Time to end Reel Time

EEN page

Today sees the publication in the Edinburgh Evening News of my final Reel Time, the weekly film column I’ve been writing since January 2009. Since then the word count has dropped gradually from 500 to 350 to the current 300 and my (very rough) calculations tell me I’ve written somewhere in the region of 100,000 words in that time.

Writing the column has been a fantastic experience, giving me access to some amazing people and places while allowing me to convey thoughts about cinema that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. Who knew I had so many views on sequels and remakes, the eating of popcorn, the future of 3D, silent cinema, IMAX, the loss of Sunday matinees at the Cameo and Muppet movies?

It’s the equivalent of writing a diary about my film-going, something I’d never have considered had I not had a weekly deadline. Edinburgh is one of the best cities in the world for film fans, with dozens of cinema screens offering the latest movies alongside retrospective seasons, world cinema classics and special events.

The decision to stop was mainly due to a feeling that after writing more than 250 columns I was starting to say the same things, just in a different way. There’s still a challenge in that, but not as much as there was the first time. I complain about there being too many sequels at the cinema and I was starting to create my own versions, albeit on the printed page.

Another reason is that I’m now writing my first book, which itself could be in the region of 100,000 words. I need to devote as much time as I can to that.

Finally, I’m increasingly devoting my time to seeking out less mainstream films or classics, something that doesn’t always fit in with the requirements of a mainstream newspaper. I hope to get my classic film blog up-and-running again, writing about the history of cinema rather than the latest blockbusters. Scottish film website, reelscotland.com, will also continue.

The Evening News might still allow me to contribute the occasional piece, but until then I’m grateful to have been a small part of such a great Edinburgh institution and hope the next film columnist beats my five-and-a-bit-years record.

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Revealing the secrets of Wikileaks

I’ve been quiet on this site for the last month or so, busy covering the Edinburgh International Film Festival for BBC Radio Scotland’s Culture Studio and the Edinburgh Evening News.

While my opening night EIFF review is online, my interview with its star Felicity Jones aired on the BBC a month or so ago, so is long gone from iPlayer.

Last week saw another of my interviews air, this time with the director of Wikileaks: We Steal Secrets, a look at the facts behind the muddled story of Julian Assange and his infamous website. I spoke to Alex Gibney for around 10 minutes ahead of the film’s Edinburgh premiere, and a few minutes of that was broadcast from around the 22 minute mark.

One Skyfall screening is not enough

As my latest Edinburgh Evening News column isn’t on the website I thought I’d publish it here instead. I couldn’t resist writing about Bond as Skyfall takes the box office by storm.

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that there’s a new Bond film in town, the 23rd adventure for Britain’s favourite spy.

Skyfall ignores the lacklustre Quantum of Solace (2008) and returns the series to its bombastic best, sending 007 (Daniel Craig) on a mission that takes him around the globe and back in time.

I revelled in every second of the spy saga, with one of the series’ classiest casts – from Dame Judi Dench as the steely M to Javier Bardem as the seriously nasty Silva – doing justice to a script that gives its audience something fresh while respecting its past glories.

On the subject of the past, my own memories of seeing Bond at the cinema stretch back to 1987’s The Living Daylights. With no internet to build the hype, we were left with TV adverts and promotions on packets of Trio biscuits to whet our appetites.

While I still think Sean Connery was the best Bond, I’ve a soft spot for Timothy Dalton as a harder-edged 007 who questioned his motives long before Daniel Craig picked up his Walther PPK.

Somehow I missed 1989’s Licence To Kill on the big screen and it wasn’t until 1995 that I was able to head to the Dominion to watch Pierce Brosnan don his tuxedo in GoldenEye. Since then I’ve waited patiently for each new Bond film, sneaking a peek at the trailers and reading the occasional plot outline without wanting to find out too much.

For Skyfall I had to avoid Twitter, Facebook posts and TV specials for weeks, ensuring no spoilers leaked through. MI6 couldn’t have done a better job.

I have a feeling I’ll be heading back to see Skyfall again soon, one screening is not enough.

Full disclosure time: memories of The Living Daylights Trio promotion were recalled thanks to the fantastic new Bond book, ‘Catching Bullets‘, by Mark O’Connell – here’s my Good Reads review.

Tram Man is a superhero for the Capital

Electric Man

Electric Man

Once in a while my weekly Edinburgh Evening News column doesn’t make it from the printed page onto their website so I publish it here instead. Here’s the piece that went into yesterday’s paper:

It’s been another summer of comic book movies, with Avengers Assemble and Spider-Man already released and The Dark Knight Rises about to hit screens around the country.

Last week also saw a raft of new superhero films announced at the high profile San Diego Comic Con, Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2 just some of the blockbusters announced for 2013 and beyond.

Also making waves at Comic Con was the only UK feature film to screen at the festival, Edinburgh-set comic book movie, Electric Man.

Described as The Maltese Falcon meets Kevin Smith’s Clerks, the film follows the misadventures of two Edinburgh comic book fans, Jazz and Wolf, who run a comic shop on Candlemaker Row.

As the pair struggle to find £5,000 to prevent the shop being shut down they also discover a priceless first edition comic is in their possession. Unfortunately for our heroes, the comic is also wanted by another collector who’ll do anything to get it back.

“The original draft of the script has been around since the early 90s, after the idea for a sitcom pilot came to me one night when I was in college,” says the film’s co-writer and director, David Barras. “It did the rounds for a few years, with the BBC interested in commissioning it at one stage.”

I watched the film in 2011, in a slightly different cut to the one which premiered in San Diego, and found it a fast-paced romp that doesn’t take itself seriously. The actors, including 1980’s legend, Fish, do a good job throughout.

My own idea for a superhero film is still in development, though whether anyone will greenlight Tram Man, the story of a hero avenging the city’s evil tramworks, remains to be seen.

Getting animated about Brave

As the world slowly goes mad for Disney-Pixar’s Brave, the US release taking in over $65 million at the box office on opening weekend and the UK premiere taking place in Edinburgh last weekend, my coverage of the Scottish-set film has started to appear in a few places.

Last month I mentioned that I’d contributed an interview with Brave’s director, Mark Andrews, to the new Highlands of Scotland Film Commission’s iPad magazine, which is now available to download from the App store.

I also took part in a recent press junket, with stars of the film such as Kelly Macdonald and Robbie Coltrane in Edinburgh to discuss the film. The interviews will appear closer to the film’s Scottish release on 3 August (it’s out in England and Wales on 17 August).

As a result I reviewed Brave on my site, ReelScotland, before covering it for the Edinburgh Evening News on Thursday ahead of its Edinburgh International Film Festival screening.

As for that press junket I mentioned, Scotland’s tourism agency, VisitScotland, today published a new video from the trip we took to Dunkeld and I spotted myself 0.18 in, taking this photo on Instagram:

TCM Classic Film Festival 2012

I was back in LA in April for the third annual TCM Classic Film Festival, watching another impressive line-up of movies that have stood the test of time with some of the cast and crew who made them.

Before I went I wrote about the 2011 Festival over on the Guardian Travel website (you can also read a round-up of last year’s coverage elsewhere on this blog), trying to explain why TCM is more than just a chance to watch films on the big screen.

I also covered the Festival for the Edinburgh Evening News once again, wondering if Edinburgh could take over from Hollywood before looking at the cinemas themselves in LA and San Francisco.

While I was in LA I caught over a dozen special screenings and met some fantastic people, many of whom have been viewers of the US TCM channel for many years. I’d been commissioned by Cinema Retro magazine to write a follow-up report of my festival, which was published in May.

Some of the people I met at 2011’s TCM were the team behind the excellent Cinementals blog, who allowed me to write about a film festival closer to home last week. The 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival will be screening a retrospective strand dedicated to Hollywood director Gregory La Cava and I interviewed EIFF artistic director Chris Fujiwara for the Cinementals.

Finally, I wanted to experiment with the iMovie app on my iPhone earlier in the week and decided to use some photos from TCM to do so. It’s not the best video you’ll see on the Festival but here’s the experiment

The Raid in the Edinburgh Evening News

Last week I went along to a screening of The Raid, the new Indonesian-set action film from Welsh director Gareth Evans.

Much as I enjoy an intelligent and well-scripted piece of cinematic art, I also have the occasional craving for a piece of slam-bang nonsense that gives Die Hard a run for its money.

Here’s my piece in this week’s Edinburgh Evening News on The Raid.

Green with Envy in the Edinburgh Evening News

Kermit the Frog

Following my Muppet weekend back in April, when I was given the opportunity to interview Muppet producer Martin G Baker, I was also lucky enough to be allowed behind-the-scenes of The Jim Henson Company during my recent trip to Los Angeles.

Although I did film the tour I sadly wasn’t allowed to upload it to my YouTube channel, but my exterior shots of the building are on Flickr.

This week, as a reaction to the release of a new trailer for the next Muppet movie, cunningly disguised as a romantic comedy, I wrote about Green with Envy for today’s Edinburgh Evening News column. Although The Muppets is out in the US in November, it won’t be seen in the UK until February 2012, something I reacted to on my TV blog, adventuresinprimetime.com with an open letter to Jason Segel.

Jason’s still not been in touch, but I’d still like to see the film before 2012 so if anyone needs some coverage of the film’s US premiere from a UK perspective, perhaps with some red carpet video interviews, I’m free for commission.

In the meantime, here’s that trailer for Green with Envy that’s been garnering so much attention:

Celebrating two years of weekly film columns

The above title is slightly misleading as I actually celebrated two years worth of Edinburgh Evening News film columns in January, but it’s been a busy 2011 so far and I haven’t had a chance to mention it before now.

It was in June 2008 that I began writing for the Evening News, first covering the Edinburgh International Film Festival in a vaguely blog-like way on the website and also in the paper itself.

From then on I was contributing reviews of plays, stand-up shows, music gigs and even some of Bob Dylan’s art before my editor approached me to write a weekly film column, Reel Time, in January 2009. With the word count varying over the years it’s hard to be precise about the amount written, but somewhere in the region of 50,000 must be close.

With a readership of around 50,000 a day for the print version of the paper alone, never mind the website, that’s a lot of people to cater for and the topics have been as varied as I can make them.

If anyone was to look back through them I suspect there would be more space to silent cinema than 3D spectaculars, with classics and forgotten or overlooked movies also getting a lot of love.

I’ve enjoyed writing every one of them and it’s fantastic to be able to challenge yourself every week to create something new and (hopefully) interesting. I’d urge everyone to do the same, even if it’s just on their own blog or a diary.

There’s also the spin-off blog which allows me to get even more obscure.

I’m not sure if I have a favourite column but a few I’d like more people to read are my Bill Douglas celebration from July 2009 and some thoughts on film-going during the recession.

A full list can also be accessed on the Evening News site.