Thursday, August 18, 2016


Jack Huston in the new Ben-Hur
  When will Hollywood finally learn that remakes of classic old movies are destined to flop? Recently we've had Point Break, The Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters and now--- probably the worst of the lot--- Ben-Hur.

   One wonders what on earth possessed the studios to try and remake the epic 1959 movie which starred Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins and Stephen Boyd and won 11 Oscars?
Charlton Heston in 1959

 And of casting lightweights Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell in the leading roles?

 And, as the Hollywood Reporter asks: Of creating a chariot race so heavily digitized and over-edited that it's the worst scene in the picture?

  It is, says the critic, "misguided, diminished and dismally done in every way."

   But if that's not bad enough there are plenty more remakes and reboots coming down the line, among them All Quiet on the Western Front, A Star is Born, Barbarella, The Birds, Dirty Dancing and The Seven Samurai.

   My prediction is that the only remake to succeed in a big way at the box-office this year will be The Magnificent Seven,. which stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt and looks to be nearly up to the standard of the 1960 Oscar-nominated original which starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.

  But it's another remake so I could be wrong.

Friday, August 12, 2016


  It has taken a long time but English actresses are at last following their male counterparts into leading roles in American TV series. 

  I talked with two of them at the Four Seasons recently and although their series are very different there are a lot of similarities between Michelle Dockery and Hayley Atwell: Both are 34 years old, both have appeared on the London stage and both are unattached, friendly and down-to-earth.  

Michelle:  Essex girl
   Michelle Dockery, last seen on TV as the prim and proper Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey, has opted for a total change of image in Good Behavior, in which she plays a hard-drinking, drug-abusing petty thief and con artist who vomits, falls down drunk and plays by her own rules.

  It is a lip-smacking role that Essex girl Dockery relishes, with lines such as: "I'm a piece of shit. Why keep fighting it, you know?"
   It came Dockery's way at an ideal time. The final episode of Downton Abbey had come and gone and she was dealing with the tragic loss of her fiancĂ© John Dineen, who died of cancer in December aged 34.

   "For me, acting can help at certain times in your life and it's a release in some sense and it was very fortunate for me that this came along at  the right time," she says.

Hayley: from Ladbroke Grove
  "It wasn't a conscious decision to do something so totally different from Lady Mary but I was completely hooked on the script from the first page and I loved the complexity of the character.

  "She's a joy to play and a real blessing for me."

   And Hayley Atwell, who was brought up in Ladbroke Grove, West London, is on to her second U.S. series having kicked butt as Agent Carter in the Captain America and Avengers movies and in her own TV series, Agent Carter.

   Now, like Dockery, she has a change of pace in the new series Conviction in which she plays the rebellious, party-going daughter of a former President who is blackmailed into taking a job as the head of New York's newly created Conviction Integrity Unit, examining cases in which the wrong person may have been convicted of a crime.

   Although it is shot in the U.S., Hayley still lives in London and commutes to the set.   

  "London has always been my home base," she tells me. "It's where my mother is and when I come to LA, I objectively see what London is and the strengths it has---- the art scene,  the diversity and the wit and the irony and the eccentricity that Londoners are famous for."


Friday, August 5, 2016


Fleet Street today
  The last newspaper office in Fleet Street, the London HQ of the Dundee-based Sunday Post, is closing up and leaving what was once seen as the centre of UK journalism as well as  frequent  drunkenness and bad behaviour.
   For 300 years Fleet Street was synonymous with the nation's biggest newspapers and also some of its biggest drinkers.
 The first British daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was published in Fleet Street on 11 March 1702.
 News agency Reuters was among the last newsrooms on Fleet Street before it moved staff to new offices in Canary Wharf in 2005. Agence France Press departed a few years later in 2009.
old Fleet Street
 At its height, "the Street of Shame" - as it was dubbed by some - was the pinnacle of a journalist's career, with nearly every national paper and several provincial newspapers having offices within a half-mile radius.
 The street was famous for its many bars and pubs, constantly occupied by journalists both socialising and seeking stories and, at closing time, staggering either to the Press Club, which stayed open until 2am, or Covent Garden where the pubs opened before dawn for the flower market workers.
Sunday Post building
 While many of the pubs, like the newspapers, have closed, a few
remain as nostalgic throwbacks to a bygone era: El Vino's which for years insisted on patrons
wearing a jacket and tie and where no women were allowed; the Old Bell, designed by Christopher Wren and still an occasional venue for journalist reunions; the Cheshire Cheese, which has been in the same spot since 1538 and where Charles Dickens was a regular; The Punch and Ye Old Cock are still there although the clientele is now very different.


Saturday, July 30, 2016


England's greatest day in football came on July 30, 1966 when Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Ben Foster and Chris Pine as bank robbing brothers
The modern-day Western Hell Or High Water is without a doubt the best movie I've seen so far this year. A multi-layered story about two bank robbers which questions the fine line between right and wrong, it is set in Texas, so it was only fitting that the premiere, parties and cast interviews should be in Austin. 
Bridges and Foster on the red carpet
  The movie's stars, Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster had a great time, hitting the bars after walking the premiere red carpet and, late that evening making a surprise appearance at one of the city's hot music clubs, the Continental Club. It was there that Bridges joined the band, Dale Watson and the Lone Stars, on stage, borrowed Watson's guitar and sang and played three numbers, much to the enjoyment of the crowd.  
Bridges as Texas Ranger
    "My young cohort Chris Pine said, 'You've got to get up there, man, come one!'" Bridges told me the next day. "And I'd had enough liquor to make me get up there and do it. But I'd never played with those guys and I think the last song worked out all right but the middle song was too tricky and too many chord changes. A stupid choice for me."
When in Texas...
     While he played Pine danced up a storm with some of the local ladies. "I was very, very inebriated," he said the following day, looking a bit red-eyed. "I don't remember all of it but I think the alcohol helped my dance skills. So much fun. Tequila straight. It's probably the smarter way to go because I wasn't hungover this morning which was weird because I was very drunk."
with Bridges
  The movie depicts the clash between the Old and New West where the distinction between honest men and outlaws has blurred beyond recognition.
  Pine and Foster play bank robbing brothers trying to stop the bank foreclosing on their family land while Bridges is the relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger hunting them down. 
  "The script really rang true," says Bridges. "I liked the ambiguity of who are the bad guys and who are the good guys and who am I rooting for?"

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Matt as Jason Bourne

    Matt Damon feels like a winner. The U.S. premiere of Jason Bourne at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas the previous evening had been greeted with cheers and wild applause and afterwards he had headed for the casino's poker tables.   
    "I don’t think I’m a good gambler but that doesn’t keep me from trying," he tells me the next morning as we talk at the nearby Cosmopolitan Hotel.  "Last night I was out to the wee hours and got ahead and I was playing with the casino’s money and went crazy for a couple hours. And then I gave it all back and went home even. So, to me, when you go home even in Vegas, it’s a big win."

   He has, he says, spent too much time in Las Vegas to get carried away with the temptations of the nightlife.

  "The crazy nights in Las Vegas happen to people who come in for just one or two nights and go absolutely crazy and flame out and leave," he says with a grin. "You look at these people and its like going to the zoo.

the morning after
  "But I've shot so many movies here and lived here and when you actually work here you fall into the real rhythm of the city, which is much slower and calmer. I feel more like a resident than a tourist."
  Matt was at the premiere with his wife, Argentine-born Lucy Barroso whom he met in Miami Beach in 2002 while he was filming the comedy Stuck on You and she was working as a waitress. They have three daughters aged from six to ten and Lucy has a daughter who has just turned 18.

Matt at the premiere with wife Lucy

  "I got lucky meeting her," says Damon. "I think marriage is incredibly difficult because it’s so hard to have that one partner who is everything. Looking at it objectively it seems  an insane idea. So it’s not that I love marriage in general, it’s that I love being married to her. And that’s the difference. And  I just got lucky. I sure did."


Thursday, July 21, 2016


1966....and now
  August 5 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Caesars Palace, the ancient Rome-themed hotel and casino that has been the red-hot center of Las Vegas's biggest sports and entertainment events.

  Originally it was going to be called the Cabana Palace, then it was the Desert Palace but when it opened its doors for the first time, the greeters dressed as gladiators and waitresses in Cleopatra outfits made it clear it was Caesars Palace.

as it was in 1966
  It holds so many memories for me: I interviewed Sammy Davis Jr in his sumptuous suite there; talked and shared a pizza with Cher in her dressing room after her show there; I watched from backstage as Willie Nelson performed and later went to his suite where an assistant called Snake supplied the marijuana.

   And I was ringside at some of the most memorable fights ever staged in the outdoors ring---Sugar Ray Leonard vs Tommy Hearns; Roberto Duran vs. Hearns; Marvin Hagler vs Hearns and vs Leonard; Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield, when Fan Man stopped the fight by parachuting into the ring....etc. etc.   
 room key card from ten years ago

  The anniversary celebrations started in June so while I was there it seemed only right to drink a toast in Gordon Ramsay's Pub and Grill, a lively pub-restaurant opposite the hotel's Colosseum

 theatre, which recently hosted the US premiere of Jason Bourne.

  Some of the movies that have been made there include Ocean's Eleven,The Electric Horseman, The Hangover, Rain Man, Iron Man, The Big Short and many more.

  So here's to another 50 years!