Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Let me first start by saying, I love Danny Boyle as a director. There's something unique about his work. British film and televison have not quite been the same since Trainspotting. Sure, there were great Brit films before it. Trainspotting owes a lot to flicks like Withnail & I, and more than a little to Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. It's been said that pre-Trainspotting, you have two types of British movies - your costume dramas, and your films about ugly people being miserable in the rain. Boyle took that gritty Brit aesthetic and evolved it into something else. something cooler, slicker. Guy Ritchie owes his career to Danny Boyle (however we can still blame Madonna for Swept Away.) And there's his use of music. He's rivaled only by Wim Wenders in his use of source music as score. Boyle almost single-handedly turned Underworld's Born Slippy.NUXX into a britpop anthem. I challenge anyone to find a more exciting use of a song in a film so seamlessly integrated as Born Slippy in the closing sequence of Trainspotting.

Ok, he's a had couple of films he took some crap for (and I'll take some crap for admitting I like). Like, A Life Less Ordinary. screw you - I enjoy it. It's quirky and fun. completely weird. and I dig it. You think you're going in for a romantic comedy starring Ewan McGregor (pre-Star Wars) and Cameron Diaz (pre-There's Something About Mary). what you have to remember though is you're watching a romantic comedy by the guys that did Shallow Grave. It also has a pretty amazing soundtrack.

The Beach - probably one of the most misunderstood movies of the last decade. At the time it wasn't taken seriously because it starred Leonardo DiCaprio, who was just coming off Titanic. and those who went to see it for Dicaprio were confused and disappointed because 'hey - this isn't Jack!' this fella Richard wouldn't keep Kate Winslett from drowning... Now that Dicaprio seems to have gotten some street cred back with The Departed and Blood Diamond, I dare those of you now rolling your eyes to take another look at The Beach. Did I mention the soundtrack? no? pretty fantastic again. and the non-pop music bits of the score were by David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti.

There's also Millions, which no one seemed to notice. It is essentially Shallow Grave with 8 year olds. Obviously not as dark, but thematically very similar. There are some others I won't go into, like Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise or Alien Love Triangle - you're on your with those for now.

But then there's 28 Days Later. Screenplay by Alex Garland (who wrote the book The Beach) and produced by Andrew McDonald. Absent was John Hodge, who wrote the original screenplays Shallow Grave and A Life Less Ordinary, and adapted both The Beach and Trainspotting (brilliantly I might add, as the book Trainspotting was thought to be unfilmable and should have been an utter disaster, like Welsh's The Acid House ended up). I can't say I'm a fan of modern horror movies. "Torture-Porn" does nothing for me (Eli Roth, I'm looking at you). I like the classic stuff of course, and if there's something unique or special about the concept (Shaun of the Dead) I'll give it a shot. This was Danny Boyle and the guy who wrote the novel The Beach doing a zombie movie. I'm in! So maybe the concept isn't particularly original. It owes a lot to Omega Man (and obviously the book I Am Legend), a few of Romero's films, and it's main inspiration - The Day of the Triffids, but there was still something new about their spin on the zombie flick. you didn't see the running zombie too often before, at least I never had. and with the virus element, there was a reality to it you don't find in your average modern horror pic. Hey, there's probably even a political message to be found without much effort...

And finally, the reason for this post, now that I've written about everything except what I meant to - Sunshine. There was no film I was looking forward to more last year. I was excited from the moment I heard about it. Danny Boyle was directing a space epic (he had been attached to Alien 4 early on, but sadly it didn't work out). We have another more or less original Alex Garland script. and a score by Underworld (who also recently worked on the score for Breaking and Entering) and John Murphy (28 Days Later, Lock Stock, Snatch...).

So, just to recap, we have working on this film: 1. one of my favorite directors. 2. one of my favorite authors. 3. one of my favorite bands. How could this possibly not be instantly headed for a spot in my top 5 favorite films of all time? I was there the first show, the first night it played at the Arclight. I was even it the first hour or so. some absolutely amazing imagery. beautiful score. Underworld and John Murphy knocked this one out of the park. then all of a sudden it turns into a cheesy slasher flick for what seems like absolutely no reason. there might even have been a way that could have logically happened. but it didn't. one minute we're watching this glorious hardcore 70's style science fiction pic, in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Tarkovsky's Solaris. and then we slip into something Rob Zombie might've had his way with. and don't get me wrong, I'm not against a well planned genre switch. the first Alien film does that in a way this one could have. It feels very much like an afterthought. like someone was afraid it wasn't interesting enough. It feels like they set out to make an actual SCIENCE fiction film, not a fantasy like Star Wars or Star Trek, but lost their nerve halfway through and chickened out.

So here's my plea to Danny Boyle: PLEASE, give Garland a break. Call up John Hodge (who is currently wasting his time and talent on a seriously lame fantasy series). Get the team that gave us your first 4 movies back together. it's a partnership that works well. and while you're at it see if you can mend that fence with Ewan McGregor over his exclusion from The Beach. Irvine Welsh wrote a fantastic sequel to Trainspotting that is begging for you to get the band back together, so to speak.

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