Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Captain America 3 already taking shape at Marvel

With Marvel's phase development taking years of planning in order to roll out its comics universe onto the big screen, it's hardly surprising to learn that another movie featuring one of its most popular characters is already in the works. Though it seems early for the company to be working up another outing for Chris Evans' Captain America given that his latest, The Winter Soldier, is only just about to hit cinemas, according to Variety the studio is doing just that.

More surprising and, if the positive early word on The Winter Soldier is any indication, the good news is that directors Joe and Anthony Russo appear likely to pull off a feat so far only matched by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and Joss Whedon (The Avengers): returning to direct a second Marvel outing.

Of course, with the first sequel still a couple of months away from our screens, no negotiations have begun and no deals have been drafted, at least formally. But Variety's sources say that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and co are thrilled with the film so far and have begun early talks about the focus of any third film. There is so far no release date or other details to report, beyond the fact that Evans' multi-film contract should guarantee his presence.

In related Captian America news, Steve Rogers will be part of another story (besides his planned return with the rest of the Avengers in Age Of Ultron). Comics veteran Peter David has written a prelude Infinite Comic to the film, set shortly before it begins.

The comic finds Cap, Black Widow and Agent Brock Rumlow (also known as Crossbones, as played in the film by Frank Grillo) dispatched to hunt down a mysterious McGuffin known as Zodiac, which might spark a memory for anyone who has watched the Agent Carter One Shot short.

"They know what S.H.I.E.L.D. has told them: that they're looking for the Zodiac, but they know little to nothing about it," explains David on Marvel's site. "To the Black Widow and Rumlow, that's fine. They're okay with doing what they're told. Cap, however, is way more suspicious and wants a clearer idea of what's going on, and is annoyed that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't big on being forthcoming."

Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be out on 26 March in the UK, with US audiences waiting until 4 April.

Monday, 27 January 2014

New TV spot for Maleficent conjures up a dream

It's been less than a week since the last trailer for Robert Stromberg's re-telling of Sleeping Beauty (1959), this time focusing on Angelina Jolie's misunderstood fairy Maleficent. However, that hasn't stopped the Mouse House from taking advantage of the big Grammy Awards audience to debut a brand new TV spot, featuring Lana Del Rey crooning a slow tempo take on Once Upon A Dream from the Disney classic.

The film sees Jolie's Maleficent growing up in an idyllic forest, only to see it ravaged by an invading army and to be betrayed by those closest to her, "an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone". Out for revenge, she curses the baby daughter of the invading king – but as the child (Elle Fanning) grows up she realises that she may be the key to peace between the kingdoms.

Jolie has described Maleficent as more than the traditional villainess who'll transform into a dragon and hit scorch at the first sniff of a grievance. In short, it's Maleficent's journey to the place we found her in Sleeping Beauty (1959). "I hope in the end you see a woman who is capable of being many things", she told Entertainment Weekly, "and just because she protects herself and is aggressive, it doesn't mean she can't have other warmer qualities. You have to figure out the puzzle of what she is."

Joining her for the ride are Sharlto Copley (District 9), Lesley Manville (Another Year), Sam Riley (Control), Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix), Juno Temple (Atonement) and Miranda Richardson (The Young Victoria). The film's scheduled for a 30 May release in the US and should be out in the UK soon after.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Ant-Man release date moves forward

The game of musical release dates for 2015 continues apace with news that Edgar Wright's (The Worlds End) Ant-Man is moving into the 17 July 2015 release date recently vacated by Batman Vs. Superman. The Marvel property was previously scheduled for a 14 August release but has since leapt into the now tentpole free mid-July weekend.

Warner Bros has also taken the 17 July 2015 slot with Joe Wright's (Anna Karenina) new take on Peter Pan.

Of course, Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel (2013) follow up has been pushed back by nearly a year to 6 May 2016. The reasons behind this remain somewhat cloudy, but either Snyder just needs more time to realise his vision or Warner Bros has a Justice League movie taking shape. Either way, the studio sees J. M. Barrie's boyish scamp as the perfect character to fill the gap. "The summer release corridor is also perfect for Joe Wright's ambitious new Peter Pan adventure, reimagining the ageless story of the beloved and forever-young hero for audiences worldwide," read a Warners statement last week.

News from the Ant-Man camp is also coming thick and fast as Wright gets close to kicking off principal photography. As previously reported, Paul Rudd is aboard as Scott Lang, with Michael Douglas set to play Hank Pym. For more hints on how the pair will co-exist in the Marvel universe, Wright's 2006 interview with Superhero Hype offers a clue of two. "The idea that we have for the adaptation is to actually involve both," he said.

"[It]'s to have a film that basically is about Henry Pym and Scott Lang, so you actually do a prologue where you see Pym as Ant-Man in action in the 60's, in sort of Tales To Astonish mode basically," Wright told. "And then the contemporary, sort of flash-forward, is Scott Lang's story, and how he comes to acquire the suit, how he crosses paths with Henry Pym, and then, in an interesting sort of Machiavellian way, teams up with him."

As always, watch this space for more announcements on both Ant-Man and Peter Pan.

First trailer for Oculus creeps online

Relativity Media and Blumhouse Productions have just released their first trailer for Mike Flanagan's (Absentia) Oculus.

Mirrors, as more than one horror movie has taught us over the years, can be somewhat creepy. Especially if you've just woken up after a bad night. Or, even worse, when they become portals for something utterly terrifying that wants to steal your soul. Which is exactly the problem that Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) and Katee Sackhoff (Riddick) face in Oculus.

Directed by Mike Flanagan from a script he co-wrote with Jeff Howard, based on an award winning short film Flanagan and Jeff Seidman made in 2005, Oculus digs deep into our fear of scary mirrors.

The tale begins ten years ago, when tragedy strikes the Russell family, leaving the lives of teenage siblings Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Gillan) forever changed when Tim was convicted of the brutal murder of their parents. Now in his 20s, Tim is newly released from protective custody and wants to move on with his life. But Kaylie, still haunted by that fateful night, is convinced her parents' deaths were caused by something else altogether: a malevolent supernatural force – unleashed through the Lasser Glass, an antique mirror in their childhood home.

Determined to prove Tim's innocence, Kaylie tracks down the mirror, only to learn similar deaths have befallen previous owners over the past century. With the mysterious entity now back in their hands, Tim and Kaylie soon find their hold on reality shattered by terrifying hallucinations, and realise, all too late, that their childhood nightmare is beginning again.

Oculus is set for release in the US on 11 April with no UK release date as yet.

"You can't get rid of the Babadook!"

Entertainment One Films have just released first trailer for Jennifer Kent's The Babadook.

No matter how much children want a comforting tale to send them off to slumber land, we know that some of the best children's bedtime material is chock full of terrifying creatures and closet lurking terrors just waiting for the moment to strike. It's a base fear exploited by the Australian director in The Babadook.

Kent turned to Kickstarter to scrounge up the funds to make the story of Amelia (Essie Davis), a mother trying to raise son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) after the death of her husband. Samuel, it seems, is going through a thorny emotional time, bringing weapons to school and generally acting out. He's spurred on by the belief that a ghoul known as the Babadook is haunting the house, but Amelia initially thinks it's all in his head. How very wrong she seems to be...

The Babadook premiered to solid reviews at this years Sundance, and apparently has the potential to rival the success of recent chillers The Conjuring (2013) and Mama (2013).

From the looks of this trailer we can certainly see why, offering a nice twist on the 'monster in the closet' trope, in what looks like a pretty terrifying piece.

Watch this space for release dates.

Gal Gadot signs a three-picture deal as Wonder Woman

The announcement back in December that Isreali actress Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious 6) would be playing Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs. Superman Man Of Steel (2013) sequel generated plenty of chatter, both positive and negative. Gadot has recently defended the decision and, appearing on Israeli entertainment show Good Evening With Gai Pines, she also mentioned that she has a signed a three-picture deal with Marvel to play the character.

Such contracts are not uncommon, particularly in the huge franchise film business. Marvel routinely signs its leads up to multi-movie deals. Given Warners' desire to put the Justice League team of Batsman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest on to the big screen together like the Avengers, it makes sense to ensure she'll be available for the long haul.

More surprising though is Gadot's revelation about her fee for the first film, a topic most in the business avoid talking about. She's reportedly earning $300,000 for the Man Of Steel sequel, which is just a little more than Jonah Hill pocketed for his role in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street.

In related Warner Bros superhero news, the man who fills Green Arrow's suit on television, Steven Amell, was asked by Fandango whether he thought Oliver Queen might end up on the big screen with the other League members. His response was intriguing albeit typically evasive and practical: "I have had discussions, but I think the gestation process for this project is a lot slower than most people think. I mean, they haven't even shot the next one. They haven't even shot a frame of the movie before the movie everyone thinks is the Justice League movie!"

Whoever ends up in the finished film, the next iteration of the DC Comics/Warner Bros superhero movie universe will arrive in cinemas a little later than originally planned, with director Zack Snyder aiming for May 2016.

"We're gonna put a man inside a machine."

Columbia Pictures (Sony) and MGM have just released a series of fresh clips for José Padilha's (Elite Squad) RoboCop.

The RoboCop reboot finds us in the year 2028, with multinational conglomerate OmniCorp at the centre of robot technology. Overseas, their drones have been used by the military for years, and it's meant billions for OmniCorp's bottom line. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it.

When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit – is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine pursuing justice.

Yahoo! Movies asked José Padilha, the film's director, to give a little context to his Robo remake and explain how he's gone about bringing Verhoeven's 1987 sci-fi ideas back to the screen. "It's based on the original movie, which was ahead of its time both aesthetically and thematically," says Padilha, praising the prescience of Paul Verhoeven's original. "We already have the drones and now we're going to have automated robots doing law enforcement and replacing soldiers on the battlefield. We had the chance to make this movie and talk about that."

With this latest promo, the RoboCop team are clearly focusing on the emotional side of Kinnaman's Murphy. We also get to hear the former undercover cop's initial paralysis and confusion at waking up after nearly dying in a car bombing.

Find out if the Brazilian director can bring similar satirical force to bear when RoboCop arrives in the UK on 7 February.

Domestic trailer for The Raid 2: Berandal arrives online

Earlier this month we showed you the first full (albeit Indonesian) trailer for Gareth Evans' The Raid 2: Berandal. Now Sony Pictures Classics have released their first domestic trailer, clearly aimed at American audiences which may give too much of the chaos away. The good news is that Evans has promised so much (literally) action packed into this film, that we're really just scratching the surface. Watch with caution anyway.

The Raid 2: Berandal picks up the story two hours after The Raid (2011) (Evans says "The [potential] Raid 3 would take place two hours before The Raid 2 ends"...), and sweeps Rama (Iko Uwais) into a much broader world of corruption and violence as he infiltrates the ranks of a ruthless Jakarta crime syndicate. Judging by the trailer, the film looks to be even more gloriously violent than its predecessor, if that's at all possible. Everything is turned into a weapon here as Evans expands the fights to even more ambitious levels.

Julie Estelle, Alex Abbad, Yayan Ruhian, Mathias Muchus, Tio Pakusadewo, Marsha Timothy, Cecep Arif Rahman, Matsuda Ryuhei, Endo Kenichi and Kitamura Kazuki are all part of the cast for this one. Evans has previously promised 17 action sequences in the film, and has recently said via his Twitter page that the climactic fight took one and a half months to design.

The Raid 2: Berandal has just premiered at The Sundance Film Festival to a rapturous reception and is slated to arrive in the US on 28 March, with no UK release date as yet.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

" can only push someone so far before they break."

'You will know her name' runs the tagline, which pretty much sums up Hollywood's thinking over the last decade. Ever since Zack Snyder's (Man Of Steel) 2004 take on George Romero's Dawn Of The Dead, we've had remakes of just about every recognisable horror movie of the '70s and '80s.

Given the purity of Stephen King's 1974 source novel – an archetypal nerd revenge tale set in school, meaning everyone can relate – it's actually astonishing we've had to wait this long.

Tragic though the eponymous ugly duckling tale of Carrie White remains, the person you possibly feel most sorry for here is Kimberly Peirce. She's clearly a talented director who has yet to live up to the promise of her stunning debut, Boys Don't Cry (1999). And, for all its strengths, her re-imagining of King's debut novel doesn't correct that slide.

Her problem is Brian De Palma. At the height of his powers, when he drenched Sissy Spacek with a bucket of pig’s blood, his soulful, haunting take was and is so indelible in the public consciousness it would make any director look anonymous in comparison.

The same can be said of the cast. The central performances of Chloë Grace Moretz (Let Me In) and Julianne Moore (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) are strong, but with caveats. Where Piper Laurie's crazy old dear was almost supernaturally consumed by her fundamentalism, Moore's is a more grounded loon, prone to gouging herself in penance with sewing implements. Her religious fervour is a cross to bear, not to be revelled in, and as such becomes less effective.

Moretz similarly puts a new spin on her iconic character. Some of this modernity smartly piles on the cruelty – specifically the shower scene, which sees her filmed on a smartphone while being taunted with tampons. But, come the prom, her empowered Carrie seems too in control of her fledgling telekinesis, contorting into Japanese horror Ringu (1998) rickets as she exacts her revenge. Spacek's Carrie was somewhat more sympathetic. Her powers whiplash like severed power cords to kill indiscriminately. When Moretz lets it fly there's a smile in her eyes, clearly relishing her monstrous capabilities.

What this adaptation does have is a reason for existing. Comfortably superior to any of the recent spate of horror remakes, it is efficient and effective, and has a topicality in a world where the subject of bullying is a heated debate. It also looks to the book more than De Palma's take and has some nice moments (raining stones) that King completists will enjoy. Its refocusing of the tale as a superhero origin story, meanwhile, is a fresh take - for anyone who hasn't seen Chronicle (2012) that is.

It's just a shame that the film feels somewhat rushed. Like her horny teens, Peirce's movie races toward the main event and never lies back to enjoy the build up. De Palma mined emotion out of his smaller moments, making his climax as soulful as it was spectacular. Peirce's, by comparison, lacks the verve and potency, romance and heartache of the original.

"There is an evil in this world, and I cannot keep you from it."

Walt Disney Pictures have just released their latest trailer for Maleficent, the first full length feature from Academy Award® winning visual effects guru, Robert Stromberg (Life Of Pi).

How do you re-imagine a terrifying, green skinned, horned, baby targeting fairy as the heroine of the tale? We're not sure, but the latest live action feature from the Mouse House promises to provide the answer, with Angelina Jolie stepping into the role

The film sees Jolie's Maleficent growing up in an idyllic forest, only to see it ravaged by an invading army and to be betrayed by those closest to her, "an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone". Out for revenge, she curses the baby daughter of the invading king – but as the child (Elle Fanning) grows up she realises that she may be the key to peace between the kingdoms.

Jolie has described Maleficent as more than the traditional villainess who'll transform into a dragon and hit scorch at the first sniff of a grievance. In short, it's Maleficent's journey to the place we found her in Sleeping Beauty (1959). "I hope in the end you see a woman who is capable of being many things", she told Entertainment Weekly, "and just because she protects herself and is aggressive, it doesn't mean she can't have other warmer qualities. You have to figure out the puzzle of what she is."

Fun fact, incidentally: that's Jolie's daughter Vivienne as the young Aurora, presumably because she's the only toddler around who didn't burst into tears around Jolie's horned figure.

Joining her for the ride are Sharlto Copley (District 9), Lesley Manville (Another Year), Sam Riley (Control), Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix), Juno Temple (Atonement) and Miranda Richardson (The Young Victoria). The film's scheduled for a 30 May release in the US and should be out in the UK soon after.

Screenwriter John Logan discusses Bond 24

Eon Productions has already announced a 2015 release date for it's next 007 outing. Needless to say expectations are high, following the box office success of Skyfall (2012), and writer John Logan (Hugo) is currently beavering away on a script, juggling both his work on Bond and with his new gothic Showtime horror, Penny Dreadful (directed by Juan Antonio Bayona). When IGN caught up with him, he gave a few hints as to what we might expect.

"My goal is to write a great movie that's appropriate, to build on what we did on Skyfall, but make it its own unique animal," Logan said of Bond 24. "The themes, ideas and the characters from Skyfall can obviously continue on, because it is a franchise, and it is an ongoing story. So I think there's resonance from Skyfall in the new movie."

Interesting stuff, although whether this means more on Bond's melancholy back story, more gunplay for Ralph Fiennes' M or more innuendo shenanigans with Naomie Harris' Moneypenny, he wasn't divulging. He is, however, promising plenty of the old school Bond references that so thrilled fans in Skyfall.

"I grew up on the Bond movies," Logan explained of his long-standing affection for the character. "The first one I saw was Diamonds Are Forever, when I was a kid. I just loved them to pieces. I love all the elements from the books - mostly from the novels; going back to Ian Fleming is where I started with Skyfall - and there's certainly elements of the movies and the novels that we've brought into the new movie, as they did into Skyfall."

And what of Bonds big bad? Could this see the return of Blofeld? "You know, I think our villain's appropriate to the story we're telling," the writer straight batted.

Bond 24 gets its UK release on 23 October 2015, and makes its US bow on 6 November 2015.

"For glory's sake... WAR!"

Warner Bros have just released their latest series of bloody one sheets and theatrical trailer for Noam Murro's 300: Rise Of An Empire.

Clearly taking a cue from the ramped up action, glorious sweeping vistas, oily six-packs and beautiful woman approach in Zack Snyder's 300 (2006), the focus this time around is more on epic aquatic battles, than bloody dusty sand scraps. "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 told 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."

With warrior King Leonidas and his brave soldiers now dead, we follow what happens when Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) swears vengeance in the name of the mourning Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) and takes arms against the invading Persians.

There's also something of an origin story for Persian Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), who himself deals with the death of his father by falling under the ambitious influence of naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green), dabbling in dark powers and becoming the powerful, crazed, gold-coated monster with a God complex we first met in 300.

Naturally, after defeating Leonidas, he's ready to conquer all of Greece, so Themistokles will have to stop him, and that means fighting on the ocean as well as the land.

"If you took 300 and you zoomed up, you get this movie," director Noam Murro told Empire at Comic-Con earlier this year. "It takes place about the same time; it's just bigger and just gives a different scale and scope to what happened historically."

With Jack O'Connell, David Wenham and Hans Matheson among the cast, 300: Rise Of An Empire hits our screens on 7 March.

J.J. Abrams announces Star Wars: Episode VII's script is complete

With production set to begin this spring, recent talk about J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan taking over screenplay duties for Star Wars: Episode VII had some fans worried that the schedule was slipping. Now Abrams, attending the Television Critics Association press tour in support of his new show Believe, offered an update on the script's status and addressed rumours that he's talked to Breaking Bad actor Jesse Plemons for a role.

"We're working really hard and we've got our script and we're in deep prep," Abrams told The Wrap. "Full steam ahead." As for Plemons, he's definitely been in for a meeting, though he's one of many.

Abrams also acknowledges that his secrecy invites much speculation and rumour, but seems unconcerned about the vast majority. "There've been so many of them. It's amazing to see how many there are. But it's sweet because it shows that there's an interest in this movie that we all obviously know is there. But it is an incredible thing to see how many crazy things get thrown out that people often then write commentaries about. How happy they are, how disappointed they are about something that is completely false. It's a lot of noise, frankly."

One subject he was happy to address was whether he'd shoot the new Star Wars outing in IMAX. "In the right situation I would," he said. "The problem with IMAX is it's a very loud camera. It's a very unreliable camera. Only so much film can be in the camera. You can't really do intimate scenes with it. It's slow. They break down often. Having said that, they're working on digital versions of these and so there may be a version one day. But we're going to be shooting this next movie on film."

Given the ambitious plans set out by Abrams, Disney, Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy on the future of the franchise, with its mixture of new trilogy and spin-off films, people have naturally been wondering about the likelihood of crossovers between the two strands. Now, at the opening of Disney/Lucasfilm's new Singapore facility, Kennedy commented on the general plan going forward.

"George was so clear as to how that works," she told The Straits Times. "The canon that he created was the Star Wars saga. Right now, Episode VII falls within that canon. The spin-off movies, or we may come up with some other way to call those films, they exist within that vast universe that he created. There is no attempt being made to carry characters from the standalone films in and out of the saga episodes. Consequently, from the creative standpoint, it's a roadmap that George made pretty clear."

Which sounds like the three new saga entries will, as planned, continue the main story of Star Wars with Luke, Leia, Han and whoever else, while the spin-offs will focus on side narratives such as the much mooted Boba Fett tale. The urge to blend them into one, big, synchronistic story must be strong (especially for the studio that also owns Marvel), but we're hoping that Episode VII and the other two planned films can stand on their own strengths without needing to dip in and out of other stories.

While he's generally overseeing the films, Abrams is much more focused on Episode VII for now.

The film remains set for an 18 December 2015 release slot.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

"Legs of a stallion, arms of an eagle!"

StudioCanal have just released their latest trailer for Cuban Fury, the first long awaited lead role for The World's End's (2013) Nick Frost.

The plot sees Frost's put-upon Bruce form a crush on his new boss, played by Rashida Jones. She's a keen salsa dancer, and so to win her affections he brushes off his old dancing shoes and decides to reinvent himself as an unofficial lord of the dance. The fly in his foot ointment is Chris O'Dowd's rival for Jones' affections, so expect a dance battle or two before matters are settled.

The film comes loaded with bonus British talent, including Ian McShane (Pirates Of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Rory Kinnear (Skyfall), Kayvan Novak (Four Lions) and Olivia Colman (I Give It A Year), with Episodes' James Griffiths directing.

Cuban Fury is due to hit cinema screens on Valentine's Day, just in time for you to brush up on your romancing manoeuvres.

Two new Amazing Spider-Man 2 character one sheets arrive online

Sony Pictures have just released a brand new set of character one sheets for Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

The film sees Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) more comfortable in his costume these days and enjoying his Spider abilities, along with girlfriend Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). But his good mood is about to be tested when new villains appear in the shape of Jamie Foxx's Elektro and Paul Giamatti's Rhino, with rich kid Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) telling Peter that he's been under surveillance by Oscorp.

Marc Webb is back as director, and recently opened up to USA Today about what he was aiming for this time.

"I wanted to create something operatic, something huge," Webb tells the paper's website. "And if anything, this film is about the greatest battle Spider-Man's ever had to face. You'll understand and feel the intensity and the overwhelming nature of the obstacles in Spider-Man's path."

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits cinemas on 18 April 2014, with two more instalments planned for May 2016 and May 2018. Expect lots more to come from our friendly neighbourhood hero.

Latest trailer for The Quiet Ones arrives online

Lionsgate have just released their latest trailer for John Pogue's (Quarantine 2: Terminal) Hammer Films chiller, The Quiet Ones.

Inspired by real events, The Quiet Ones follows Professor Coupland (Jared Harris), a charismatic, unorthodox Oxford academic who recruits student Brian McNeil (Sam Claflin) and some classmates to carry out a private experiment to create a poltergeist and hopefully crack the key to curing certain negative aspects of the mind. Their subject: an alluring, but dangerously disturbed young woman (Olivia Cooke). Their quest: to explore the dark energy that her damaged psyche might manifest.

As the experiment unravels, along with their sanity, the rogue PhD students are soon confronted with the terrifying reality that they have triggered an unspeakable force with a power beyond all explanation. As anyone who has ever seen a horror film, or knows anything about the supernatural will tell you, tangling with such dark forces is pretty much a one way trip to crazy town, with added screaming and usually death.

The Quiet Ones is out on 11 April.

Thomas Kretschmann joins Avengers: Age Of Ultron

With James Spader already confirmed as the primary big bad in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron – as the eponymous rogue artificial intelligence Ultron – Joss Whedon clearly wants to give Earth's Mightiest Heroes a bit more of a challenge. As a result, Marvel have announced that Thomas Kretschmann is to join the cast as Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.

In the comics, Strucker was a German soldier disfigured by facial scars who became one of Hitler's top men during his rise to power. He tangled with both Captain America and Nick Fury, and joined Hydra, becoming instrumental in its evil schemes.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Strucker will once more be causing trouble for Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and Chris Evans' Captain America, though its story doesn't specify whether he'll be seen in flashback to World War II, or will (more likely) be a troublemaker in the present day. Between The Winter Soldier and this, we bet Steve Rogers will be getting sick of his past coming back to haunt him.

Kretschmann joins a cast that includes the returning regulars Jackson, Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson plus franchise newcomers Elizabeth Olsen (as Scarlet Witch) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as Quicksilver). Don Cheadle also looks set to join the fun as James Rhodes.

Johansson recently talked up Whedon's script for the sequel, saying, "It doesn't lose that exciting comic book aspect that people enjoyed in the first film, but it's smart and it feels like the next instalment. It doesn't feel like a rehashing, it feels like these characters are moving forward, plot lines are moving forward."

The Avengers: Age Of Ultron will be out on 1 May 2015.

Quentin Tarantino shelves The Hateful Eight

If your excitement for a new Quentin Tarantino project was sent into overdrive last month following the news that the Django Unchained (2012) writer-director was at work on a fresh Western script, tentatively titled The Hateful Eight, you may need need to park your enthusiasm. Tarantino has decided to shelve the project after the embryonic draft ended up spread across Hollywood.

"I'm very, very depressed," Tarantino told Deadline. "I finished a script, a first draft, and I didn't mean to shoot it until next winter, a year from now. I gave it to six people, and apparently it's gotten out today." While it does seem slightly extreme to ditch the film entirely, you can certainly see Tarantino's side, in that he wasn't ready for the initial draft to be generally available.

So what does he think happened? "I gave it to one of the producers on Django Unchained, Reggie Hudlin, and he let an agent come to his house and read it," Tarantino says. "That's a betrayal, but not crippling because the agent didn't end up with the script. There is an ugly maliciousness to the rest of it. I gave it to three actors: Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Tim Roth. The one I know didn't do this is Tim Roth. One of the others let their agent read it and that agent has now passed it on to everyone in Hollywood."

"I don't know how these f*****g agents work, but I'm not making this next. I'm going to publish it, and that's it for now. I give it out to six people and if I can't trust them to that degree, then I have no desire to make it. I'll publish it. I'm done. I'll move on to the next thing. I've got ten more where that came from."

While he admits he knows people are always trying to find out what he's working on next – and that he's generally pleased of the interest – he's still unhappy that such a small group leaked out the script, which he admittedly handed out without watermarking it first. His next step, however, is apparently to contact publishers to discuss getting the script out in book form.

Those nursing disappointment can take heart in the fact that he can always go back to the idea. "I could totally change my mind, I own the f*****g thing. But I can tell you, it's not going to be the next thing I do. It's my baby, and if the muse calls me later to do it, we'll do it. I was thinking about the idea of maybe publishing it before I made it, but now that deal happens for sure, and I'm not doing it next."

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

"It's not exactly the Ritz, is it?"

We'll start this post off with a spoiler warning for those of you who somehow missed last year's box office barnstormer Iron Man 3, and would cry foul at us revealing anything. For those still with us: Marvel have released their first clip for their latest One Shot short, titled All Hail The King, and starring Ben Kingsley.

All Hail The King picks up the story of The Mandarin, also known as narcotics, booze, girls and Liverpool FC loving actor Trevor Slattery, who was part of Aldrich Killian's (Guy Pearce) big plan in the latest Tony Stark adventure. The short will continue the story of Slattery, sent to prison for his part in the scheme.

"The Further Adventures of Trevor was something we had talked about on set all the time," Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce tells Entertainment Weekly. "And when we sat down to talk about what the short would be, it was executive producer Stephen Broussard, and Kevin Feige and myself and Joss Whedon and Avengers producer Jeremy Latcham. So we kicked around a bunch of ideas and there were loads of them that we liked, and it was actually Joss who at a certain point went like, ‘Or you could do the one that has Sir Ben Kingsley in it because you have access to Sir Ben Kingsley.'"

Pearce wrote and directed the 14 minute follow-up, which sees Slattery dealing with new found fame and dangerous infamy, particularly among the terrorist types already in the prison who are none to keen on him essentially making a mockery of their organisation.

"Imagine a real terrorist organization whose beliefs were long held and religious for thousands of years, and imagine a drunk, British actor coming along and essentially telling the world that he's the face of your organization," Pearce says. "I think they would be right to be quite angry."

All Hail the King will feature as a Thor: The Dark World Blu-Ray extra, which hits UK stores on 24 February and US stores on 25 February.

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana back for Avatar sequels

This will probably come as little surprise to anyone, but James Cameron and 20th Century Fox have decided to make it official anyway, with news that Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, the keystones of Avatar (2009), are returning for the three sequels.

"Jake Sully is a rare combination of passion, strength, street smarts and soul, which requires a lot from an actor," Cameron says in a statement. "Sam brought to the role a combination of sensitivity, vulnerability and strength. Zoe captured every aspect of the character I envisioned, bringing to Neytiri a mix of delicacy, fierceness and incredible physicality. I am beyond pleased they'll be returning with us to Pandora."

Worthington's Jake, of course, was the wheelchair-wrangling former Marine who develops a deep connection with the Na'vi natives of the distant moon known as Pandora. Specifically, he fell for the fearless, beautiful huntress Neytiri, with the pair united to fight off the resource hungry human forces that threatened the Na'vi way of life. The close of the film saw Jake taking up permanent residence in his Avatar body, and happily settled down with Neytiri having seen off the human aggressors.

Stephen Lang, who played the nasty (and currently very dead) Colonel Quaritch, is also back. Cameron is working on the scripts for the three new films with writers Josh Friedman (The Black Dahlia), Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes) and Shane Salerno (Savages), with production set for New Zealand. The first sequel is due in December 2016, with the others following in 2017 and 2018.

Michael Douglas joins Edgar Wright's Ant-Man

Fresh from picking up a Golden Globe for his part as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's Behind The Candelabra (2013) this weekend, Michael Douglas has scored an even more intriguing role, with news that he has signed to play Hank Pym in Edgar Wright's take on Ant-Man.

This confirms, then, that Paul Rudd (whose casting was announced last month) is set to play Scott Lang. Though plot details about how Pym and Lang will fit into the film are still officially under wraps, Wright tweeted a link to an interview he gave in 2006 that offers up some likely groundwork: "The idea that we have for the adaptation is to actually involve both. Is to have a film that basically is about Henry Pym and Scott Lang, so you actually do a prologue where you see Pym as Ant-Man in action in the 60's, in sort of Tales To Astonish mode basically," Wright told Superhero Hype. "And then the contemporary, sort of flash-forward, is Scott Lang's story, and how he comes to acquire the suit, how he crosses paths with Henry Pym, and then, in an interesting sort of Machiavellian way, teams up with him."

"With Hank Pym's rich history in the Marvel Universe, we knew we needed an actor capable of bringing the weight and stature to the role that the character deserves," Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says in a statement. "We felt incredibly relieved when Michael Douglas agreed to step into the part with the charm and fortitude he brings to every character he inhabits, and couldn't be more excited to see what he will do to bring Hank Pym to life."

With Joe Cornish co-writing the script, Wright is set to start shooting Ant-Man anytime soon. The film itself is set to arrive on 14 August 2015.

Terry Gilliam reveals latest Don Quixote concept art

While those who fervently hope Terry Gilliam finally manages to get his dream/nightmare project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote made have had their hearts broken before, the driven director announced last November that he was dreaming the impossible dream once again. To keep us all excited, Gilliam has now released the first piece of concept art for his latest gambit.

Created by Dave Warren – who worked with Gilliam on The Zero Theorem and The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009) – it's certainly a compelling image, and comes complete with a Facebook message from the director: "Dreams of Don Quixote have begun again. Dave Warren has started doodling. Will we get the old bastard back on his horse this year? Human sacrifices welcomed. Stay tuned."

The Monty Python player turned filmmaker infamously began production on The Man Who Killed Don Quioxte way back in 2000, before numerous on and off set mishaps led to the production being cancelled. You can check out the brilliant documentary Lost In La Mancha (2002) for that particular saga. But now with The Zero Theorem complete, Gilliam hopes it will be his next project. "I think this is the seventh time [I've tried to get it going]," he reflects. "Lucky seven, maybe?"

Not a straight adaptation of Miguel De Cervantes' 17th Century Spanish classic, Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was originally set to star Johnny Depp as a time travelling advertising executive who teams up with delusional adventurer Don Quixote (Jean Rochefort) in 17th Century La Mancha. Then in 2010 it was planned that Ewan McGregor would be the suit, with Robert Duvall pointing his lance at the windmill. Whether that's still in the stars or whether we're looking at an altogether different cast is still unclear.

"We'll see if it happens," Gilliam shrugs. "This is kind of my default position, going back to that. I actually just want to make it and get rid of it. Get it out of my life! I don't know if it will be good or bad. The dangerous thing is that a lot of people are waiting for it, so I can disappoint a lot of people maybe."

It's no exaggeration at this point to call Gilliam's a Quixotic vision, so his strangely resigned determination is nothing but appropriate. Here's hoping it turns out not to have been, in the end, an impossible dream.

In the meantime, The Zero Theorem is released in the UK on 14 March.

New Muppets Most Wanted TV spots arrive online

Walt Disney Pictures have just released a series of promotional TV spots for Muppets Most Wanted, which sees the return of our of fuzzy felt friends Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang, as well the humans roped in to their latest misadventure.

The sheer joy and biting accuracy with which these new promos spoof Internet comments, makes this one of our favourite campaigns for a long time. And no, that doesn't make us 'ignorant'.

Muppets Most Wanted takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour, including stops in Berlin, Madrid, Dublin and London. But mayhem follows them overseas as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine, the World's Number One Criminal, and Kermit doppelgänger.

After trapping our green hero in a Russian gulag (overseen by guard Tina Fey), Constantine joins the Muppets on their tour with sidekick Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who is posing as their tour manager. And on their trail is agent Sam the Eagle, forced to work with fussy Interpol copper Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell).

With Tom Hiddleston, Stanley Tucci, Ty Burrell, Lady Gaga, Ray Liotta, Frank Langella and Jemaine Clement rounding out the cameo cast, Muppets Most Wanted will be out on 28 March.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Golden Globes gold for American Hustle

It was a ceremony marked by technical glitches, teleprompter fails, rambling speeches, silenced swearing and the effortless comedy of hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. But this year's Golden Globe Awards was also one that featured plenty of statuettes shared around many of the big nominees including American Hustle – which picked up the most gongs with three, 12 Years A Slave and Gravity. Dallas Buyers Club was the only other film to get more than one award, winning Best Actor (Drama) and Best Supporting Actor for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. On the TV front, Breaking Bad, Behind The Candelabra (released on TV in the US) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine each took two prizes.

Introduced as "Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's Lee Daniels' The Butler's Golden Globes", the wide spread of the usually quirky awards makes even the usually sketchy Oscar prognostication even tougher. American Hustle scored Best Picture (Comedy Or Musical), with Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence going home with the actress awards in the Comedy Or Musical category. But David O. Russell lost out on the Directing gong to Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron and ceded the script award to Her's Spike Jonze.

12 Years A Slave, which had been facing a huge upset after losing every other category it was nominated for, emerged triumphant at the end, with a shell-shocked Steve McQueen leading his cast and crew up on stage to collect Best Picture (Drama) and offering a shout out to his wife, who found Solomon Northrup's book in the first place. Cate Blanchett, to precisely no one's surprise, took Best Actress in the Drama thread for Blue Jasmine, while Matthew McConaughey landed Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club.

There were pleasant surprises too for the likes of Andy Samberg and the team behind cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which won against some stiff competition. Dancing On The Edge's Jacqueline Bisset seemed even more unprepared to win than most, delivering a rambling speech that defied the Time’s Up music and attempts to launch a commercial break.

Co-host Poehler scored for her role on Parks And Recreation, a well-earned win after years of little recognition which earned her "a special place in hell" according to Fey (we're pretty sure she wasn't serious). And though he took home Best Actor (Comedy Or Musical) for Wolf Of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio didn't do everything perfectly – just what exactly is Philomania and can one catch it from trophies?

Here, then, is your full list of winners in both the film and TV categories.

Best Motion Picture, Drama
12 Years A Slave
Captain Phillips

Best Actress, Drama

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet – Labor Day

Best Actor, Drama

Mattthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years A Slave
Idris Elba – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips
Robert Redford – All Is Lost

Best Motion Picture, Comedy Or Musical
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf Of Wall Street

Best Actor, Comedy Or Musical
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf Of Wall Street
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix – Her

Best Actress, Comedy Or Musical
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Julie Delpy – Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl – Rush
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years A Slave

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years A Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Best Screenplay
Spike Jonze – Her
Bob Nelson – Nebraska
Jeff Pope, Steve Coogan – Philomena
John Ridley – 12 Years A Slave
Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell – American Hustle

Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen – 12 Years A Slave
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
David O. Russell – American Hustle

Best Animated Feature
The Croods
Despicable Me 2

Best Foreign Language Film
The Great Beauty
Blue Is The Warmest Color
The Hunt
The Wind Rises

Best Original Score
All Is Lost
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
The Book Thief
12 Years A Slave

Best Original Song
'Ordinary Love' from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
'Atlas' from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
'Let It Go' from Frozen
'Please Mr. Kennedy' from Inside Llewyn Davis
'Sweeter Than Fiction' from One Chance

Best Television Series, Drama

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House Of Cards
Masters Of Sex

Best Actress, TV - Drama
Robin Wright - House Of Cards
Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling – Orange Is The New Black
Kerry Washington – Scandal

Best Actor, TV - Drama
Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan
Michael Sheen – Masters Of Sex
Kevin Spacey – House Of Cards
James Spader – The Blacklist

Best Television Series - Comedy Or Musical

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
Parks & Recreation

Best Actress, TV - Comedy Or Musical

Amy Poehler – Parks And Recreation
Zooey Deschanel – New Girl
Lena Dunham – Girls
Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep

Best Actor, TV - Comedy Or Musical

Andy Samberg – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Jason Bateman – Arrested Development
Don Cheadle – House Of Lies
Michael J. Fox – The Michael J. Fox Show
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory

Best Mini-series Or Motion Picture Made For TV
Behind The Candelabra
American Horror Story: Coven
Dancing On The Edge
Top Of The Lake
The White Queen

Best Actress, TV - Mini-series Or Motion Picture
Elizabeth Moss – Top Of The Lake
Helena Bonham Carter – Burton And Taylor
Rebecca Ferguson – The White Queen
Jessica Lange – American Horror Story: Coven
Helen Mirren – Phil Spector

Best Actor, TV - Mini-series Or Motion Picture 

Michael Douglas – Behind The Candelabra
Matt Damon – Behind The Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Dancing On The Edge
Idris Elba – Luther
Al Pacino – Phil Spector

Best Supporting Actress

Jacqueline Bisset – Dancing On The Edge
Janet McTeer – The White Queen
Hayden Panettiere – Nashville
Monica Potter – Parenthood
Sofia Vergara – Modern Family

Best Supporting Actor

Jon Voight – Ray Donovan
Josh Charles – The Good Wife
Rob Lowe – Behind The Candelabra
Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll – House Of Cards

Warner Bros pushes Batman Vs. Superman to 2016

Batman and Superman's big team-up has moved from its planned July 2015 release slot. Was it an evil plot by Lex Luthor or someone else from the vast DC Comics rogues gallery? Nothing so suspicious or whiny. Warner Bros has announced a 10 month delay to allow Zack Snyder more time to work on the film.

Citing a wish to give the filmmakers "time to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story," the studio put out a press release on Friday night, adding that the decision to move the release to 6 May 2016 was made when production plans shifted to the second quarter of this year. "We are happy to take advantage of these coveted summer dates, which are perfect for two of our biggest tent pole releases. We share the fans excitement to see DC Comics' most popular figures, Superman and Batman, together on the big screen for the first time, which will now be arriving in theatres in May 2016."

Rumours naturally began flaring as soon as the announcement was made – there has been talk of Ben Affleck sustaining a leg injury that required the shift, but the studio has dismissed such theories. While getting the film out of the crowded 2015 marketplace is a good idea, 2016 offers little respite in terms of competition. Disney and Marvel had already staked a claim to the 6 May date for an unspecified comic book film, and, if all goes to plan, the Batman Vs. Superman film will quickly be followed by X-Men: Apocalypse and the third Amazing Spider-Man film. The superhero traffic jam shows no sign of letting up.

And while nothing has been announced, Gal Gadot joining the cast as Wonder Woman has naturally lead to speculation that all involved are stealthily retooling the Man Of Steel sequel into more of a Justice League outing. However it turns out, the film will now – assuming no more shifts – greet us in May 2016.

Incidently, Warner Bros are not going to let that 17 July 2015 release date go to waste – Joe Wright's Peter Pan origin story, Pan, is sliding into the superheroes' place. "The summer release corridor is also perfect for Joe Wright's ambitious new Peter Pan adventure, reimagining the ageless story of the beloved and forever-young hero for audiences worldwide," Warners said in a statement picked up by The Wrap. Aside from a rumoured Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, there's no casting info on Pan as of yet.

Friday, 17 January 2014

"Either way, it's going to be one hell of a ride."

You're drifting out to space 375 miles above the Earth, oxygen is running out, communication is lost, catastrophic satellite debris is heading your way and you have no hope of rescue. What do you do? What do you do? The answer is our film of the year.

I'll cut to the chase by saying you have to see this movie. Simply because it does something almost forgotten in this modern era of blockbusters seeded on ever complex mythologies and ripened with years of hype. Directed by conspicuous absentee Alfonso Cuarón – whose skilled palate has run to horny Mexican teenagers in Y Tu Mamá También (2001), dystopian London in Children Of Men (2006) and Hogwarts wizardry in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004) – and co-conceived and written with his son Jonas, Gravity asks for nothing more than your surrender. Sit down, don your 3D glasses (and 3D is most certainly its medium), and let it unfold. No prior knowledge required.

Without the fuss of back story or intro – just a caption starkly pointing out why life in space is "impossible" (primarily due to a distinct lack of oxygen) – we cut straight to now. Exterior. Night. The forever-night of outer space, but dominated by the vast blue-grey nimbus of Earth's curvature, cloud formations silently spiralling across the surface in tiny, leisurely movements. It's a jaw-dropping view from God's balcony, CGI so good it doesn't resemble CGI at all. Earth will remain a constant – the literal pull of home. Meanwhile, as a tiny speck in the foreground slowly takes shape, the breathy, scratchy transmissions of spacesuit intercoms break into the church-like hush.

Among Cuarón's apparently bottomless bag of tricks is a near-constant stream of dialogue: between astronauts, with Houston (Ed Harris, in a nod to his role in Ron Howard's Apollo 13), the odd delirious monologue and remonstration with the universe at large. Indirectly, the desperate participants will narrate the film. When the worst happens, the heroes will experience a chilling abandonment when contact with home is broken. But they keep talking, hoping to be heard, issuing their voices from, in NASA jargon, the "blind". Who knows, God might also be listening.

The aforementioned mysterious shape resolves itself into the sleek underbelly of a shuttle conjoined with the Hubble telescope. This is contemporary space, the recognisable technology of our own time. Then, with gathering momentum, the camera begins a geometrically unreadable journey, left and up and in and around along the disorientating trajectory of a fairground ride. The quantity of calculations it must have taken to chart the baroque flight paths of each 'shot' in Gravity is simply mind blowing. Then factor in the computer generated space stations, the free floating screws, the weightless teardrop that mirrors a stricken face.

Remember, nothing in Gravity was shot in zero-G. When we meet the astronauts, one jet-packing towards us, the other tethered to the telescope, every bob and weave of frictionless movement has been plotted out, frame by frame. Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey) would be on his feet applauding. The team are midway through a routine spacewalk, upgrading the telescope, when mission control pipes up. Elsewhere over the Earth's atmosphere an errant Russian missile has destroyed a satellite, releasing a meteor shower of man-made shrapnel into orbit. Nothing to worry about. There's no overlap of trajectory. Just be aware.

The astronauts return to their movie banter, led by the dusty anecdotes being told by George Clooney's (The Descendants) seasoned astronaut , Matt Kowalsky. He quips with a potential nod to Star Wars (1977) that he has "a bad feeling about this mission". It's the last mission for the cocksure veteran, and his charming, offhand – this is Clooney after all – manner is clearly designed to settle the erratic nerves of Sandra Bullock's (The Blind Side) rookie specialist Dr. Ryan Stone, only six months of basic under her belt.

Sure enough, an ambient hum begins to build like a quickening pulse or the drone of Kubrick's monolith, the dread harbinger of disaster. With Steven Price's soundtrack effectively doubling as atmospherics, this background throb slowly registers as a musical chord. Houston starts shouting. Mission abort. An unforeseen chain reaction has swept the debris in their direction, effectively transforming it into a hailstorm of razor edged metal hurtling at the velocity of a "high-speed bullet". To the first quivering crescendo of Price's electronica, chaos is unleashed: metal pulverised, gantries spiralling, the camera tossed loose in the maelstrom. As Kowalsky strains to retain command, Stone's umbilical is severed, and she is sent somersaulting out into the dark, shrieking in blind panic. Only now, after some fifteen minutes, does the film make its first cut.

This opening sequence offers enough time to scatter our preconceptions of cinema across the universe before plunging us into the abyss. To liken it to the sinewy tracking shots of Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) or the duck and weave of a Brian De Palma Steadicam (The Black Dahlia), both so Earthbound, is to miss its elemental freedom. Cuarón has found a way to untether his film from gravity. There is no natural horizon on which to fix our bearings, and the 3D only intensifies the disorientation. We have been hurled loose from the tradition of passive observer. When we catch up with Stone, the camera dares the impossible. After a second's hesitation (as if waiting for the director to take the plunge), it passes through the veil of her visor for an extreme close-up of Bullock's face, locked in a rictus of fear, before swinging 180 degrees to become her point of view: fragments of the shuttle and Hubble diminishing into the distance...

This is our first indication that it is Bullock, and not Clooney, who will be the main focus of Gravity.
Disoriented, and with her air supply dwindling, Stone's breathing becomes louder and louder as she careers out of control. Rarely has cinema felt this visceral, this life-and-death, as the remorseless, black universe opens up in front of us.

No film since 2001: A Space Odyssey has so fully communicated the absoluteness of space – its impossible vastness, its obliterating void. Yet Gravity is existential in a real sense; there will be communing with distant alien brains. A marvel of film making reach, it is a testament to what can be achieved with modern technologies set the challenge of putting the audience at the absolute centre of the most extreme jeopardy imaginable – to be adrift in space. The story is consumed by the immediacy of its dilemma. How will they survive?

So if it is made with Kubrickian grandeur and paradigm-shifting ambition – and Cuarón and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree Of Life), extended their post-production to press and press again at the envelope of their vision – it still plays with the breakneck dynamics of the best disaster movies. Like a ticking bomb that keeps resetting itself, the orbiting debris will keep swarming back in their direction. It's as if Kubrick and James Cameron (Avatar) formed an unlikely creative alliance: the meticulousness of a chess grandmaster applied to the blood rush of matinée excitement.

The ingredients of the fight for survival though, should be left for you to discover. Suffice to say, Cuarón and his son have written it in such a way that it is spellbinding yet believable. Science serves the movie, and the movie obeys science. There are cunning shifts in environment, herculean trials by fire, water and technology, all driven by an escalation of events where one solution only heralds the next nightmare scenario. And still Cuarón imagines beauty amid crisis, art, no less: visions of rebirth, a sublime use of reflective surfaces, destruction as phantasmagorical ballet and lens flare enough to make J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) gently weep.

And Gravity, as title, refers as much to the performances as the concept; Cuarón draws as deeply from his actors as his effects team. Delivering what could be the performance of her career, Bullock's Stone especially is sent inward, towards a tragic back story, to ignite her will to live. Room is found for painful intimacy, delving for what keeps us going faced with all but insurmountable odds. We clock icons of belief – Buddha and Christ – suggesting the universe might offer other forms of salvation. So, finally, this is a story about our sheer, dogged insistence on staying alive. However complex and awe-inspiring the film's execution, Cuarón's mission is to celebrate the phenomenon of life.

Simply put, Cuaron's trailblazing masterpiece is one of the greatest game-changers in Hollywood history.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt discusses plans for Sandman adaption

News broke shortly before Christmas that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David S. Goyer and Neil Gaiman are developing a film adaptation of Gaiman's Sandman comic series for Warner Bros. The initial announcements came in the form of a couple of cursory tweets from Gordon-Levitt himself, but he's now expanded on his thoughts regarding the dream lord Morpheus in an interview with IGN.

"I love just the basic concept of it," he says of his attraction to the material, "just the concept of personifying Dream, along with all of his brothers and sisters, the seven Endless personifying Death, Destruction, Delirium, Destiny, Desire and Despair. I mean, that's just a fascinating and, I think, a really cinematic concept."

Asked whether, post The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and his role in the forthcoming Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, Gordon-Levitt thinks he might be overdoing things on the comics front, he's quick to point out that he pays more attention to material and content, than categories and genres. And he has some encouraging thoughts on the ways that Sandman could and should represent a very different kind of comic book movie.

"I love big, spectacular movies," he muses, "but oftentimes big, spectacular movies sort of get stuck in a rut. They go down certain paths that end in big explosions or whatever. Sandman has so much opportunity to do something that's on a grand, grand scale, but really unlike your average big, grand-scale, spectacular movie. I guess that's the tip of the iceberg."

Gordon-Levitt's use of '#Prelude' in his December tweets led to speculation that we were specifically talking about an adaptation of the first Sandman collection Preludes & Nocturnes, but he says now that this is jumping the gun. "I honestly just wrote that as sort of a pun," he insists, "because this tweet was a prelude to who-knows-what's to come. Obviously 'Prelude' is the title of the first issue, but... Yeah, nothing is cemented yet."

He also won't be drawn on – or has yet to fully thrash out – the extent of his involvement. While he's certainly attached to Sandman as a producer, the speculation persists that he might also both direct and star. "There's lots of potential," he says, "but it's still very, very early days."

With a critically successful recent directorial debut in Don Jon, and a proven track record as a star at Warners via Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (not to mention Sony's 2012 sleeper hit Looper, which he also executive produced), let's just say he's likely in contention.

Sandman, for those of you who are unfamiliar, was a 75 issue DC/Vertigo comics series published in the 1990s. Gaiman's own one-line synopsis was: "The lord of dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision," but there's obviously a lot more to it than that, with the sprawling series taking in pantheons and mythologies from across the globe, via threads about fantastical quests, serial killers, road trips, and short stories only tangentially connected to the core narrative.

As always, watch this space for future updates.

Quentin Tarantino's next script reportedly titled The Hateful Eight

You may recall last month when we reported that Quentin Tarantino - during a visit to the Jay Leno show to ostensibly pimp the graphic novel for Django Unchained (2012) - let slip that he's currently working on a new Western. Now it would appear he's clearly been letting people read the initial drafts as details are beginning to slowly leak out, including the fact that it's reportedly under the working title of The Hateful Eight.

Of course, that riff on The Magnificent Seven (1960) may not stick – Tarantino's usual practice is to solicit feedback on the drafts he writes and then go back and keep polishing and refining the script. But according to Deadline, the screenplay as it stands now is definitely still a Western (though not a sequel to Django) and the writer/director apparently already has his sights on two potential actors.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of them is his current muse, Christoph Waltz, the man he helped win two Oscars for Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds (2009). The other is a fellow Django veteran and currently enjoying awards attention, Bruce Dern, who is a Best Actor category front runner for Nebraska.

Right now though, this is all purely speculation, so we'll have to wait and see what happens as Tarantino works on the script and figures out the focus. That said, the idea of watching Dern and Waltz sharing the screen is certainly a tempting one.

Roger Lloyd Pack: Only Fools And Horses star dies aged 69

Roger Lloyd Pack, the British actor known to millions as slow-witted road sweeper Trigger in the BBC One hit comedy Only Fools And Horses, has died aged 69.

Known for his rubbery face and lugubrious delivery, he was sometimes difficult to cast but never typecast.

His depth as an actor enabled him to make much of the minor roles in which he often found himself.

But he also reached out to international audiences when he played Barty Crouch Snr in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005).

His agent, Maureen Vincent, said he had pancreatic cancer and "died at home surrounded by his family".

Sir David Jason spoke of his sadness at the news, calling his co-star "a very quiet, kind and unassuming actor who was a pleasure to work with".

"Although he played the simple soul of Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, he was a very intelligent man and a very fine actor capable of many roles," continued the actor, who played Derek 'Del Boy' Trotter in the show.

"I shall remember him with fondness and for all the good times we had together."

Born in Islington, north London on 8 February 1944, his father, Charles Lloyd-Pack, was an actor whose face was well-known to aficionados of Hammer horror films, in which he played a bevy of minor parts.

Roger's early education took place at home where his mother, in an effort to boost the family's precarious finances, set up a kindergarten for local children.

He went on to what he described as a "snobby little prep school run by a sadistic couple" where caning formed a large part of the curriculum.

But things improved when he went to Bedales, a co-educational school in Hampshire where, apart from some homesickness, he enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

As a child he'd performed little shows at home using glove puppets but Bedales, which had a small theatre, gave him the opportunity to develop his repertoire.

With his father having been an actor, he said he felt he was going into the family business. "I thought, this is magic and what I want to do."

Inspired by his drama teacher, Rachel Carey-Field, he paid more attention to acting than to his studies, although he did achieve three A-levels.

His parents had hoped he would go to university, but instead he successfully auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

He made his stage debut in Northampton in a production of The Shoemaker's Holiday by the Elizabethan playwright Thomas Dekker.

"I remember it with great affection - we worked hard but it was fun."

He went on to play a multitude of parts in a string of productions across the UK but seemed destined to never make the limelight.

"I was an immature, emotionally wayward youth, not ready for acting," he recalled.

"Casting directors would say to me, 'Oh, you'll be all right when you're 40,' which is quite discouraging when you're 23."

He made his screen debut playing a bit part in The Magus, a 1968 film based on the John Fowles novel.

Throughout the following three decades, he played small roles in a number of films including The Go-Between (1970), 1984 (1984) and Vanity Fair (2004).

He was also becoming a familiar, if fleeting, face on television, where he first appeared as "the man with bloodhounds" in a 1965 episode of The Avengers.

His breakthrough came in 1981, when he was cast as Colin 'Trigger' Ball - Only Fools And Horses' dim but lovable road sweeper, who was always painfully slow on the uptake.

Lloyd Pack's appearance in the cast was a purely fortuitous one.

Executive producer Ray Butt caught a glimpse of him at a play where he had gone to observe potential Del Boy actor Billy Murray.

Initially seen as a supporting character, Trigger appeared in almost every episode of the long running series, becoming very popular with the audience.

Lloyd Pack's expressive face and sense of timing was best seen in his reaction in the famous scene where David Jason falls through an open bar hatch.

Never were his malleable features put to better use, with expressions veering from puzzlement to dawning comprehension.

The last regular episode of Only Fools And Horses ran in 1991 - although the series has never been away from TV screens for long. The role, according to Lloyd Pack, was "both a blessing and a curse".

Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Del Boy's younger brother Rodney (or Dave as Trigger called him), said he was "so saddened to hear about Roger".

"He was the most accomplished actor and loved by millions. I will miss him greatly."

John Challis, who appeared as Boycie in the series, said the news was "very sad and very distressing" and that Lloyd Pack was "irreplaceable".

"My thoughts are with his family," said the actor. "He was a remarkable man and he'll be missed."

He went back to playing bit parts over the following three years before The Vicar Of Dibley came along.

His character, Owen Newitt, a farmer with a personal hygiene problem, flirted unsuccessfully with Dawn French's vicar through the series 13 year run.

His work rate was prodigious during this period, with appearances both on TV and film.

These included the role of John Lumic in the 2006 Doctor Who stories Rise Of The Cybermen and The Age Of Steel.

He did not neglect the stage either, playing in a variety of productions from pantomime to Pinter.

He reached a wider audience in 2005 with a major part in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.

His appearance as Barty Crouch Snr, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, saw him alongside a roll call of great British actors.

In the film, David Tennant, who had played alongside him as The Doctor in Rise Of The Cybermen, played Lloyd Pack's son, Crouch Jnr.

In 2011 he appeared as Inspector Mendel in the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a year later returned to the stage as the Duke of Buckingham in a production of Richard III at the Globe Theatre.

Away from the limelight, he was a passionate supporter of Tottenham Hotspur and of the Labour Party.

However, in 2013 he fell out with Labour and declared himself in favour of a new party of the left.

Roger Lloyd Pack married Sheila Ball in 1968. They had a daughter, the actress Emily Lloyd (Wish You Were Here), but it was a difficult relationship and he walked out after just four years.

He later lived with the poet and dramatist Jehane Markham for 25 years before marrying her in 2000.

He had first met her when she was 12 and he was 17. The couple have three sons.

Lloyd Pack remained bemused about the success he gained as a result of Only Fools And Horses.

"It's extraordinary to me as an actor to find oneself in a sitcom that's been successful and goes on being successful. Usually things date, but I can't go anywhere without anyone going on about it."

Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

First look at Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin in Marvel's latest One Shot

We'll start this post off with a spoiler warning for those of you who somehow missed last year's box office barnstormer Iron Man 3, and would cry foul at us revealing anything. For those still with us: Marvel have revealed details about their latest One Shot short, titled All Hail The King, and starring Sir Ben Kingsley.

All Hail The King picks up the story of The Mandarin, also known as narcotics, booze, girls and Liverpool FC loving actor Trevor Slattery, who was part of Aldrich Killian's (Guy Pearce) big plan in the latest Tony Stark adventure. The short will continue the story of Slattery, sent to prison for his part in the scheme.

"The Further Adventures of Trevor was something we had talked about on set all the time," Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce tells Entertainment Weekly. "And when we sat down to talk about what the short would be, it was executive producer Stephen Broussard, and Kevin Feige and myself and Joss Whedon and Avengers producer Jeremy Latcham. So we kicked around a bunch of ideas and there were loads of them that we liked, and it was actually Joss who at a certain point went like, ‘Or you could do the one that has Sir Ben Kingsley in it because you have access to Sir Ben Kingsley.'"

Pearce wrote and directed the 14 minute follow-up, which sees Slattery dealing with new found fame and dangerous infamy, particularly among the terrorist types already in the prison who are none to keen on him essentially making a mockery of their organisation.

"Imagine a real terrorist organization whose beliefs were long held and religious for thousands of years, and imagine a drunk, British actor coming along and essentially telling the world that he's the face of your organization," Pearce says. "I think they would be right to be quite angry."

For more on the short, which also apparently features a Russian monkey with a taste for vodka, you can check out the full story here. The One Shot will feature as a Thor: The Dark World Blu-Ray extra, which hits UK stores on 24 February and US stores on 25 February.

Two new Grand Budapest Hotel clips arrive online

Fox Searchlight have just released these latest clips for Wes Anderson's (Moonrise Kingdom) weird and whimsical The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel's story revolves around Ralph Fiennes' Gustave H, hotel manager and serial guest lover. His travails appear to begin when a deceased client of a certain age (Tilda Swinton) turns up dead in the hotel and leaves him a valuable painting in her will - much to the distress of Adrien Brody's Dmitri.

Many Anderson regulars return, including good luck charm Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Jason Schwartzman. Also joining the cast are Saoirse Ronan, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Lea Seydoux and Mathieu Amalric.

Prepare to check in at cinemas on 7 March.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Matt Reeves set to direct third Planet Of The Apes instalment

All bar the films makers and a handful of studio executives over at 20th Century Fox, nobody has yet seen a final cut of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. However, that elite cabal is clearly delighted with director Matt Reeves' work, since the studio has immediately signed him up for a third instalment in the reborn Apes franchise.

The indications are that Reeves will be getting right to work. Fox are calling the Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes sequel a high priority, which demonstrates impressive faith given that Dawn's box office results have yet to come in. The director will once again co-write the screenplay with Mark Bomback, who came to Dawn following script drafts by Scott Z. Burns and original Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

There's also no mention of Andy Serkis yet either, but we'd say the odds are in favour of his return for a third outing as Caesar. Simply put... No Serkis. No Caesar.

But what comes after Dawn? Our guess is the arrival of the Icarus (which previously carried Charlton Heston in the 1968 cult classic) as teased in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Meanwhile, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes sees Serkis joined by Toby Kebbell (War Horse) as Caesar's fellow ape, Koba, as well as a human cast that boasts Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises), Keri Russell (Dark Skies), Judy Greer (The Descendants), Jason Clarke (Public Enemies) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road), and will be out here on 17 July.