history.

His death in London was confirmed to the BBC by a family representative.

"Harryhausen's genius was in being able to bring his models alive," said an official statement from his foundation.

"Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray's hands they were no longer puppets but instead became characters in their own right."

Born in Los Angeles in June 1920, Raymond Frederick Harryhausen had a passion for dinosaurs as a child which led him to recreate his own prehistoric creations in his family's garage.

Films like The Lost World (1925) and the original 1933 version of King Kong, stoked that passion and prompted him to seek out a meeting with Willis O'Brien, a pioneer in the field of model animation.

During the Second World War Harryhausen joined director Frank Capra's film unit, which made the Why We Fight series to back the US war effort.

After the war, Harryhausen created a stop-motion series of fairy tales that prompted his idol, O'Brien, to hire him to help create the ape in Mighty Joe Young (1949) - an achievement that saw the film win an Academy Award for it's effects.

Harryhausen went on to make some of the fantasy genre's best-known movies, among them One Million Years B.C. (1966) and a series of films based on the adventures of Sinbad the sailor.

He is perhaps best remembered for animating the seven skeletons which come to life in Jason and the Argonauts, an astonishing sequence that took Harryhausen three months to film. Another stand out moment was for creating the Medusa who turned men to stone in Clash of the Titans.

Harryhausen inspired a generation of film directors from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron to Peter Jackson.

Spielberg said Harryhausen's "inspiration goes with us forever", while Cameron said Hollywood science fiction film-makers had been "standing on the shoulders of a giant".

Meanwhile, Star Wars creator George Lucas, paid tribute by saying: "The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much."

Director John Landis described Harryhausen as a "true giant of the cinema" and said his creations were "not only the stars of those movies, but the main reason for those movies to exist at all".

Peter Lord of Aardman Animations was quick to pay tribute, describing Harryhausen as "a one-man industry and a one-man genre" on Twitter.

"He is one of the true greats, if not the true great of stop motion animation. A unique craftsman... He has been my mentor and inspiration since my earliest childhood memories."And Nick Park, Aardman's Oscar-winning creator of Wallace and Gromit, told the BBC: "I've followed the work of Ray Harryhausen all my life.

"I loved every single frame of Ray Harryhausen's work," tweeted Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. "He was the man who made me believe in monsters."

In 1992 Harryhausen received a special Oscar to honour his work with special effects in the days before computer-generated imagery. At the event, host Tom Hanks said, “Some say Citizen Kane is the greatest motion picture of all time. Others say it’s Casablanca. For me, the greatest picture of all time is Jason and the Argonauts.”

Harryhausen lived in the UK for several decades with his wife Diana and often appeared at fantasy conventions much to the delight of fans from around the world.

The veteran animator donated his complete collection (about 20,000 objects) to the National Media Museum in Bradford in 2010.

Harryhausen died at London's Hammersmith Hospital, having received treatment for the last week.

Our thoughts go out to his wife Diana, friends and family.