Mr_Benn_Gladiator_book_coverThe Trailer: Voiceover man begins with ‘some heroes wear many costumes’. The whole trailer is shot through heavy filters, mostly dark and grey just to ensure everyone is clear that this is a Serious Film taking the source material Seriously. As it’s a trailer, we see all the best bits of the film mashed together through hyper-kinetic editing, complete with out of context quotes scattered over them.

We see Mr Benn (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat, hear the Shopkeeper (Jim Broadbent) give a garbled explanation of how this is a role handed down from generation to generation to protect history and fantasy. There’d be flash cuts of fighting as a knight and as gladiator, doing complicated things as a spaceman and casting magic as a wizard, all shot in glorious Grimdark-Serious-O-Vision.

‘Protecting them from who?’ he asks, and the trailer shows the designated Bad Guy (Matt Smith), possibly interspersed with occasional shots of the Official Love Interest (Sienna Miller), cropping up in various times and places. Then the trailer slows to show us the Big Dramatic Scene.

Mr Benn, in a cowboy outfit celebrating something, when a bloodstained fez rolls across the screen and lands against his feet. He picks it up, looks out and sees the Bad Guy wearing a suit and bowler hat.

“You wore a costume and stepped into my world. Didn’t you realise that I could wear one and step into yours too?”

Another blizzard of disconnected images then the screen goes black. Voiceover Guy: ‘This summer, choose your outfit carefully.’ Graphics tell us MR BENN: THE MOVIE is Coming Soon.

Likelihood of director and writer claiming that this was always the intended vision for the character: High
Likelihood of anyone who’s seen the TV series keeping a straight face while watching it: Low
Likelihood of straight-to-streaming sequels with a tiny budget and none of the original cast: High


(The first, and possibly last, of a series of pitches for films that don’t exist)

From an early draft, which ended with a musical number.

From an early draft, which ended with a musical number.

The Pitch: The country’s in the middle of an election campaign, and the Prime Minister discovers that his advisers have got it badly wrong. Despite his refusal to participate, broadcasters are still going to go ahead with a leaders’ debate and he’ll be represented merely by an empty chair if he’s not there. Realising he needs to be there, he now has just 90 minutes to get across a gridlocked London, but can’t use any governmental resources. His quest takes him on a bizarre journey across the capital, discovering new truths about himself and his country. Can he avoid the empty chair, and if he gets there, what will we he say?

The Cast:
Prime Minister: David Tennant
Aide who’s a bit sleazy and doesn’t have much to do in the second half of the film: Matthew Horne
Aide who’s very idealistic and about to quit until she sees the human side of her boss: Romola Garai
Adviser played by someone who we clearly only had on set for a few days because he had better things to do: Steve Coogan
Supposedly edgy street kid who never swears or does anything that dangerous: Some poor sod fresh from the Brit School who’ll look back on this as the highlight of their career
Leader of the Opposition: Christopher Eccleston
Leaders of other ill-defined parties: David Mitchell, Olivia Colman
PM’s party enemy who’s somehow hoping to benefit from all this: Rupert Penry-Jones
Antique expert (archive footage): Arthur Negus
Debate moderator: Keeley Hawes
Overly stressed producer: Pip Torrens
Those annoying cameos you expect in any British movie: Danny Dyer, Meera Syal, at least one member of Girls Aloud, Roger Moore, Ken Livingstone, Anne Widdicombe, Jeremy Paxman’s beard
Pointless cameos just to make sure the fanboys watch it: Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy
Not returning our calls, no matter how desperate we got: Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi

Likelihood of good reviews: Low
Likelihood of anyone abroad understanding 10% of what’s going on: Very low
Likelihood of appearing continually on ITV2 from now until the end of time: High

You know you’ve made it as a blogger (and it only took eight years!) when you write a post about a film, and said film’s director comments on your post. But then, if someone was mistaking me for Michael Bay, I’d probably feel the need to comment too.

Atlanta Nights – the film in question – is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, a noted literary hoax played upon a vanity publisher by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Rachael Saltzman – now to be forever immortalised as ‘did I tell you that a film director commented on my blog once?’ – has bought the films rights to the book and is adapting it with the strapline “The worst book ever written, now the worst movie ever made!” which is an interesting statement of intent, though as I pointed out a while ago, it’s very hard to make an intentionally bad movie. Indeed, one of the things that make really bad movies so perversely entertaining is the earnestness with which they’re made – something that aims high and fails spectacularly is much more interesting than something made to a constant soundtrack of “that’ll do”.

But, as one of the named inspirations for the projects is Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and the trailer video for the project presents Travis Tea, the ‘author’ of Atlanta Nights as a real person, there may be some interesting humour to be drawn from the situation, as well as a warning about some of the unscrupulous sharks of the publishing industry.

Should you have some spare cash and be interested in helping Atlanta Nights find its way onto film, then there is a funding search going on right now in an effort to bring it to the screen. There’s also an interview with Rachael ‘not Michael Bay’ Saltzman here, where she talks about how the project got started.


Here’s some movie news:

Atlanta Nights, by Travis Tea, has been optioned for a film. The book was created in 2004 as part of a sting operation by members of SFWA against the publisher PublishAmerica. After the book was accepted the the hoax revealed, PublishAmerica canceled the contract.

Well, you think, maybe they just got a good book and used it as part of the sting. Nothing wrong with that getting optioned. But there’s more…

Each chapter of the work was written by a different author with no regard for plot, continuity, spelling, or grammar.

I’m hearing that Michael Bay is going to direct it.

(OK, the option is actually for a documentary about what happened, but when do I resist the obvious joke?)

(via Paul McAuley on Twitter)



Just had an idea for a film that would surely be a massive success, merging two things that are very popular in various media: Gladiators vs Zombies. Tattered corpses lurching through the streets of ancient Rome to confront the serried ranks of gladiators who stand waiting for them as the last line of defence before they break through and swarm over the seven hills. With plenty of opportunities for gratuitous violence and entirely artistically necessary scenes set at orgies, how could it possibly fail to be a success?

I’m not sure something like this even needs a script, but Hollywood? Feel free to call me and offer large sums of money for the rights. After all, if this is a success, you’ll need an idea for a sequel.


Veteran writer Troy Kennedy Martin has died. I’m sure the media reports of his death will centre on the fact he wrote The Italian Job, and they’re not to be blamed for that as it is iconic within British film, but for me his most important work will always be Edge Of Darkness.

A few years ago I started making notes for a long blog post about it, but then never got round to writing the post itself, so maybe it’s time to get the DVD from the shelf and watch it again to do just that, especially before the Mel Gibson film version comes out and spoils the memory of it.

Or, would anyone be interested in re-watching it as a blog-facilitated group exercise? It looks like the DVD’s available for about a fiver, and it might be an interesting experiment to watch an episode a week at about the same time and then discuss it afterwards, just like they did in the 80s.

(Original news via Frank on Twitter, who’ll probably have a post up about him later, I’m sure)

UPDATE: Told you Frank’d have a post about him.


Patrick Swayze RIP

Remember him with one of his greatest films: