Saturday, February 21, 2015


  Had a brief chat with Bill Nighy while I was in London. It had to be brief because we  both wanted to get to the nearest TV to watch Crystal Palace, which Bill has supported all his life, play their F.A Cup match against Liverpool (sadly, they lost).

  But we had time for a quick catch-up about the upcoming big screen movie of the long-running and immensely successful TV show Dad's Army in which Bill plays Sgt. Wilson, the part played in the series by John Le Mesurier.

   "I hope the world will forgive us for making this film, and forgive me for not being John Le Mesurier," he told me. "Because the series is so beloved, I thought, 'Why not leave it alone?' But then the script came, which is very, very good and then you've got a cast which includes Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Tom Courtney, Toby Jones and Catherine Zeta-Jones and you start to think, 'Well, the whole thing might just work.And every time I had any doubts I just looked at Toby Jones, because he's brilliant as Captain Mainwaring. It's a stellar cast so I hope it works. 

   "A large part of the appeal for me was the fact that Michael Gambon was in it and we could sit on a beach in Bridlington and he would make me laugh, which he did. He made me laugh so much that I thought I'd never take another breath and it would kill me. He makes you laugh like that."

Thursday, February 19, 2015


with Downton Abbey cast including Maggie Smith (3rd from left) 
It is probably a lovely spot in the summer time but Highclere Castle in the pouring rain in February isn't the ideal place to be.
 However, Lady Carnarvon and the Downton Abbey cast, who were there on one of their regular sojourns to film a few interior and exterior shots before returning to their regular home at Ealing Studios, made me extremely welcome.
  After watching the filming of a scene with Elizabeth Govern (Lady Mary) and Jim Carter (Carson the butler), who, it turns out, is something of a comedian, I had lunch with other journalists and members of the cast in a marquee specially constructed for the occasion in the castle grounds.
  I was at a table with the lovely Joanne Froggatt, who this year made an emotional speech on winning a Golden Globe for her role as Anna the maid, and Leslie Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore the cook.
  Leslie tells me she and her husband spend three months a year on holiday in California with their two dogs. Next time she comes she's going to contact me and we'll take the dogs for a walk along the Palisades.      

Monday, February 9, 2015


Haley Joel Osment now.....
  What in the world has happened to Haley Joel Osment? The cute little kid who saw dead people in The Sixth Sense 15 years ago is now 26, bloated and unrecognisable with a moustache and slicked-back hair.
  He made a couple of other successful movies--- A.I and Pay It  Forward-- after The Sixth Sense but then struggled for roles and had three years when he never worked at all. He was involved in an accident in 2006 when his car overturned near his home and he suffered severe injuries. He was later sentenced to three years probation, 60 hours in an alcohol rehabilitation programme, fined $1,500 and ordered to attend at least 26 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
   The recent picture was taken on the set of a movie called Yoga Hosers which stars Johnny Depp and his daughter Lily-Rose.
.....and as he was
    Osment recently talked at the Toronto Film Festival about how fame as a child star can be a double-edged sword.  "When you're a kid and you grow up, it takes some time for people to associate you with things other than that initial thing. So it's a challenge."

  But even though he has already done so, he says he does not want to shed the image that some fans still have of him as a cute kid.  "I think it would be a mistake to consciously try and fight it," he said. "It's not a nice thing to do to your audience to try and shatter that image in people's mind."
   To anyone who sees him, that image was shattered a long time ago. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


  Just back from Park City, Utah, where more than 50,000 people packed into the little town  (population 7,500)  for ten days of hard-core movie watching, partying and swag-gathering at the Sundance Film Festival.  
   Hollywood big-wigs, celebrities, their entourages, film fans and filmmakers have turned the winter wonderland nestled in the heart of Utah's Wasatch Mountains, into an adult playground where debauchery and misbehaviour are as normal as movie matinees and red carpets.
   This year the festival is bigger than ever before as major corporations like Hewlett Packard, Acura, Bang & Olufsen and Eddie Bauer have got in on the act by taking over the shops along the city's Main Street and turning them into party venues and lounges to get their products into the hands of celebrities.
    Party-hopping is a favourite late night sport as filmmakers and studios vie to lay on the best, most talked about soirees although things can sometimes turn nasty as evidenced when police were called to a nightclub at 3.30am after a female Paramount Pictures executive claimed she had been assaulted by actor Emile Hirsch, who is in town to promote his movie Ten Thousand Saints. Hirsch's representatives have not commented and police are still investigating.     
Iggy Azuela in concert
   Businesses are cashing in while the town is packed with visitors, and on the first weekend of the festival, long lines of would-be customers waited patiently outside overcrowded bars and restaurants that were charging people $20 just to get in. 
  Music plays a large part in the festival nowadays and while there Theo Kingma, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and I took in an Iggy Azuela concert at the Live Park City venue. We were fortunate enough to be in the VIP section where drink flowed freely and hostesses were on hand to make sure we had everything we wanted. 
Drinks, anyone?
Theo gets cozy with Nicole Kidman
 Because of the city's proximity to Los Angeles, celebrities were in town in droves to publicise their movies, promote themselves and to reap whatever they could pick up from the "swag suites" set up to fete the famous with spa treatments, designer clothes, liquor and valuable electronic goodies.   
  Theo and I chatted with Nicole Kidman and Cynthia Nixon, the former Sex and the City co-star who had two films screening at Sundance. 
   Oh yes. The films.   
    This year 4,105 feature films applied to be screened and only 123 were selected, making the festival tougher than ever to get into and also even more important, as two of this year's Oscar nominees, Boyhood and Whiplash, were first screened at Sundance last year.
   The Sundance movie this year being tipped to be around at next year's Oscars is Brooklyn, which stars Saoirse Ronan as an Irish girl who moves to Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s. It also featurees Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters and has alreaady been picked up by Fox Searchlight for distribution.
 So keep an eye open for it. 



Sunday, January 25, 2015


This time of year the little ski town of Park City, Utah is overflowing with film fans and the attendant filmmakers, publicists, journalists, hustlers, agents and stars, all drawn by the Sundance film festival and the possibility of  being in on next year's surprise big hit movie.   
  Last year two Oscar nominees, Boyhood and Whiplash, were first screened at Sundance and this year 123 films are vying for recognition out of more than 4,100 that were submitted.
  But, of course, although people will tell you it is the art that matters it is money that is at the root of everything in Sundance.  Big corporations have taken over most of the stores on Main Street for promotional purposes and at the other end of the spectrum, would-be filmmakers are trying to raise enough dollars to make their dream idea come true.
   In that vein, while walking up Main Street after a chat with the always-friendly Nicole Kidman (her Sundance movie is called Strangerland, by the way) I met up with Bubu the owl who, with his handler from the Earthwings oragnisation, was soliciting donations in order to make a nature documentary. 
  I hope my $2 will help and I'll look out for the movie at Sundance next year.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Depp and Paltrow in Mortdecai.
   Johnny Depp has made his fifth consecutive film flop with Mortdecai, an unfunny "comedy" set in England and co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow.
    The actor has received some of the worst reviews of his career following the flops Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows and The Rum Diaries.
   It’s been four years since his last hit, the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, though he is currently on screen as The Wolf in the Disney musical of Into the Woods.
  In Mortdecai he plays a British aristocrat and shady art dealer on the trail of a stolen Goya. The movie, which also features Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum and Oliver Platt, cost $40 million to make and, like Depp,  has received scathing reviews.
  Here is a selection:
Newark Star-Ledger critic Stephen Whitty:
“Depp — who used to be at least an interesting actor, remember those days? — attacks the part with the same sort of giggly glee he probably once showed playing dress-up with grandma’s Sunday best. The whole thing’s a great laugh to him, rather embarrassing to everyone else forced to watch.”
Vulture critic David Edelstein:
“Having combed Roget’s Thesaurus in vain for a suitable adjective to describe the Johnny Depp comedy Mortdecai, I’m forced to say it’s just … bad. The direction by David Koepp is bad, the screenplay by Eric Aronson very bad — though if Aronson were a bubbly American 15-year-old attempting a British caper-comedy after thrilling to a lot of old movies (which is how the script plays), I’d tell him it wasn’t too bad because puberty is difficult enough. Depp is very, very bad.”CinemaBlend critic Mike Reyes:
“The brightest spot of ‘Mortdecai’s’ failure is that there’s now a Johnny Depp film on the books that makes ‘Transcendence’ look like an infinitely better night at the movies.” critic Peter Sobczynski:
“With other bad films, you can sort of understand what the intentions of the filmmakers might have been before things went wrong. ‘Mortdecai,’ on the other hand, is one of those rare birds that is so off-putting in so many ways that all I could do for the most part was wonder how so many presumably intelligent people could be persuaded to sign on to produce and appear in something that could not have possibly seemed like anything other than a total mess from its earliest stages.”
USA Today critic Brian Truitt:
“With a varied wardrobe of retro men’s finery and a hirsute upper lip, the title character of the silly comedy ‘Mortdecai” is the center of a whirlwind of horrible British accents, too much gagging, not enough good gags and weak dialogue that, while not exactly terrible, is terribly boring.”Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw:
“The poster is awful. The premise is awful. To be frank, quite a lot about it is awful: a middle-aged comedy caper of the kind not seen since Peter Sellers’s final outings as Clouseau and Fu Manchu. But in its dopey and silly way, it does deliver one or two daft laughs.”
New York Times critic Stephen Holden:
“‘Mortdecai’ might as well be called ‘The Johnny Depp Movie,’ because its preening star, wearing an ascot and a walrus mustache that becomes a tiresome running joke, is the whole show. And what a frantically dull spectacle this vanity project is.”
New York Post critic Kyle Smith:
“Director David Koepp evidently has such confidence in the comedy that he considers the haphazard plot to be incidental, but the two elements are both so boring in their incoherence that they amplify each other’s stultifying effects. Amid the random plot turns, the jokes sound like mistranslations of one-liners that were only vaguely funny in some other language: ‘I eschew discomfort,’ ‘You’re barking up the wrong Englishman,’ ‘You look like you have a vagina on your face.’ ‘Mortdecai’ typifies playful English wit in much the same way as Wimbledon is known for its monster truck rallies.”

Friday, January 16, 2015


Gina's note
The Golden Globes are over for another year and the red carpet has been rolled up and stored but the inquests and clebrations go on.
 Winners are busy telephoning, writing and emailing their thanks to voters while nominees who didn't win are putting a brave face on it.
  I was delighted that the bubbly and cute Gina Rodriguez won a Globe as best comedy actress for her show Jane the Virgin and even more delighted to receive a hand-written note from her accompanied by a box of cupcakes.
with Gina last year
   I was also surprised to get a telephone call out of the blue from DreamWorks boss Jeffrey Katzenberg thanking me for his Golden Globe win for How to Train Your Dragon 2.
   I'm still waiting for calls/notes/gifts from Eddie Redmayne, Amy Adams and Julianne Moore!