Tag Archives: premiere

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, at the BFI tonight

28 Oct
2000AD characters

A rogue’s gallery of 2000AD heroes, anti-heroes and villains. If you can name most of them, you’re a true “Squaxx Dek Thargo”.

2000AD is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. It says so on the masthead. Tonight, as part of the BFI’s Days of Fear and Wonder sci-fi season, a new documentary goes a long way to proving that’s no idle boast.

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD gathers an impressive array of interviewees from the comic’s history: founder Pat Mills, editor David Bishop, a wide array of artists and writers (Alan Moore, predictably, is the only no-show), plus fans such as Anthrax’s Scott Ian, who wrote a song about Judge Dredd; Portishead’s Geoff Barrow; and screenwriter Alex Garland, who penned the Karl Urban Judge Dredd movie. The documentary is a master-class in editing: though it’s pretty much all talking heads, apart from some semi-animated stills from the comic (“Gaze into the fist of Dredd!”), the interviewees speak with such passion and eloquence that it’s never dull.

Some of the ins and outs, and the admirable frankness with which the loss of direction in the ‘90s is addressed, may appeal more to the 2000AD devotee (or “Squaxx Dek Thargo”, as we are known). But the key points will be of interest to anyone who loves comics:

1. 2000AD was born in 1977 out of punk and a feeling of revolution. It was Pat Mills’s follow-up to Action, the comic that was too violent to live. It used science-fiction not as escapism, but as a device for satirising the present without getting sued or banned (though they came close sometimes, which is why “Burger Wars” is never reprinted). It had four or five different strips in each issue, allowing room for experimentation and the nurturing of new writers and artists, but its one constant was Judge Dredd – a futuristic reboot of Dirty Harry whose brand of legally sanctioned vigilante justice made him popular with lefties who could see the satire, as well as, uncomfortably, others who couldn’t.

2. 2000AD changed the face of American comics. With the honourable exceptions of Warrior (home of V for Vendetta), Deadline (home of Tank Girl) and the odd Marvel UK or Doctor Who comic, 2000AD was pretty much the only game in town. If you were a Brit, and you wanted to work in comics, this is where you did it. The talent pool, therefore, was incredible. America’s DC Comics, under the editorship of Karen Berger, set up the Vertigo imprint specifically to tap into that pool. Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Kevin O’Neill, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Brendan McCarthy, Pete Milligan – Brits such as these brought a humour, an anarchy, a rule-breaking, risk-taking mentality that shook up American comics and created a new golden age.

3. 2000AD had, and is continuing to have, a big impact on Hollywood. The only two official 2000AD movies so far are both of Judge Dredd, and neither set the box office alight. But the comic’s influence is far-reaching. The sci-fi film Hardware was based on a 2000AD Future Shock (it wasn’t credited at first, until I put two and two together in Time Out magazine and the producers had to settle out of court, full story here). RoboCop was a rip-off of Judge Dredd – the early version of his helmet, shown in the documentary, was an exact copy. The Book of Eli is, to all intents and purposes, set in the Cursed Earth. And it’s wormed its way into the DNA: a whole generation of Hollywood film-makers grew up reading 2000AD, and have absorbed its world-view.

I could go on – but why not see for yourself? There are still a few tickets available now for tonight’s screening, which includes a Q&A with 2000AD founder Pat Mills, artist Kevin O’Neill, and the documentary’s director Paul Goodwin and producers Helen Mullane and Sean Hogan.

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Despatch from Hollywood: the day before the world premiere of our film Dotty

12 Feb
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Dotty, premiering at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival tomorrow

So here I am in West Hollywood. The sky is as ridiculously blue as it almost always is – that’s partly why the first film pioneers chose this place. I’m staying with hospitable fellow film journo and screenwriter Steve Goldman. And tomorrow the short film I wrote, Dotty, is having its world premiere at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, with Florida, Australia, St Albans and New York so far to follow.

I’m really proud of the film. Ben Charles Edwards, with whom I collaborated on the hugely ambitious Animal Charm, did a superb job of directing. Sadie Frost is so good she’s being awarded Best Actress at the festival – despite Juliet Stevenson also being in the running. The specially composed score still echoes in my mind.

I can’t tell you too much about the plot of Dotty, as it would spoil the ending, but it’s a touching inter-generational friendship between a lonely, troubled boy and the eccentric woman (‘Dotty’) he finds in a colourful caravan plonked in the middle of the dusty Nevada desert. I had the cult 1971 film Harold and Maude half in mind when I wrote it. I’ve shown it to septuagenarians and nine-year-olds, and all ages in between, and it seems to strike a universal chord.

One great lesson when writing it: less is more. The first draft was 10pp long – half the length of Animal Charm. It was deliberately light on dialogue, since it stars a nine-year-old kid. And though that kid is Rudy Law, son of Sadie Frost and Jude Law and with acting clearly in his genes, you still can’t ask too much of children in the way of scripted dialogue.

I got one note back on the script: make it shorter, with less dialogue. It was a great note. The even more stripped-down 6pp version worked even better.

And now, tomorrow, The Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival gives Dotty its first showing to critical fellow film-makers, ones who aren’t cast or crew or friends or family. I’m not nervous. With my film critic’s hat on, rather than my insecure writer’s hat on, Dotty works. It’s good.

I’ll tell you on Friday how it all went…  

 

How 2,000 film-makers – and Chris Jones – made 50 Kisses

10 Feb

The London indie film scene has never been stronger. With digital cameras and Kickstarter funding, sharing resources via Facebook or networking in pubs, film-makers are doing it for themselves. I’m old enough to remember one other DIY period as exciting as this. It was in music, and it was called Punk.

Like all underground movements, the Britpic scene has no official leader. But if you were to choose the Svengali, the Malcolm McLaren of film, it would be Chris Jones. The charismatic founder of the Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass and the London Screenwriters’ Festival has, through his courses, blogs and breakfast seminars, motivated and connected more film-makers than anyone in Britain.

And now he has Frankensteined together a patchwork feature film that unites all this untapped talent. I was the sole journalist to sit through a special preview with Chris last week, and I was blown away.  The film is called 50 Kisses, it premieres at the Genesis Cinema in Mile End on Feb 13 only, and it’s being billed as the world’s first crowd-generated film.

Chris Jones, director of 50 Kisses

Chris Jones, director of 50 Kisses

In the beginning was the word: Chris Jones let it be known he was looking for two-page scripts.

It also started with a kiss: the scripts could be in any genre, period or location, but they must be set on Valentine’s Day, and they must include a kiss.

Chris got 1,870 scripts back. He and his script editors selected the 50 best, and threw them open to directors and producers.

Some scripts were filmed several times over by different teams in different ways; you can see some of the alternatives on http://www.50kissesfilm.com. Says Chris Jones, “One script about a gay hitman got 11 films made, one about a robot got nine. A few, to be honest, didn’t attract any producers. I think if we do a follow-up project, I’d say to writers: take more risks. Go to the crazy, go absolutely bat-shit bonkers and see what comes out.”

In the end, 127 completed short films were submitted, from which 25 made the final cut, and were stitched together into the feature-length 50 Kisses.

There are two films about zombie romance; two about a robot. There is a suicide, a deadly disease transmitted through saliva, and a girl held in chains by an overprotective mother. Then there are all the everyday day tales of loss and longing: young love, first love, unrequited love, geriatric love, love in sickness as well as health. I teared up at several points; laughed more than once.

Perhaps the simplest way of describing 50 Kisses is that it’s like Love Actually, only much more real and affecting. If just some of this DIY talent can break into features, the future of British film-making is in good hands.

After the screening, Chris had one last surprise in store: on Valentine’s Day, directly after the film is shown not just at the Genesis but in 17 countries where film-makers have organised their own premieres, 50 Kisses is going to be put online. In its entirety. For free.

“We only decided to do this four days ago,” says Chris. “We were toying with Blu-Ray, or DVD, and then we thought, the whole point of this exercise was to launch careers, not to make a couple of thousand quid. And the best way to get it in front of powerful people is just to put it out there.”

It’s a lovely thought: the collective hopes and dreams of 1,870 screenwriters and 127 directors, distilled into 25 three-minute love letters to British film, whispering sweet nothings into the world’s computers on Valentine’s Day. That should give Spike Jonze’s Her, which opens the same day, a run for its money.

The 50 Kisses world premiere is at the Genesis in Mile End, www.genesiscinema.co.uk, on Feb 13. It will then be available to view on Feb 14 on YouTube or at www.50kissesfilm.com

LFF gala premiere: Kate Winslet’s Labor Day

15 Oct
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Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in Labor Day

Last night was the May Fair Hotel Gala Premiere of Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. It was great to be back on the red carpet – I used to go to all the LFF galas when at Time Out and The Times. Kate Winslet looked radiant in red, though she complained of “pregnancy brain” to one interviewer on the red carpet. What awesome timing, though – to be pregnant while promoting a film called Labor Day!

As to the film itself, it’s nearly brilliant. It has a great set-up: an agoraphobic mum (Kate Winslet) and her young son are forced to drive an escaped con (Josh Brolin) to their home, where he lies low until he can escape. The sense of menace is mixed with a palpable sexual tension as he ties her up “for her own good”, so that she can’t be accused of being his accomplice.

But later, when he unties her and starts doing jobs around the house, it becomes clear that he is not merely a good man, but an absurdly good one, the kind you wouldn’t find outside Mills & Boon (the film, by Jason Reitman, is based on a novel by Joyce Maynard). He fixes the car, the furnace, the garden wall; he cooks, he cleans, he irons with his shirt off; he teaches the son baseball and is kind to his disabled friend. In a faintly ludicrous sequence, reminiscent of a three-handed version of the pottery scene in Ghost, he teaches mother and son to make a peach pie, one of many heavy-handed visual metaphors for the family they are building together. Once the looming menace is replaced with the simpler fear that the police will find him before they can live happily ever after, the film loses much of its tension.

Me interviewing Francesca Cardinale

Me interviewing Francesca Cardinale

And then on to the after-party at the May Fair Hotel, which specialises in putting up stars from the world of film and fashion. Here I bumped into my old Cannes mucker, director Paul Wiffen, always with a stylish hat on his head and a beautiful actress on his arm. This time the young lovely was Francesca Cardinale, niece of the great Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, currently at a top acting school in Rome, opposite Cinecita.

I interviewed Francesca briefly, though between my lack of Italian and her lack of English, all I could glean was that she has a small role in Those Happy Years, an Italian film  well received at the Toronto Film Fest, and showing at the London Film Festival on Oct 18 and 19; and that in Paul Wiffen’s forthcoming secret agent romp SpyFail she plays the daughter of one Maria Gratis Tuttilenotte (geddit?) who is bent on revenge.

Wiffen also says he is on the verge of a casting coup for his secret agent character, Roger Most. I am sworn to secrecy until the ink has dried on the contract, but it’s someone handsome, debonair, ludicrously funny, and richly deserving of another big-screen outing. Watch this space.

Dearth in Venice: the premiere of “The Island”

18 Jul
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Danish Wakeel with his girl-next-door from his short film, The Island

You need bags of self-belief to make a film. But where does self-belief end and hubris begin? The Island, which proudly announces it is “A Film By Danish Wakeel”, even though two lesser mortals are credited with script-writing and directing, may cross that line.

An early teaser proclaimed “Brace yourself… IT’S HAPPENING… 2013”. The tagline says the film is “inspired by the Italian cornucopia supervened by the heritage and the avalanche of Venice”. That’s not a synopsis. It’s more a series of grandiose words connected at random, as though Wakeel, a fashion designer and model whom I met at the London Film Entrepreneurs night, had gone into a wardrobe of words and thrown together an outfit blindfolded.

The Island had a much-touted red-carpet Leicester Square premiere last week, hosted by the London Model Academy – at Ruby Blue nightclub. The 18-minute film was due to start at 9pm, but with red-carpet interviews it ran late, as premieres often will, and didn’t get going, finally, until 9.45… by which time I had to leave. Though judging from the first few minutes, this didn’t feel like a tragedy.

Danish Wakeel is an absurdly handsome man: gigantic pecs, pouty lips, narrowed eyes, enviably thick hair, permanent serious-face. You could picture him as a film star, if not, perhaps, a great auteur. To him, it probably makes sense that his character could sashay into a masked ball, sit down on his own, and so impress two giggly babes with his sheer radiant masculinity that they would come over to invite him wordlessly to a bed-based private view of their lingerie collection. But this audience member found it harder to suspend disbelief. And that’s as far as I got.

Viewing the rest of the film on YouTube is no more enlightening. Wakeel’s character has a beautiful female neighbour, who complains about the noise from his techno-soundtracked orgies. (The following night he is joined by a third girl; how the five of them – I am including Wakeel’s ego – all fit in one bed I don’t know.) However, his pouty lips and narrowed eyes soon win her over.

Her mother is being unfaithful to her father; her father has a gun. But even this creates no sense of drama, and an absurd amount of dialogue takes place one-sidedly, on the phone. No editor is listed in the credits, and it shows. The interiors could be anywhere, and no one speaks Italian, so any connection with Venice aside from a travel montage at the start is unclear; nor, for that matter, with cornucopias and avalanches.

And then the film just… stops. There are apparently another two parts of this oeuvre to come. Ye gods.

Kudos to Wakeel, however, for making a film at all; it is a ridiculously difficult thing to do. Perhaps the ensuing parts will gain from the experience of making the first – a professional editor might be a good start. And one interesting insight comes out of it, at least: who knew Zoolander was such a well-observed documentary?