Friday, August 22, 2014


Hard to believe it was 50 years ago that The Zombies hit it big with She's Not There and even harder to believe that they're still going strong---well, two of them are, anyway---and sounding as good as ever.
The Zombies then.....
....and now
 The iconic band, which this year has been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, drew more than 5,000 people to Santa Monica Pier and the surrounding beach with a mixture of old hits and new material.
  Sadly for the beachgoers, Santa Monica officials, worried about the huge crowds and hoping to dissuade people from showing up, had removed the beach-facing jumbotron screen, although it did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the audience.  
Beachgoers take in the music
  Led by the original founding members, keyboard player Rod Argent and singer Colin Bluntstone, the band has a new album out, and as well as She's Not There, it's original hits, Tell Her No from 1965 and Time of the Seasons (1966) are still played regularly on radio stations around the world.    
  The group, which was founded in the Blacksmith's Arms pub in St. Albans, disbanded back in 1967 but Argent and Blunstone reunited more than 30 years later and played live shows together until 2004 when they started going out under the name The Zombies with a re-formed line-up.

 Though the Zombies have faced inevitable member changes and split-ups over the years, Argent says that he and Blunstone came back together “just for fun” in late 1999.
“It was only that we had such a fun time playing that it mushroomed into many, many more gigs,” he says.
 He still relishes the buzz he and Blunstone get from performing live shows. “It feels one hundred percent the same as it did when we were 18 years old,” he says. “It’s just as exciting and it’s what makes being onstage magical. We have the privilege of being onstage again, and we’re having a ball.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014


 Since she portrayed the alluring double agent Vesper Lynd in the
James Bond film Casino Royale, Eva Green has built an on-screen
reputation as an evil, manipulating woman who uses her sex as a

  As Angelique Bouchard, who cursed Johnny Depp’s character to an eternity as a vampire in Dark Shadows, she caused a stir with her sizzling sex scenes.

  Now, in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, she is naked with Josh Brolin
and the poster advertising the film which bears her image has been
banned by the Motion Picture Association of America “for nudity---curve
of under breast and dark nipple areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

   The poster shows 34-year-old Eva clad in a sheer white robe that
shows off her silhouette and emphasises her curvy figure. But when I
chatted with French-born Eva in Beverly Hills she seemed slightly
bemused by the ban.

   “I don’t really understand,” she says. “You don’t see anything on
the poster. They don’t censor violence but they censor this; I’m
holding a gun on the poster but that’s fine with them. If they are
shocked by the poster they’re going to be really shocked when they see
the film. In 3D too!”

   She’s probably right because her scenes with Brolin push the
envelope of sex on screen to the outer limits.

    Eva stars as a femme fatale in the first of four stories in Sin
City: A Dame to Die For, the sequel to Frank Miller’s graphic novel
and neo-noir crime movie Sin City. It is again co-directed by Miller
and Robert Rodriguez, with Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke
and Rosario Dawson returning to repeat their original roles.

      In the title segment Eva portrays Ava Lord, who seeks the help
of her former lover, played by Josh Brolin, to escape her abusive
husband, billionaire Damien Lord (played by Eva’s real-life
ex-boyfriend Marton Csokas). But Brolin’s character soon realises
Ava’s true intentions are far more sinister than they appear.

   “She is beyond evil and it’s just so much fun to play somebody so
extreme and so corrupt,” says Eva. “I’ve played evil women before but
this one is something else. She has no sense of morality and no shame.

 “Playing evil women is quite meaty compared to being a boring
girlfriend. There’s something quite ballsy about these characters.
It’s fun and jubilating to play someone so bad.”

   What wasn’t so much fun for her were the graphic nude scenes, for
which director Rodriguez insisted she had to be naked.

   “I wanted to wear a corset and a bra but said I had to be naked and
he was right because she uses her body as a weapon. I knew it was
going to be shot in a tasteful way but when you do it, you want to
die. Also I was cast a week before shooting so I didn’t have time to
go on a diet. But when you go for it you forget you are naked and you
are just acting and it’s also helpful that the make-up artist puts on
lots of make-up all over your body. It’s kind of an armour, but it’s
no fun to be naked.

   “You feel very awkward and very silly and you don’t feel sexy at
all. You’re surrounded by a very bright green screen and Josh Brolin
is there wearing flesh-coloured Spandex. But you tell yourself, ‘It’s
all for art and it will be great on screen.’”

Thursday, July 31, 2014



 I had a sneak peek the other day at Angelina Jolie's latest directing effort---Unbroken, the powerful story of 1936 Olympic track star Lou Zamperini whose plane was shot down in the Pacific in World War 11. He survived without food and water for 47 days before washing up on a Japanese island where he was captured and tortured for two years. 
   Angelina took a break from the editing room to show an eight minute clip of the as-yet unfinished film to me and a small group of journalists in a screening room at Universal Studios and then talked about the problems she has had in bringing it to the screen.      

   The film rights were first bought by Universal Studios in 1947 for Tony Curtis to star in but nothing ever happened until Angelina Jolie stumbled across the story. “I came home and said, ‘Honey, I think there’s a story called Unbroken I’d like to direct’ and Brad said,honey, that’s been around forever,’” she recalled.
Jack O'Connell as Olympian Lou Zamperini
  “I fought for months for it and then when I found out I was going to do it, but I didn’t know if we would get the money together and find the right actor, because I really wanted somebody who was just right for Louis and not just a celebrity that would green light it.”
    Angelina chose relatively unknown British actor Jack O’Connell for the gruelling role and filmed the story in Australia.
    When she finally received the go-ahead she told Brad to go up on the roof of their home and wave an American flag to indicate to Zamperini, who lived just a few houses up the hill, that they would be filming his story.
   Sadly for her Zamperini died on July 2 aged 97 but not before she was able to take her laptop to him in hospital and show him a rough draft of the movie. 
  "It was a very heavy, very emotional journey for all of us working on the movie because we were moved by his story, we learned from his life and we had this opportunity to really get to know him and walk in his footsteps,” she said. 
 “We would speak to him all the time and Jack O’Connell spent a lot of time with him and he was a mentor, a friend and a father in many ways to all of us. He was a great man, really, truly. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I met mine and he was extraordinary."

Monday, July 28, 2014


Met a young lady named Gina Rodriguez who is described by the Hollywood Reporter as "The Next Big Thing."
  Physically she's not that big--- although by no means a zero--- but she has an outsize personality, radiates happiness and is a lot of fun to talk to.
  Gina stars in the new television comedy series Jane the Virgin playing a girl whose life plans are suddenly turned upside down when she is accidentally artificially inseminated.
   The series title begs the question which has to be asked and which 28-year-old Gina manages to avoid answering in a definitive way.
   The deeply religious Gina, who says: "My church, my boyfriend, and my family all keep me grounded," describes virginity as "a gift." She explained coyly: "I think we all have a gift to give to somebody else. Whether we can get our virginity back or not, we all have a gift to give and we all deserve respect.
  "I had a dad who every day reminded me that my gift was special. Is that strange? Hopefully on this platform I've been given I can remind other girls that hey, maybe it's not the popular choice but it's an awesome gift to be able to give someone."
  Gina, who won a best actress award at Sundance for her performance in the movie Filly Brown, is clearly an actress on the way up.


Thursday, July 24, 2014


   Mick Jagger was planning his birthday party when we talked in New York the other day.
   “Are you coming?” he asked jokingly. “I don’t know how big it will be but it’ll be a nice
party. It’ll be fun with plenty of dancing and carrying on.”

    For a great-granddad who has been dancing and carrying on for most of his life, he looks by far the youngest 71-year-old in New York.

    A few hours after we talked he was dancing at a party at the famous Apollo Theatre following 
the premiere of Get On Up, a film he has co-produced about the life of soul singer James Brown, who was one of Jagger’s early influences.

    “I’d met him and hung out with him,” he says. “He was a full-on, super high energy stage performer and I always admired the way he danced, the way he played an audience, the way he always gave 100 per cent and was always trying to do  new things. “

  A bit like Jagger himself who has many facets to his showbusiness life and has no intention of giving up on any of them in the near future. Later this year he will be resuming his tour with the Rolling
Stones which was interrupted by the drug overdose death of his girlfriend of 13-years, L’Wren Scott.

 Hard work has helped him deal with her death, and, he says, “I’ve been touring in the summer, I’ll
be touring in the autumn and I’m still touring and I don’t know when I’m going to stop, but I’m still going now.”

   Although the Stones have played every major concert venue in the world several times over during the last 50 years he says jokingly: “I always know where I am because I write it on the mirror in the bathroom.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014


  I've been on quite a few film sets in  my time but I've never before come across the secrecy and
paranoia surrounding the latest-- and fifth---Terminator movie which doesn't even have a confirmed title. 
 Before I was allowed on to the New Orleans set to watch filming and talk to Arnold Schwarzenegger and some of the cast  I had to sign an all-encompassing confidentiality agreement for Paramount Studios which prohibited me from disclosing "in any form the content viewed." It states: "The set visit is under embargo and anything observed on the set visit cannot be published without written consent from Paramount."
  There was also a non-disclosure agreement running to thousands of words which forbade me to say or write about anything I learned on the set. So what was the point in going? Well, it WAS in New Orleans.
Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger
  And I've learned quite a lot about the movie---which currently goes under the code name Vista, although I don't know if I'm allowed to say that---from other sources which had nothing to do with the set visit.
  For instance, Matt Smith, the former Dr. Who, joins Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie, which is likely to be called Terminator 5: Genesis and is the first of a new trilogy. The British actress Emilia Clarke, from Game of Thrones, co-stars as Sarah Connor and two Australians, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke play Kyle Reese and John Connor respectively. Although Jason Clarke is considerably older than Emilia, who is playing his mother, time travel explains a lot of things.
  Produced by David Ellison, the trust fund-rich son of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, the new film will be set in the near future but will revisit key moments from 1984 and James Cameron's first Terminator movie. Some of the characters from that movie will be returning.
  During my visit Arnold Schwarzenegger took a break from filming to shake hands and talk about the movie although, of course, I'm not allowed to report what he said or how he looked. Not even sure if I can say that he was very friendly and outgoing. He is, of course, 30 years older than he was for the first Terminator and he has previously said he will play an “older” T-800 model whose human skin had aged during three decades of service.
  So until I can say more....Hasta La Vista!

Monday, July 7, 2014


 The latest Sylvester Stallone movie Expendables 3 has made film industry history, and not just because
of the combined age of its over-the-hill cast.

  Due to be released next month and co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Dolph Lundgren, it is the first Hollywood movie to have used an unmanned drone for birds-eye view aerial shots.

    The opening sequence, featuring gunfire, a speeding train and an approaching helicopter, would normally have required a helicopter with its own camera crew, but instead an unmanned done hovered above the scene.

  "We flew right next to a train and helicopter," Ziv Maron, owner of the drone company ZM Interactive says. "We shot everything from chasing tanks to explosions to flying over buildings and motorcycle jumps. We can do shots that a real helicopter can't because we can do lower altitudes."

    In one scene a camera-equipped drone flew out of a window for an aerial view, then returned back through the same window, something that could never have been achieved with a helicopter.

   While drone use is still banned by federal law in America, the Expendables 3 filmmakers could make use of them because the movie was filmed in Bulgaria.

   Now the Motion Picture Association of America has filed a petition on behalf of seven aerial production companies asking for the regulations to be amended to allow the use of drones in the U.S. by
the film and television industry.

   "Unmanned aircraft systems offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming," says MPAA official Neil Fried. "This new tool for storytellers will allow for
creative and exciting aerial shots."

   It will also make the filming of action movies a lot less expensive. Typically a helicopter with a camera operator costs between $4,500 and $20,000 a day while a drone costs between
$4,500 and $8,000 a day.

  Dan Kanes, a director of photography who has developed a video link that enables remote monitoring while filming with a drone, says: "Drones can make filmmaking safer as long as the people practicing it
are following safety protocol on set. It's a great way to get new perspectives. Instead of using a jib or a
crane, it allows you to have an infinite crane arm."

   The Federal Aviation Authority has said it will consider the issue and has cautioned: "All the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated."

  Filmmakers have already used drones in the U.K. for HBO's Game of Thrones and the upcoming BBC drama series Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell