Capturing The Krays: A Legend Feature (The Hollywood News)

TK 2It’s been a quarter of a century since a film was made about the Kray twins, and now two have come along at once! The main event of course is Legend, showcasing Tom Hardy in a dual role that has earned rave reviews from critics. The gangster pair were admired and abhorred in equal measure. They represented a strand of culture that mixed community values with intimidation and violence.

Some are looking forward to further exposure for Ronnie and Reggie. Others object to the perceived glamourizing of men who were hunted by the police and responsible for bloody carnage across London. Whatever your view, you have to agree they had a permanent effect on the fabric of Britain and this has been reflected onscreen in some surprising ways.

Don your best suit, pack your shooter and prepare for a rain-soaked car journey into the neon heart of the capital for some peeper-peeling glimpses of a team who epitomized fear in the Sixties…

MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS (1970)

MPFCThe first high profile take on the legacy was a sketch in the BBC’s surreal talent launchpad. Oxford men Terry Jones and Michael Palin played Doug and Dinsdale Piranha, vicious relations whose life story bore a passing but bizarre similarity to the Krays’ saga.

Of course their blowing up of Luton airport and Dinsdale hallucinating a massive hedgehog called Spiny Norman strayed a bit far from the source material. But certain characters were clearly inspired by reality, such as Harry “Snapper” Organs, derived from the dogged figure of copper Leonard “Nipper” Read.

The documentary-style presentation further enhanced a sense of sheer lunacy. Though as this list will go on to demonstrate, this wasn’t the last word in the way of far out tributes to the notorious brothers…

THE KRAYS (1990)

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Writer Philip Ridley and director Peter Medak created a memorable depiction of the two Rs at a time when they were in danger of dropping off the national radar. Made at the start of the Nineties and starring a pop star combo from the Eighties, it proved to be an unlikely but evocative production.

Gary and Martin Kemp played the Krays. They didn’t look alike and were best-known for belting out hits with Spandau Ballet. Yet Medak’s gamble paid off and the film launched their acting careers. They were backed by an eclectic cast that included Billie Whitelaw as their Mum Violet, Tom Bell as the unfortunate Jack “The Hat” McVitie and Steven Berkoff as rival George Cornell.

Ridley’s screenplay had an eerie dimension, opening via Violet’s description of a dream, and the stark violence left viewers under no illusion as to the nature of the twins’ hold on London.

WHITECHAPEL (2010)

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ITV’s historically-themed crime drama had an eye-opening trick up its sleeve when it returned for its second series. The first run was concerned with a resurrection of the murders of Jack The Ripper. Where for writers Ben Court and Caroline Ip to go next…?

How about a secret pair of Kray twins continuing where their father left off? Top marks for curveball-throwing! Five years before Tom Hardy‘s ambitious double-header, Craig Parkinson portrayed new characters Jimmy and Johnny.

It turned out to be a hoax, but this still managed to be a truly unusual attempt to mine the brothers’ story for the twenty-first century. As for this incarnation of the fearsome twosome, they wound up getting murdered in custody, so we’re unlikely to see a sequel!

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015)

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Pipping Tom Hardy to the post is this straight-to-DVD thriller from director Zackary Adler. Kevin Leslie and Simon Cotton are Reggie and Ronnie. Former EastEnders star Nicola Stapleton plays Violet.

It’s the first time the pair have been front and centre in a movie since The Krays (though Neil Scholtz and Gareth Simons played them in Malcolm Needs‘ 2004 drama Charlie). A dubious honour, as it’s been criticized for a lack of budget and various period continuity errors.

Still, with the buzz around its megabucks successor, I’m sure releasing it to supermarket shelves everywhere was a canny move on the part of the producers, even if I expect to see it for £3 in the bargain bin within weeks!

LEGEND (2015)

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The genuine article is seen as this bad boy (or boys), that resurrects the brothers via Universal Pictures. Appropriate perhaps, seeing as how the real life twins mixed with movie stars. In addition to Tom Hardy undertaking the mammoth task of conjuring both men, there’s a raft of famous faces and up and comers backing him up.

Emily Browning is Frances Shea, the tragic figure who married Reggie, who forms the film’s focus. Christopher Eccleston is police bloodhound “Nipper” Read, forever on the Krays’ tail. Taron Egerton may be flying into cinemas soon as maniac skier Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, but here he’s Edward “Mad Teddy” Smith, with whom it’s said Ronnie was intimately involved. Chazz Palminteri hasn’t been seen on the silver screen for ages and I’m glad to say he appears as Philly mobster Angelo Bruno.

LA Confidential‘s Brian Helgeland writes and directs, based on the definitive tome The Profession Of Violence by John Pearson. Reaction to the release so far has been largely positive – we at THN loved it, whereas reviewers like Mark Kermode pointed out a lack of overall substance. The publicity team also made the headlines when, in a move their subject mights approve of, a two star rating from The Guardian got positioned between the two Hardy’s heads, cheekily suggesting a star either side!

Either way, Legend is seen as an important contribution to the cinematic world of the Krays. With a Brit lead who couldn’t be hotter if he wore nylon near a volcano, this may be the last word on a dark but compelling time in Britain’s capital city during one of its definitive decades.

This feature appeared on The Hollywood News.

“I wanted to create an axe murderer with the feet of Fred Astaire…” Logan Huffman Interview For ‘Final Girl’ (The Hollywood News)

LH FGFinal Girl heads to DVD this week, following last month’s UK premiere at FrightFest. Directed by photographer Tyler Shields, it’s a noir-inspired horror that provides something different amongst the assorted gorefests competing for fans’ attention. One of its key players is Logan Huffman as axe-happy teen torturer Danny, whose plans for the seemingly-helpless Veronica (Abigail Breslin) take a nasty and unexpectedly surreal turn.

I caught up with him for an intriguing chat about the improvised nature of his role, the way the movie changed as it went along and his thoughts on the genre in general. He also offered up a memory of late director Wes Craven, somewhat appropriate given recent sad news…

The film is kind of unique compared to today’s horror movies. How did you come to be involved?

Well Tyler and I have been buddies for a while and I’ve been shooting with him for a bit. And he just called me up, asked me if I wanted to do it, so I did it. I’ve been studying and training in vaudeville for three years, so I’d been waiting for the right character to do vaudeville work. Danny wasn’t written as anything when I saw the script, so I just kind of went with it. Tyler and I are good buddies, so he just kind of let me say what I wanted to say and do what I wanted to do. I wanted to create an axe murderer with the feet of Fred Astaire, you know?

Your character is the most distinctive in the movie, with the big hair and of course the axe!

I usually have my hair grown out real long. My first scene was the dancing scene, but it wasn’t written as a dancing scene, I was supposed to just be polishing my shoe. But I grew up in a rockabilly family see, so I wore a pompadour my entire childhood. My first car was a ‘56 Mercury. My Dad rolled around in a ‘56 Chevy. My brother had a 29 Model Line pick up truck hot rodded out like John Milner. So I wanted to pay homage to all that jazz, I wanted to create a Looney Tunes character. I walked up to Tyler and I said “Hey man! I wanna put my hair up really, really tall, almost like a rooster. I want this guy to be kind of a metaphor for a big cock!” A big rooster… because, you know, I’m method. Tyler saw me just once, for the entire filming process (in Canada), and when he saw me back in LA I was Logan again.

I started balancing the axe, because I carried Anna Belle with me the whole time. I always make friends with the props department, your props are everything. I grabbed Anna Belle, and I carried her the whole entire time. I got the vibe and tried to balance her with one finger, and then Tyler knew I knew how to swing. So I did a little swing dancing, and Tyler said “Do a little dance for us and walk out.”

I notice you named the axe! Where did that come from?

Just something sweet and pleasant. Being from Indiana I always kind of had the crushes on the girls with the two names, and I thought Anna Belle was kind of a sweet name. And she just spoke to me, I didn’t really… objects have souls, so I just listened to it. Anna Belle seemed fitting.

I interviewed Tyler earlier in the month, and he mentioned you and the other actors… you kind of appropriated your wardrobe and went out on the streets of Vancouver. What sort of stuff did you guys get up to out there?

We just went to a couple of bars, chased blonde women… I scared a few of ‘em off, but we had a good time, just talked and meddled around, you know? Made good conversation.

I trust you didn’t take the axe out with you…

No, but I carried a switchblade in my pocket. Kidding! (Laughs)

How did Tyler explain some of the stranger aspects to you? The film becomes increasingly hallucinogenic and trippy during the last act when Veronica drugs her attackers…

Well Tyler’s original edit, it was a little… they always want to put in stuff and make it look a little bit more trippy, but his original interpretation was very straightforward and more classical. Me and him we… all the movies I watch are 1962 and back. I enjoy that era and I enjoy that time. So the thing I liked about Tyler’s shooting is there’s a lot of wides, and there’s lots of things quiet, just like how an old film does it. You know how it is, they come in and they change a few things… I can’t wait for the director’s cut to come out at some point, because you don’t find out she’s an assassin until they’re in the woods.

Tyler’s never had a sip of alcohol, or cigarette, or any form of drugs. I think it was more his interpretation mentally, of having an abstract mind. And they had abstract minds these gentlemen, it was about what they truly feared. That was the most fascinating aspect of it. We never focused on the drug, we focused on our deepest fears.

AB FGThe film’s having its UK premiere at FrightFest. Bearing in mind what you were saying about the era of movies you like, were you a fan of horror films coming into the project?

Yeah, when I was a little boy every Christmas I would get a Bela Lugosi or Lon Chaney movie inside my stocking. I’ve always loved horror movies. I like ‘em when there’s a lot of fog and that spooky way about ‘em. Good lighting. So this was really fulfilling for me. I’m going to do another horror movie this month which I’m really excited about, I get to be a cannibal. Yeah I can’t wait to do that man. He’s obsessed with jazz of the Fifties and Sixties, so it’ll be cool.

He won’t be anything like Danny. Wes Craven told me that, when I got my first job… I got fired from that job, because I’m severely dyslexic, I didn’t learn how to read till the age of nine, and he told me ‘all acting is controlled schizophrenia’. So I like to know my characters and then let them go. So I just can’t wait to find this new individual.

This interview appeared on The Hollywood News.

“I dream in Technicolor…” Tyler Shields Interview For ‘Final Girl’ (The Hollywood News)

TSNotorious snapper Tyler Shields has made his directorial debut with horror film Final Girl. It’s safe to say when Shields puts his name to something it isn’t going to be run of the mill, and that’s certainly the case here.

A tense, atmospheric and above all strange tale of revenge, it stars Abigail Breslin as a young assassin charged with wiping out a group of teen psychopaths and Wes Bentley as her grizzled mentor. I got on the Fifties-style phone for a look past the movie’s Americana exterior and into the bloody, beating heart beneath…

The film is arguably quite unusual. What drew you to this story?

Oh Steve, I wouldn’t say it’s arguably unusual, I’d say it’s very unusual! (Laughs) I don’t think anything necessarily drew me to the story. I came up with this world, and the movie came to be very different. Part of my idea is I don’t want to make the same old movie that we’ve seen a bunch of times, nobody wants to do that, nobody wants to be in it. Let me make something unique, let me make something people will say is unusual, and let me do it with no CGI. Let me have this whole world, and create something different and they said ‘Okay’!

FG AB WBThe central relationship is between Abigail Breslin and Wes Bentley. How did you end up casting them and what work did you do together on their characters? They’re supposed to have a twelve year association…

Abigail was the first choice for the movie and once she signed on her and I had a conversation about it, and we both had Wes Bentley as our idea. She was a big fan of his and he’s someone who I wanted to work with, and so we reached out to Wes and he said ‘I’d love to do it. I love the idea, love doing something different…’ So he signed on. He was doing another movie at the time… I want to say he was coming from that Terrence Malick movie, the name escapes me (Knight Of Cups)… he finished that movie two or three days before, then came straight to this, so we had to get them together quickly. The first thing we shot with them was her shaving his head… in real life. So that was their first bonding experience!

What led to you taking the very stylized, almost theatrical approach to the material? I’m thinking particularly in terms of the lighting…

The lighting is something that is translated from my photography, and the idea with that was I wanted to use it as almost a character. The lighting creates this tone for you, so a certain character is onscreen, they’re lit a certain way, and it gives you a certain feeling and I wanted to try to carry that for the whole film.

FGAnd what was your thinking behind the more distinctive imagery? The powder scene for example (Breslin’s character dreams that she and Bentley are hit with a red dust)…

These are all… a lot of this movie is about how your mind works. What you’re afraid of, what you might dream, what might happen if you’re tapped into your deep subconscious. That to me is an interesting dream, a lot of people dream in only black and white but I dream in Technicolor. So I would have these vivid dreams where there would be these colour explosions, and that’s part of your mind opening in a different way. I wanted to include that in the film, so when she’s having this really intense moment within her own mind, this explosion hits. That’s why we put that in there.

You mentioned Wes Bentley’s head actually being shaved, which was quite spontaneous I imagine! Did much improvisation happen during the shoot?

Oh yes! Every day we did at least one hour of improv’ing. I would encourage the boys and Wes and Abigail to create little things here and there for their characters. We would just add things as we went, and that was part of the fun.

How did you assemble that cast of young men? Did you audition them together, was it a gradual process, or…?

Logan Huffman I had worked with a bunch. Alexander Ludwig I had shot when he was sixteen, so I knew I wanted those two. Then I had two of my other friends who were supposed to do the movie, but they were both on TV shows and the shows wouldn’t let them out. So we had to recast their parts a week before shooting.

You wouldn’t know it was a last minute thing, as they all complement each other quite well…

Yeah, and one of the things is, as soon as we cast Cameron Bright and Reece Thompson, and we got all the boys together, they took their wardrobe – they stole their wardrobe! – from set and started going out in character, in costume on the streets of Vancouver. What was really great was that by the time we were done shooting the movie, if somebody was done shooting and it was their day off they would still come to set. Logan had wrapped but everyone just loved having him on set, so he kept coming. And then the same thing with Reese and the same thing with Cameron. Everyone wanted to be there, it was this great environment.

LH FGDid any other movies inspire you when you were putting the project together?

You know, there isn’t a movie where I was like ‘Let’s make it look like this movie’, but there’s certain movies throughout history where you look at them and they have such a distinct visual style. Tony Scott… you can watch a Tony Scott movie and you think ‘Oh this is Tony Scott!’ That was kind of the idea for this. Not to copy these things, but to basically make a colour version of a Thirties or Forties noir movie.

It’s your first film. What would you say you learned from the experience?

Obviously you learn a lot. You learn when you do anything. I think one of the things for me was the improv stuff that we did worked really well. I would continue that, because we used a lot of it in the movie. One of the most important things is creating that environment on set, because people were really happy and really comfortable, and they all wanted to be there. If we didn’t do that I think it would have been a big failure.

This interview appeared on The Hollywood News. Final Girl is out now on DVD.

Pitch Perfect 2 Blu-Ray Review (The Hollywood News)

PP2 1Pitch Perfect put the cheesy charm of the a cappella movement on the movie map, so naturally a sequel is going to give its audience more of the same, only bigger and better. That’s all you really need to know about Pitch Perfect 2, hitting screens courtesy of cast member-turned-director Elizabeth Banks. The first film saw Anna Kendrick‘s outsider/mash-up maestro find acceptance in the Barden Bellas before giving their beloved genre a good kick in the ass. Her character Beca formed the centre of a classic rite of passage tale, showcasing winning support turns from Rebel Wilson and Anna Camp.

With the tonsil-busting team established and all that angst out the way, Banks and screenwriter Kay Cannon can only tread water, returning us to the much-loved characters but this time without a lot of point outside of the impressive vocal gymnastics. There isn’t so much a story as a collection of bits and pieces, all of which manage to add up to a reasonably satisfying whole.

The script is basically concerned with how the Bellas get their groove back, after a catastrophic incident whereby Fat Amy (Wilson) gives President Obama an eyeful after the ultimate wardrobe malfunction at a prestigious performance. After that strong start the action roams around for the best part of two hours, taking in a raft of comedy goodness, from a romantic subplot between Amy and Bumper (Adam DeVine) to a Christmas album recording for Snoop Dogg. Halfway in the plot begins to go somewhere, as Beca faces the prospect of a juicy record company career away from campus and the spectre of the World A Cappella tournament looms large.

The tournament involves locking horns with Das Sound Machine, a terrifying German outfit of PVC-clad aca-warriors led by Borgen‘s Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. DSM are funny, but transplanted straight out of a cartoon, and they’re less then politically correct. These militaristic music-mongers feature in the movie’s most amusing sequences, such as the “riff off” at the home of eccentric enthusiast David Cross. This set piece displays all the energy and creative edge we came to associate with part one – in fact it’s better than the final showdown, which lacks danger and is followed by a somewhat abrupt ending.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Emily, a major new addition to the cast. She’s pleasant enough, but I’m not sure what she really brings to the table in a movie overflowing with characters in the first place. Kendrick is as likeable as ever, and Wilson wisely gets to do more this time round. Camp shows up in a smaller role, with Aubrey now running a country retreat used by the group later in the film. If anything Banks and Cannon ration the performers quite effectively. Skylar Astin returns as Jesse, but is scaled down in favour of Ben Platt‘s Benji, who romances Steinfeld. Not everyone is well-served –  I found it hard to see why Chrissie Fit‘s offbeat dialogue was supposed to be funny (she comes out with far better material in the outtakes) and she’s doing the same joke as Hana Mae Lee‘s Lilly anyway. Banks herself has some choice moments in the company of sparring partner John Michael Higgins.

Universal haven’t skimped on the extras, with the Blu-ray carrying a long list of featurettes, bonus musical content, deleted scenes and a commentary. If you’re not all aca-ed-out by the end of the feature you can dive into various toe-tapping treats.

Pitch Perfect 3 is on the horizon, and it’s tough to see where the Bellas could go next. Saying that, the second instalment similarly had nowhere to go and went alright. Banks has succeeded in making an entertaining follow up, her directorial debut showing the kind of warmth, sass and sheer sense of joy that set its predecessor apart from the crowd. It’s far from perfect, but its pitch is in the right place.

This review appeared on The Hollywood News.