Logan: Comic Books Characters Transformed By The Movies (BRWC)

Those anticipating Hugh Jackman’s last roll of the dice as Wolverine will have noticed something different about the clawed crusader. Publicity for the film depicts Logan as he’s never been seen on the big screen before. With this fresh visual take on an MCU stalwart about to slash its way into cinemas, now is a good time to look back at other classic comic book characters who got a major makeover, courtesy of those handed the keys to their respective franchises.

Sometimes a visionary director will dictate a new style. Sometimes a new element will be brought in from the printed page, as yet unknown to a casual audience. And every so often sheer lunacy rules the day! Either way, the business of bringing these illustrated icons to life in a movie is one fraught with peril, as the beady eyes of comic book fans prepare to deliver their all-important verdict. Who got it right and who burned in the fires of online forum hell forever…?

Read on…

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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.

Men, Motors & Meltdowns – A MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Feature (The Hollywood News)

mad-max-fury-road-590x366 It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you stick cars and explosions in a movie, men will go and see it. The FAST & FURIOUS franchise has clocked up a ridiculous number of miles at the box office and now another series is about to join the fun, set in the future but resurrected from a seemingly-dormant past.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD takes us back to the dusty, post-apocalyptic world of Max Rockatansky, a man as burned by tragedy as by the relentless Outback sun. Originally played by Mel Gibson, this time round rising Brit Tom Hardy adopts the mantle (and indeed the accent) for a blistering thrill ride of machine-based mayhem that has had even the most genteel critics foaming at the mouth.

Though Charlize Theron provides equal star power as Imperator Furiosa, it’s safe to say this film is largely one for the boys. So with that in mind, THN are taking a less-than-leisurely trip along the highway of man-angst. Hot engines and noisy exhausts are the order of business as we get under the hood of this staple genre that shows no signs of conking out…

DENNIS WEAVER – DUEL (1971)

Dennis-Weaver-DuelOur first choice is a man who starts off as just another traveller on the road, and winds up a hunted animal pursued by a relentless truck which doesn’t take kindly to being overtaken in the heat of the California desert. I mention the truck as a character in the movie because you never find out who’s driving it, making the monstrous vehicle a key player in the tense battle of wits and wheels.

Star Dennis Weaver was familiar as the affable father in bear-based kids TV classic Gentle Ben, so for audiences to see his nerves literally shredding onscreen became an increasingly traumatic experience. Weaver’s David Mann is a salesman who’d have difficulty saying boo to a goose. By the end he’s capable of snapping its beak and pulling eggs out of its butt.

Based on a short story by Richard Matheson, DUEL is best-known as the film that launched the career of a certain Steven Spielberg. Beginning life as a TV movie, it soon gained the momentum to be released in cinemas. Unlike Weaver, Spielberg never needed to look back.

RYAN GOSLING – DRIVE (2011)

RyanGoslingDriveWeaver played an innocent man caught up in a motorized death match not of his making. Ryan Gosling’s character in the next selection, however, lives his life in the driver’s seat of danger and excitement. Working a dual life as a movie stunt driver and ace getaway jockey, his nameless figure is up to his neck in crime and fantasy.

That’s all well and good, until his cool, controlled Eighties-inspired existence is rocked by an entanglement with Carey Mulligan’s working mum Irene. Getting involved with her and her convict husband (Oscar Isaac) leads to the unravelling of The Driver’s knife-edge world. In the second half of the film he’s getting all Travis Bickle’y on the asses of the Jewish mafia as blood spurts and gaskets blow.

Nicolas Winding Refn brought James Sallis’s book to the big screen, establishing himself as a helmer of notoriety. He created a stylish universe where chaos was just around the bend, light years away from the rusty, dusty carnage of the MAD MAX franchise.

TOM HARDY – LOCKE (2013)

VIDEO-Festival-de-Venise-Tom-Hardy-en-pleine-course-contre-la-montre-dans-Locke_reference-1Weaver and Gosling had some extreme experiences, but at least they got to get out and stretch their legs. Concrete expert Ivan Locke spends the duration of his story stuck behind the wheel of his car with only voices for company. Over the course of an hour and a half his life is reduced to roadkill when he learns the woman he had a fling with is giving birth and decides to head for the capital to be with her.

Only trouble is, he’s supposed to be supervising a major construction project and returning to his wife and children. Attempting to negotiate this perilous road over the phone leads to him using the vehicle as a makeshift office for his tortured soul. Everything except the new arrival is demolished by the time he reaches his destination.

Mixing the atmosphere of a road movie with the intimacy of a radio play, writer/director Steven Knight crafted a memorable trip into one man’s embittered pysche. And look who played the central character – rebooted MAD MAX Tom Hardy!

GUY PEARCE – THE ROVER (2014)

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Our penultimate man whose mental tailpipe is a little clogged takes the malnourished, feral shape of Guy Pearce in THE ROVER. Eric lives in an Australian wilderness which plays host to the remnants of society following an economic collapse.  When a gang of thieves steal his car he gives chase. There’s something in the boot that’s precious to him, though quite what isn’t revealed until the closing moments. Whatever it is, he sure is determined to get it.

Of all the entries on this list, Eric is the closest to the character of Max. Obviously he’s from The Land Down Under, but the setting clearly echoes the fuel-famished wastelands Rockatansky patrols. Eric used to be a civilized guy, until a tragic event shaped his life in the maelstrom of the financial crash.

Writer/director David Michôd gave Pearce a human dimension of sorts by making him a father figure to Rey (Robert Pattinson), the wastrel the criminals leave behind. But redemption isn’t marked on Eric’s road map, and before long he’s surrounded by violence yet again.

TOM HARDY – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

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When Michôd was putting THE ROVER together, he probably didn’t suspect a new chapter of his movie’s spiritual ancestor lay ticking over in a layby, just waiting for the chance to screech into view. Thirty years in the offing, this fresh if mucky batch of skull-cracking petrol-incinerating action seemed like it was never going to happen. Yet director George Miller has managed to get his show on the tarmac, with Tom Hardy sweating it out amongst the fumes and foes.

It’s been a hell of a journey for the leather-clad dark knight of the roads so far. Beginning his saga of scorched innocence in 1979, Max saw his family slaughtered by a maniacal, ever-so-slightly camp biker gang. This turned him from law enforcer to revved-up vigilante. Having visited venegance on the murderers, 1980’s THE ROAD WARRIOR found him protecting a ragtag community from the nastier elements of the unforgiving four-wheeled dystopia. 1985’s troubled BEYOND THUNDERDOME had Max look after a group of filthy-faced moppets whilst encountering Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity in the no-holds-barred arena of the title.

FURY ROAD looks to take the brand back to basics, with a generous helping of spectacular old-school stuntwork that’s been knocking the fanbelts off reviewers’ frazzled minds. The plot concerns Rockatansky’s skills being utilized by Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who is fleeing the might of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) in order to save five “brides” who the villain intends to use as breeding stock.

By all accounts the movie is a triumphant comeback for Max after a lengthy period where it appeared he’d never get his engine going again. Judge for yourself – it’s out in cinemas now!

This feature appeared on The Hollywood News.