Monthly Archives: November 2005

Demonically Yours…

Last night I felt really rough. I came home from work at midday, totally worn out after unpacking my belongings at my brand new desk in our brand new building which doesn’t even have an address yet because it’s so new (in fact, it’s so new that the toilets on my floor don’t work and the coffee machine just laughs at you when you ask it for coffee… Bodes well, doesn’t it?).

Anyway, I went to bed at 7.30pm and slept right through to 7.30am this morning. Just call me Rip Van Nelson! Although, actually, don’t, because I just spent £50 changing my name by deed poll and I don’t fancy doing it again.

For the record, in addition to a sore back I now have a cold so stinking that seagulls are circling me, convinced I’m a rubbish tip.* Which made today rather painful: I travelled down to West Croydon to interview an author for SFX, and I sniffed and sneezed all the way there and all the way back. Many apologies, fellow passengers! I hate it when you’re on a train with someone who can’t stop snuffling – once or twice I’ve even handed out hankies to offending nose-dribblers. Today, even with my own hankies, I couldn’t control my nose at all. Thankfully I had an adrenaline rush during the interview itself so didn’t embarrass myself, though it was touch and go for a while!

The author I spoke to was Darren Shan,** who writes bloodthirsty – and thumpingly good – horror novels for kids. He was a top bloke and hopefully he’ll make a good feature, too. He did a signing at WH Smiths which went really well; I got there at the very end to find a queue of adults buying books for their kids’ Christmas pressies and children looking very nervous and awestruck. Darren posed for photos with some of them, pulling a scary face, which probably means that the kids will love the pictures but the parents won’t put them up in their living rooms.

After our chat, Darren signed his latest book, Demon Thief, for me: “To Jayne – thanks for being such a demonically delightful interviewer!” Well, I’ve been called some things in my time…

I’m at home again now, showered, dressing-gowned and never more than two feet away from a tissue. My little rat, Tumble, is looking at me in that “Are you going to get me out for a run or not?” way of hers, but seeing as I always sneeze when I let her out – regardless of having a cold and sneezing anyway – if I got her out tonight, things could get rather cataclysmic. What I need now is a nice hot chocolate drink and a snuggle in front of the TV… and so help me, that’s what I’m going to do. Bye!

* Not really. Those are metaphorical seagulls. I don’t really stink, although my cold does.
** His website is
www.darrenshan.com, if you fancy a look.

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All Hail Narnia!

I’m very tired tonight so I won’t write much – we moved offices today and I buggered up my back, but I won’t sulk about it here (I’ll whinge to my workmates tomorrow, poor sods). However, I just wanted to mention that I saw The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe a few days ago and it was really bloody good.

There were little children sitting by me who got so excited they jumped to their feet and watched the film standing up – how cute is that? Luckily they were small, so the people behind them could still see. They also didn’t go to the toilet for over two hours and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid’s film at the cinema and not been annoyed by sprogs’ bladders – amazing! They must have been truly engrossed.

This film is going to be massive around the world; I’m even thinking it could break global box office records. I feel sorry for King Kong, which will no doubt be a better film but it’s going to be hammered by Narnia’s success.

I’d also like to add that Mr Tumnus, the faun, is adorable. And that I’m rather disturbed by Aslan the lion, because he had Liam Neeson’s voice and I think Liam is gorgeous… so hearing it coming out of a big cat’s mouth was a bit disconcerting.

I’m probably on my own with that one, though.

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Radio Ga-Ga

I was talking to my friend Biddy on the phone earlier and I could hear her fiance banging and clumping in the background, obviously looking for something. Finally she said to him, “What is it?”

Exasperated, he replied: “I just don’t know how you can lose a f**king 4ft broadsword!”

Don’t ask.

It’s been over a week since my last blog, a surefire sign that Total Film has been on deadline. This month wasn’t as bad as last month – although I did have to sacrifice last Saturday to the office, which was annoying – so I can’t really complain.

I was also in a good mood because my friends Anny and Matt drove up from Bath to visit me last Sunday. We had a great day out (to the Natural History Museum – I really have to stop going there so much!) and Matt also informed me that his mum reads my blog. So hello, Mrs Dryell! I’ll keep the swearing down, honest. And just so you know, your son eats jelly very, very slowly… though not as slowly as I do.

I had a mini-adventure the other day. BBC Wales called me at work and asked if I’d like to do a live radio interview with them that afternoon to discuss the new Harry Potter film. Off I trotted to Broadcasting House, home of BBC Radio and one of the most lovely Art Deco buildings in central London. As elegant as it is outside, though, it’s made up of nooks, crannies and converted broom cupboards inside. The studio I had to sit in was so small I couldn’t have swung a gnat in it, let alone a cat!

The guy who showed me to my seat pointed out the microphone I had to speak into, the volume controls for my headphones and the big clock on the wall (I think he was trying to build his part, to be honest, because the clock was fairly obvious). Then he left me to it.

My interviewer was in Wales. I had 15 minutes to kill before the broadcast. I was on my own in a closet-cum-studio with permission to use only a microphone, two volume controls and a clock. There was, however, an impressive array of knobs and dials in front of me on a mixing desk so complicated that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in Mission Control at NASA. I was too chicken to try any of the buttons, but I did discover that if I made a noise, several needles swayed up and down on the dials and a line of red and green lights blinked on and off. So I spent 15 minutes tapping the microphone, watching the needles move and the lights flashing, until finally I thwacked the mike so hard that they all hit “Maximum” and I deafened myself through the headphones.

And then a voice in my ear said, “Are you all right there, Jayne?” and I realised I’d startled somebody in Wales. Oops.

Anyway, the interview went well. Afterwards I had to see myself out of the building because, when I exited the broom cupboard/studio, Broadcasting House was doing a mean impression of the Marie Celeste – the place was so deserted that for a minute I wondered if the red “On Air” light in the room with me had actually been the fire alarm. I was tempted to have a wander but it seemed a bit cheeky; besides, I did an interview for Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour a while ago and had a bit of a tour back then (as I recall, I begged the girl who was showing me around to take me to Jonathan Ross’s studio, but she refused). The only thing I did come across on this visit was a line of vending machines: two operational, three broken. That’s the BBC licence fee at work for you!

Other than deadlines and radio interviews, I don’t seem to have done very much else. I did go to Camden to do some Christmas shopping and, for the first time, wasn’t stopped in the street and offered any “skunk” or “puff” or “dope” or “weed”. I was a little insulted, to tell you the truth, because I must have looked like a goody-two-shoes that day – or, at the very least, like an undercover police officer. So much for my street cred! Not that I do use drugs, of course, but it’s nice to be offered them, y’know? Kind of like when a guy you don’t fancy asks you out. It reminds you you’ve still got “it”. I’ve obviously lost “it”. I want “it” back but I have no idea where I’ve left “it”, so I’d probably have to buy “it” from someone on the street but without “it” they won’t offer me “it”, so frankly I’m screwed. Sigh…

Amusingly, I sat opposite Darius on the train to Camden. He came third in Pop Idol a few years ago and some people hate him. Others just don’t care. All I know is that he was bewilderingly gorgeous and, when he kicked my foot as he climbed off the train, I felt all funny.

Hmmm. Maybe that was why nobody offered me any drugs…

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Secret Squirrel

This is dumb. Earlier today, I laughed so hard that tea came out of my nose. The reason for my mirth?

I went up to a work colleague, slapped him on the back and said, “You’re doing well today, mate.” He looked chuffed and thanked me.

What he didn’t realise was that, when I slapped him, I Sellotaped a picture of a squirrel to his back.

The squirrel was suspended between his shoulderblades for the entire day. Every time I saw him I got the giggles.

Little things amuse small minds, I guess…

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Desperate Lives

This is so sad. I was just flicking channels on TV and came across a show about child prostitution. The reporter had travelled to Romania and was interviewing street kids, asking about them the things they’d done for money, the foreign sex tourists they’d been forced to “service”. It was gut-wrenching to watch.

However, what really moved me was this: to gain their trust, the reporter took some of the children he’d met to the cinema to see Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets. Leaving the building afterwards, one of the kids announced to the camera: “I like Harry Potter.”

“Why?” the reporter asked, smiling.

The little boy looked thoughtful before replying, “Because he’s not afraid.”

Isn’t that heartbreaking?

I think it’s easy to look at something like Harry Potter – or Star Wars, or any huge franchise that’s available around the world – with a purely cynical eye. Yeah, so the publishing houses, film companies or television networks are in it for the money. Yeah, so some of this stuff isn’t as well-made as it could be. Yeah, it’s easy to sit here in the glorious West and think we’re a cut above those poor street kids in Romania who know nothing about what’s “good” popular culture and what’s “bad” popular culture.

Well, we’re not. And sometimes all that matters is that those street kids, and others like them, feel a small glimmer of hope. If Harry can give them that, then I won’t hear a word against JK Rowling, Daniel Radcliffe, Bloomsbury Books or Warner Brothers: in a strange way, they’re performing a desperately needed service. They’re bringing some light into the world.

For me, I love Harry Potter because it’s fun and it’s sassy and it makes me happy. For that boy I saw on TV earlier, Harry represented somebody he could identify with, someone he could aspire to be: a kid taken from a horrible life who becomes a hero.

Let’s hope that kid gets there himself some day.

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Here Be Dragons (And Dinosaurs)

I’m suppressing an urge to jump up and down on my sofa and yell “Whoopee!”, kind of like Tom Cruise on Oprah a few months back when he declared his love for Katie Holmes. The reason? At lunchtime on Friday I was treated to an exclusive, extra-early preview of King Kong: 20 minutes of footage, much of it unfinished, of Kong fighting not one, not two, but three T-Rexes. The clip was introduced by Andy Serkis (Kong himself) and the 30-odd people in the screening room were the first people in the UK to see it.

I think it’s safe to say that the footage went down well.

We all know Peter Jackson can make a good movie – hell, I’ve been a fan of his since the early ’90s and his gore-fest Brain Dead – but Kong is a surprisingly hard sell. Many people just aren’t interested in the story of a giant ape, especially because they all know what happens at the end. Other are wary of the film’s Kong-sized budget – audiences have learned from experience that big doesn’t necessarily mean better. However, judging from this footage, fear not! This film will rock. It looks astonishing. Jackson has aped (pardon the pun) Spielberg’s sure-handed skill at setting up an action sequence (remember the rippling glass of water in Jurassic Park?) but he’s added his own touches; a quirky sense of humour, moments of ickiness, a sensibility that’s pure New Zealand cheese. It works magnificently. Kong himself is amazing: a monster, true, but one we’ll no doubt learn to love. He’s so gorilla-like you’ll be expecting to spot Sigourney Weaver sitting in a misty corner, studying him with a notebook. By the time Kong falls from grace, bi-plane splinters in his grubby hands, I prophesise that there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

So the King Kong footage was brilliant. I went back to work and totally failed to concentrate all afternoon, visions of dinosaurs and jungles dancing in my eyes. Then at 6pm I was in Leicester Square for the press screening of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, so excited I think I must have popped to the toilet 20 times before the film started (not much fun when the Empire cinema’s water pressure had dwindled away to a mere trickle). Thankfully I’d managed to get hold of three spare tickets for some friends – blood, sweat and tears went into that search, I can tell you – and we were all so excited that I fear we squeaked, giggled and bounced all the way through the screening. Apologies to our neighbours…

And it was great. Really great. Not as good as Azkaban, in my opinion, though I’m biased because that’s my favourite book and I loved Alfonso Cuaron’s style to death. Also, sadly, I can’t say too much else here because all reviews are embargoed for a while. Dammit! I will point out that, while I do prefer Azkaban, there are scenes in Goblet Of Fire that trounce it. Especially the ending. And any scene involving the Weasley twins. I love those guys!

There you are: two films, two thumbs-up. I have a suspicion that Kong will be my favourite film of the year, though it’s hard to tell without seeing the whole thing; I think Serenity is my second favourite, Potter third and Ong-Bak fourth. The South Park sequence in The Aristocrats may be my favourite moment of the year – I have never, ever laughed so much in a cinema. You know when you’re a kid and you laugh so much you start to cry and you get a stitch in your side and you think you’re going to die? That’s how hard I laughed. The Aristocrats will be out on DVD soon… see it.

He he he. I just watched Sky News cover the Potter premiere in Leicester Square. It’s raining buckets and all the fans are soaking wet, but it still looked cool, probably thanks to the giant, fire-breathing dragon in a cage roaring at all the passers-by. Dan Radcliffe was trying to talk to a reporter and had to stop, turn round and say, “Shut up!” to it. Priceless!

The reporter said to him, “You’ve just come top of a survey asking who is the most fanciable teen in the world. How do you cope with things like that?”

Dan replied, “Really? I didn’t know that. Actually, now I know that, I think I will cope much better!”

Hmmm. That doesn’t look funny when it’s written down. Trust me, it was funny when he said it…

Going now.

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Time Is On My Side

When we’re on deadline at Total Film – which, annoyingly enough, seems to be all too often – I always find myself dreaming of the days when we’re not on deadline at Total Film, because on those days I can get home by 7pm and watch some TV and have an early night and that’s just bliss.

Except, in reality, that’s not what I do between deadlines. In reality I go home early one or two nights a week and spend the other nights at press screenings for upcoming films, or grocery shopping, or meeting friends, or just strolling through central London to get some exercise on my way to Waterloo and the train home. Even if I do go home on time, it’s amazing how those few evening hours can fill up. Sometimes I’ll arrive indoors, call a friend, have a chat and then realise that I only have an hour to make something to eat, wash up, clean out my pets and have a shower before bedtime. My weekends, too, fill up.

I can’t complain, though, especially about the press screenings. I’ve already seen two films this week: Mirrormask (haunting but disappointing) and Steamboy (striking but unsuccessful), and tomorrow I’m going to see Doom, which I expect to be rubbish but full of sexy men running around looking sweaty; yeah, I know, so sue me for being shallow. Best of all is Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire on Friday night, although I really should stop wittering on about Potter on this blog because I must sound like a stuck record (or a cracked iPod, to bring that particular simile up to date).

Mornings can fill up, too. On Tuesday I went into work late because I was waiting for one of King Kong‘s FX guys to call me from New Zealand so I could chat about making the big ape. Unfortunately the interview fell through, but even sitting around waiting for the phone to ring was tiring. Although that could have been because I found myself idly watching Mutant X, so it serves me right.

The only place I ever seem to have a lot – nay, acres – of time is on the train to work and back each day. And I like it. I know I should feel robbed of the two hours I spend travelling, knowing I could spend them… oh, I dunno, sleeping or something, but I actually enjoy listening to music, gazing out of the train window, reading my book or Private Eye or even Metro if I’m desperate enough. I study the people around me, overhear their pointless phone conversations, give regular fellow passengers silly nicknames (Shiny-Faced Woman and Brillo-Hair Pug-Lady are my favourites) and generally enjoy the feeling of doing nothing for a while.

Whoever said trains were irritating? Mine are usually on time. I can always find a seat. I see everything from Big Ben to St Paul’s Cathedral to Battersea Power Station to the London Eye as I travel. And as for the Underground… I defy anyone not to feel a rush of excitement when that whoosh! of air exits the tunnel just before the train. “Wake up!” it tells you, and you bloody well do.

Trains, quite simply, RULE.

Though I must concede that I do have a problem with Grunts-Loudly-For-No-Reason Man. Oh well. There’s always one, isn’t there?

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