Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Adele saves SNL’s thanksgiving and says Hello to Jimmy Fallon

Already played Adele's new 25 album over and over since its release? Still not sick of it? Yeah, me neither. If you're a fan of Adele, Matthew McConaughey or just funny stuff, then check out these two Adele-related offerings from the past week.

First up, her visit to SNL inspired a brilliant piece of thanksgiving hilarity, with Matthew McConaughey joining in the fun.

Say hello to the power of Adele...

Next, there's a rendition of Hello unlike any other, this time with children's instruments. Toy phone at the ready.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Celebrate Mockingjay Part 2 with the Hunger Games fan quiz

The final Hunger Games film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, is out now in cinemas across the world, starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.

To celebrate, there is now a fan quiz to test out your Hunger Games knowledge. So, if you know your Peeta from your Gale and how many fingers a salute needs, check out the below.

For the full review, check out Live for Films.

*WARNING: Contains some Mockingjay spoilers so perhaps see the film first!*

May the odds be ever in your favour...

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


(originally posted at Filmoria)

After the fascinating and enjoyable press conference, it was time to head to The Monuments Men premiere in London’s Leicester Square to catch up with George Clooney, Grant Heslov and the cast on the red carpet.

First over to say hello was Bob Balaban who had nothing but praise for his co-stars, who he said were talented people and so nice! When asked who was the most fun on set he responded, ‘I can’t say [laughs] … they were all equally fun’. On working so closely with Bill Murray, Balaban added: ‘I think we enjoyed ourselves. I would say we’d probably risk doing it again…’
‘I think we enjoyed ourselves. I would say we’d probably risk doing it again…’ Bob Balaban on working so closely with Bill Murray
French actor and star of The Artist, Jean Dujardin, was on hand to talk to us about the film (albeit with his trusty interpreter at his side just in case!). The actor said working with this group of people was ‘unbelievable’, adding – in that incredibly sexy French accent of his – that ‘as a director, George [Clooney] is perfect.’ All the crew and cast were ‘very kind’ and ‘attentive’, he added, and the most fun person on set was between George Clooney and Bill Murray.
Co-writer/producer Grant Heslov was up next and said that the story all came about because he was in an airport having forgotten a book. He picked up The Monuments Men and that was it. ‘It was a version of World War II I didn’t know anything about,’ Heslov explained. ‘I just thought it was fascinating, with great characters. I always wanted to make a World War II movie.’

‘I just thought it was fascinating, with great characters. I always wanted to make a World War II movie.’ – Grant Heslov on why he wanted to make The Monuments Men
On the cast, he laughed that ‘they’re not too shabby’ and said that he and George Clooney wrote the film with all these people in mind. When asked what he had taken away from the film, Heslov answered: ‘how important art is to our culture and what it says about who we are’.

I then asked Heslov about the cameo he makes in the film which, he said, was not his idea. The actor who had been cast in the role couldn’t make it when they started shooting so, Heslov said: ‘I had to step in’.
It was then star/co-writer/co-producer/director George Clooney’s turn to chat to us. Clooney began by explaining that getting this cast together was not all that difficult. ‘Mostly they’re friends of mine,’ he said. ‘Which made it easier to call them up.’

‘Mostly they’re friends of mine,’ he said. ‘Which made it easier to call them up.’ – Clooney on assembling such an incredible cast
When I asked Clooney if any of the cast needed a little persuasion to come on board, he joked that ‘Matt Damon drinks a lot, you know that, and he’s hard to get on the set. It’s hard to get him out of his trailer sometimes. I don’t like to use the word “diva”. I don’t like to throw that around loosely but you know what I’m saying.’

At least we assume he was kidding…


(originally posted at Filmoria)

The stars were out in force for The Monuments Men press conference this morning as writer, director and star of the film, George Clooney led a panel which included his co-writer/producer Grant Heslov and actors John Goodman, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin and Dimitri Leonidas. Surviving Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger was also on hand to answer questions about this incredible true story.
The author of the book on which the film is based, Robert Edsel, was up first, however, to talk about the history of the Monuments Men, saying that what the Nazis did in collecting these works of art was an ‘extraordinary but despicable achievement’. When asked about the character changes that have been made for the film, Edsel said that he feels like a messenger for the story and that the names were changed out of respect not ignorance.

When the full panel arrived, they were each asked about their favourite artworks, which ranged from La Sagrada Familia building in Barcelona for Leonidas to a legendary baseball photo for Murray. Jean Dujardin said that he favoured the work of Kandinsky but then sung with a smile ‘Mona Lisa’. Ettlinger added that ‘we would not like life with white walls’ and the entire room certainly seemed to be in agreement with him on that score!
Following on from what Edsel had said about the changes made to the character names and stories, Clooney explained that ‘we didn’t want to give any of these real men flaws’. They wanted to be able to tell the story without offending anyone. That, after he and Heslov fought over who should answer the question with a hilarious ‘You go,’ ‘No, you go’ to much laughter in the audience.

There clearly was a lot of laughter off camera too. Clooney says that though he was busy (what with all the roles he played for this film!) he still found time to arrange pranks, one of which saw him adding ‘In loving memory to [his father] Nick Clooney’ to a shot of the film which he showed to his still-living father. Matt Damon instists that ‘We laughed a lot’ and Goodman said it was ‘the best time I’ve ever had on a film – with my pants on’.
‘the best time I’ve ever had on a film – with my pants on’ – John Goodman on the fun of being part of The Monuments Men

After a heated debate about the merits of possession of artworks and who the rightful owners should be, Clooney laughed that the team were off to Paris after tonight’s London premiere, probably to insult them too.
So why did Heslov and Clooney decide to have so much humour incorporated into such an otherwise serious film? Heslov explained that they knew they wanted humour because ‘we deal with life with humour’. But did the humour extend to any training the cast had to do to become soldiers? Of course it did. Goodman said his basic training involved a knife and fork and Murray said that he learned (from the women) that ‘when you have to put on a tight pair of pants you lie on your back’.

It was also not as scary as one might imagine to be directed by a friend, Damon insists. You ‘cut out all the diplomacy’, he said, explaining that if something was rubbish, Clooney would just tell him as much.
Hugh Bonneville, known to many for his role as Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey, was not there because he was busy working on the show. However, Heslov said it was ‘great to have the Lord of the manor’ on set.

One of the most fascinating stories came when the panel were asked when art first affected them or for some seminal moment in their lives when art played a really important part. Murray started, with the following story:
‘Well uh I think it would be back when I started acting in Chicago. I wasn’t very good and I remember my first experience on a stage I was so bad I just walked out of the theatre. I started walking and I walked for a couple of hours and I realised I’d walked the wrong direction. Not just the wrong direction in terms of where I lived but the wrong direction in terms of a desire to stay alive. And this may be a little bit – not completely true – but it’s pretty true, I walked and then thought, “Well if I’m gonna die where I am I may as well just go over towards the lake and maybe I’ll float for a while after I’m dead.” So I walked over towards the lake and I realised I’d hit Michigan Avenue and I thought, “Well Michigan Avenue, that runs north too” and so I started walking north. And I ended up in front of the Art Institute of Chicago and I just walked inside and I didn’t feel like I had any place being in there they used to ask you for a donation, y’know, when you walked into a museum and I just walked right through because I was ready to die . . . and I walked in and there’s a painting there and I don’t even know who painted it – I think it’s called The Song of the Lark – and it’s a woman working in a field and there’s a sunrise behind her and I’ve always loved this painting. I saw it that day and I just thought, “There’s a girl who doesn’t have a whole lot of prospects but the sun’s coming up anyway and she’s got another chance.” I think that gave me some sort of feeling that I, too, would have . . . get another chance every day.’

After such an incredible tale, the rest of the panel were hesitant about following him with the majority choosing to say nothing at all.

Interview with Death Line (Raw Meat) director Gary Sherman

(Interview originally posted at Filmoria)

Gary Sherman has been working in the film and TV business for many years, but it is for his 1973 horror Death Line (AKA Raw Meat) that many fans may be familiar with his work. Forty years on, the film – which was set in the depths of the London underground – is still a massive cult classic and has a huge fan following. The director, writer and producer told me that his directorial feature debut came about quite by chance when we spoke recently.

This interview is ready to depart … so mind the doors!

Having worked, up to that point, on music films, documentaries and commercials, Sherman was keen to make a feature and had been told that the way to do it was to write a script. He was working with Ceri Jones on a commercial in England – one which incidentally had a much bigger budget than Death Line would go on to have – when Sherman told him the story he had thought up and the pair then went on to write the screenplay. That screenplay was passed up the ladder until the call came through that they wanted to make the film and were happy to have Sherman direct.
The film has managed to become a cult hit with older and younger audiences alike. Sherman himself laughed that “probably 98% of [the fans] were not born when I made that movie”. He also said that “because of this whole resurgence of zombies … Dead and Buried found a whole new audience … they’re all in their twenties!”

Death Line was filmed on a part of the underground that had already been closed before the war – a phenomenon once again in the news after the recent Sherlock episode focused on a disused station. Sherman tells me that looking into the history of the underground was what sparked the idea for the story in the first place.
Any scenes in the film with actual trains were shot at Aldwych station – which at the time was closed during the weekend – but it was not an easy job getting permission to film on these platforms and in these tunnels. London Transport, Sherman tells me, refused to let them shoot because they thought the film was rather derogatory. Sherman took an old script, added in a couple of scenes that had to be shot on a tube platform, and tried again. That is how they got permission … but it meant they had to have people on hand to keep the London Transport representatives out of the station!

“because of this whole resurgence of zombies … Dead and Buried found a whole new audience … they’re all in their twenties!”
The casting is something of which Sherman is evidently still immensely proud. At one point, the Godfather himself, Marlon Brando, was considered to play the ‘man’ character – with the proviso that he be unrecognisable. Jay Kanter, executive producer on the film, was very close to Marlon Brando and had the idea of including him in the film. Nobody was ever going to know, Sherman tells me. Kanter talked to Brando about it and he thought it was a pretty funny idea. Sadly, Brando was forced to head home after a family emergency and the timing just didn’t work out.

So, I asked, if Marlon had been in it, would he have not been credited? “We would have put a funny name,” Sherman laughs, adding that Harry Frampton was doing the prosthetics and would have had a ball disguising Marlon.
One of the key actors in the film is, of course, Donald Pleasence, who Sherman says he wanted for the part from the time he wrote the script. He sent a copy of it to New York and flew over there to meet with the actor, who was delighted to be offered the comedic role, claiming that nobody ever offered him comedy.

“Getting everybody else was like cake once we had Donald,” Sherman says. “All these great British character actors – who you never would have thought would have done a little horror film like this – were all game to do it because Donald Pleasence was in it.”
Fans of the film will know that Pleasence’s was not the only recognisable face in the film. Producer Paul Maslansky asked Sherman what they could get Christopher Lee to do because they were great friends and Sherman was only too happy to oblige. The MI5 scenes, which had previously been written as a one-sided phone call, were written in just so Lee could be part of the film. According to Sherman, Lee was game to join in – if only to do the scene with Pleasence – but did check that it didn’t involve wearing his [Dracula] teeth.

“All these great British character actors – who you never would have thought would have done a little horror film like this – were all game to do it because Donald Pleasence was in it.” – Gary Sherman casting Death Line
Seeing as it was his first feature film, one thing Sherman had not factored in was that Christopher Lee was very tall and Donald Pleasence was far shorter. When he got them in to rehearse, he soon realised that putting them in a two-shot together was just not possible. Sherman then decided to do the whole sequence in singles and adjust the eyelines – and then get Lee to sit down. See what you think of the end result…

When I asked Sherman what it was he felt made people love Death Line so much he complimented his cast and added that, “It makes a political statement. It pokes the class system in England right in the eye. The ‘Man’ is a sympathetic character – he’s not an ‘evil’ monster. He’s just trying to survive.”
Death Line was the first of its kind” he explains. “There had never been anything like it before …. I’m very proud of it! … Death Line was just a really fun film to make.”

Exclusive Interview with HUMANS writers Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley

(Originally posted at Filmoria about series one)
With the exciting series one finale of Humans due on Channel 4 this weekend and the series well underway on AMC in the US, the synths and their human friends and foes have found a place in homes across the globe. We chatted with the show’s writers, Sam Vincent andJonathan Brackley, to discuss what went into writing the show, their favourite moments and the power of Ivanno Jeremiah‘s smile. We also did our best to get a hint of what fans can expect from the newly commissioned series two, which they are now working on.

Sam and Jonathan had already worked together on the last two series of Spooks with Kudos, along with the recent film, so they were already known to the company. When the rights to the original Swedish show, on which Humans is based, were obtained, the pair were asked if they wanted to get involved. Thankfully for us, they accepted!
Here’s what they had to say.

How similar is your version of the show compared to the original?
J: We took our cues from the first couple of episodes so most of our characters are based on a counterpart in the original Swedish series or amalgums thereof. Some of the storylines are inspired by the original but we ended up taking our characters on completely different journeys by the end of the series. It happened very organically. It wasn’t a conscious decision to do that it’s just that these were the areas that we were interested in that we wanted to follow.

What have been your favourite characters to write for?
J: That’s always a tough one to ask a writer. We’ve loved writing them all. I don’t know. I’m not sure I could pick one. Sam, have you got one?

S: The thing is, with this show, the characters are so radically different. You have synths: you have ordinary synths, you have the synths that are very different and more human-like. And then you have a whole bunch of very, very human characters. In terms of dialogue, it was a lot of fun writing for Rebecca Front‘s character, Vera, and also, Gemma Chan – as Anita, rather than as Mia – because then you’re writing the extremely codified, formal, language that an ordinary synth uses. That’s quite good fun to come up with. It was fun writing for Max (Ivanno Jeremiah) as well because we always saw him as the innocent. You could write a character who was highly intelligent and, of course, not human – in the way we understand it – and yet completely innocent and full of wide-eyed wonder. So that was always a lovely character to write. Really, the format gives us such a broad range of characters – that is, you can’t really pick a firm favourite, they’re all so different. I mean, the family talk in this very naturalistic, slang-y, jokey way. Yeah, I think it’s particularly fun writing some of that formal, synth language – that was something you don’t get to do in any other script.

How much of the synths’ mannerisms and behaviours were scripted vs. the actors being able to influence their specific characters?
S: In the script and in our discussions early on with the producers about how we saw it, we gave some broad strokes really. We said that their movement was not be stiff and jerky and robotic and it was more about graceful, flowing movement of economy. When we sat down to really think it through, we thought, well, if a synth makes a movement, they’re going to use the least amount of power to conserve energy and they’ll also make their movements slowly – as slowly as they can, in a sense, because that will conserve power. There won’t be any wasted movement at all because they plan their movements perfectly. They don’t shoot out an arm before they know what mug they’re picking up off the shelf, like us. They have this incredible precision and also this calm, flowing, economical movement. A thing we compared it to was a Japanese tea ritual. That kind of incredibly serene, measured, like flowing water – not a single wasted movement.

We also had the benefit of promising the threat to the viewer, because we have moments where we show that, actually, synths are faster and stronger than we are – and that again comes from the logic that we need them to be faster and stronger than we are because if our five-year-old kid stepped out in the road, you need your synth to be able to do something about it. But they never use that extra strength and speed unless they have to. It’s always there, under the surface. You know that they’re stronger and quicker than you are and in a fight you couldn’t win!
Really, though, we give a lot of credit to Sam Donovan, the director of episodes one and two, who worked with a guy called Dan O’Neill, who’s a choreographer. Sam and Dan worked very closely with the actors playing the synths and set up ‘Synth School’ to explore the physicality of being these creatures. They carried on from there and thought more about it. Gemma Chan, for example, came up with this thing that in order to conserve power, if she was looking at something to her left, she’d look with her eyes first, and then turn her head, and then turn her body. If she didn’t need to fully turn, she wouldn’t. That’s something you see her doing a lot, as Anita, and it’s very effective – it all builds up to this eerie, other-worldly performance. And then all the other synths – they’re all slightly different but they needed to find these points of uniformity where they could create a group performance, because you don’t want them all moving very differently. We had a huge amount of trust in the director and choreographer – and the actors themselves – and we were happy to let them explore that and find that themselves. What they came up with was absolutely brilliant in our eyes.

Do you have a favourite scene?
J: There are so many scenes that were just a joy to write. I think, in more general terms, we really enjoyed putting together episode six because there is so much going on – so many revelations, so many coming togethers of different characters and exciting twists and plot points. That was a real thrill because it was the first moment when all the threads start to converge in the run-up to the end of the series.

S: We were able to actually answer a lot of the mystery that we’d set up and sometimes you expect writers to drag the mysteries out for as many seasons as possible – and possibly never resolve them – but we always thought that we’d surprise people and pull a few curtains back, pull a few rugs (to continue that metaphor!) in episode six. It was very satisfying to do that and know that we’d be revealing some of those mysteries.
One of my favourite moments, actually, is in episode six, and it’s a moment that’s barely scripted. In the scene where Matti [Lucy Carless] and Leo [Colin Morgan] are attempting to bring Mia back, there is this moment where Toby [Theo Stevenson] and Max share a look. Toby looks nervously at Max turns and gives him this lovely big grin that Ivanno does so beautifully. Then Theo, equally beautifully, does this shy, slightly uncertain smile back. That, really, for me, is such a small, fleeting moment – it’s nothing to do with big revelations or plot or story or anything like that – but it is a moment of genuinely human connection where you feel the connection between the synth and the human being, which is what the whole series is about! It gets distilled down to that one moment of a perfectly, brilliantly done look between two actors at the right time. It’s so beautifully acted by both of them.

J: Ivanno’s use of his smile is masterful throughout the whole series. There’s a moment when he gives George a little smile as he’s leaving the house which is superb and the other smile that I love is in episode seven – which was not scripted – when the SWAT team come in at the end of the episode and one of them points a gun in Max’s face and he turns and smiles at him. It just fits so perfectly with where the character is at that time.
So, without giving anything away, what can fans expect from the series finale?

J: Er… Up to this point, we’ve answered most of the questions. There’ll be a [pause] coming together of all our synths and the other characters.
S: [After a long pause, trying to figure out what he can or can’t say] You can expect thrills, spills, tears, laughs, danger, suspense and … I think it’s better to not say any more.

Fair enough! On to series two then – congratulations on getting the second series commissioned this week, by the way!
J: Thank you very much!

S: Thank you!
Did you have something in mind, even before it was commissioned?

S: You can’t help, when you’re right in the middle of the story, to continue telling it to yourself when you’re really involved in a piece of writing so we always had ideas. You just couldn’t shut it off. You couldn’t just get to the end of episode eight and say ‘well, that’s it’. We were wondering what would happen after… Along the way, we had a lot of good ideas that we couldn’t fit into series one and thought maybe this is something we could do if we get to take the story forward. We always had ideas bubbling under. Some of them we told our producing partners at Kudos about, some of them we didn’t, but obviously now that we’ve had the go ahead, we are getting them all down and very much already in the process of collecting them all together and formalising them and beating out a shape for what it’s going to look like.
We loved it too much [to forget about it]. We wanted to return to these people, these characters and this world.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The adaptation of Emma Donoghue's Room is phenomenal!

Room is one of those books that has such passionate fans that an adaptation is something that fills us with a heightened level of both excitement and terror. In this instance, the book's author wrote the screenplay which is also a bold move and one that could go dramatically either way.
The film arrived earlier than its January 2016 (earlier in the US you lucky things!) release date, thanks to the London Film Festival and my book vs film review can be found over at Novelicious.
Suffice it to say, I doubt any fans of the book will be disappointed.
Here's the link.