Monday, 31 December 2007

The final blog of 2007...dun-dun-duuuuun...

The first of 2008 still to come, nyah!

So being that it's New Year's Eve, I figured I'd blog up some blog juice for the day, but don't have that much to say...except I've started reading "Roadside Picnic", not sure if I've already said, but regardless I'm getting into it now and it's a good read.

I also just got the "Spider-Man 3" DVD and it's got one of those bloody cardboard sleeves!!! ARGH!!! But what's more, the cardboard sleeve is on the outside of the normal plastic box which is sealed in plastic wrap...so indeed, the normal plastic case is sealed in plastic wrap - on top of which is a cardboard sleeve.

What the fudge is up with that?

It's been a pretty good year, aside from the twice-sprained/twisted ankle and putting my back out for several months and the allergic reaction, but no it has been a good year. The progression into "the industry" continues on the up-and-up, so here's hoping 2008 will continue as such - but even more.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

The "making of" a rant...

I recently nabbed myself a copy of "28 Weeks Later" on sale and went over the extra features (which were admittedly not copious) and something sprung to mind for me to rant about, and what may that be?

DVD "making of" documentaries on films such as this, and many others for that fact. Now a good 'making of' will be something along the lines of those you often find on George A. Romero movies, usually for his older films. While retrospectives, they actually provide you with knowledge about how the movie was made and what it was like to be there during the making of it.

For more recent films, "30 Days In Hell" on the excellent 2-disc DVD for "The Devil's Rejects" is utterly superb. Two and a half hours of true making of behind the scenes footage. In-movie clips are kept to a minimum. Interviews are plentiful, but what's more we actually almost overdose on behind-the-scenes footage, as documented by some lucky bugger who got to hang out and watch an awesome movie get filmed.

"The Devil's Rejects" is a prime example of a quality making of documentary...admittedly it's the sort of movie in the sort of genre with the sort of fans who'd want such an in-depth examination, but two and and half hours or not, it is truly deserving of the name "making of".

This brings me back (about time) to "28 Weeks Later". The 'making of' is actually titled as such, and so you'd expect to really find out about the making of the movie...but like many similar documentaries to cover popular cinema, it's mainly interview footage of people either saying how great everybody else is, or people saying who their characters are, or the filmmakers telling us the story - OF THE FILM WE HAVE JUST FUCKING WATCHED!!!

After all, who watches the extra features before seeing the film? Exactly, nobody but numpties - so why do we need to know the story? We don't. Why do we need to know what everybody's character is like and what they're there for? We don't. What we do need/want to know is how they made the film, what went into the actual making of the film, how did they decimate a field of infected with a helicopter? ... and so on.

True behind-the-scenes footage is kept to a minimum (which must be annoying to the lucky bugger who got to document the making of a kick-ass movie and no doubt worked hard - I know I would have, if I had been in the same shoes). The interview footage is mainly kept to telling us information we already know - all of the 'how & why' we don't know is kept to a minimum.

What is most annoying however, despite the lack of true 'making of' information, is the sheer volume of in-movie clips (in 28WL's case, annoyingly sliced up to look 'funkier' that just a normal clip). Fuck off, I want off-camera moments, people falling over and laughing, I want alternate takes from behind-the-camera-people-behind-the-camera. I want a tour of the locations as they're prepped, I want to feel as if I was there for the filmmaking process - that is a 'making of'.

I've seen countless 'making of' docs such as these on many different films. They're near-pointless (and sometimes completely pointless) and go against their description, their purpose. Once again I come back to the excellent long-feature-length effort on "The Devil's Rejects" double disc DVD. A superb piece of filmmaking documentation. It doesn't have to be that long all the time, but at least we were afforded useful and interesting insights - both from interview-given information, but from seeing ... vicariously through the eye of the on-set flaneur.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The soundtrack to script writing...

This was originally a reply to one of Danny's comments on a previous blog post of mine, but I wrote so much I decided to make it into its own thing.

There's not really much music that gets me going on this script, but there are certain tracks that fit certain scenes.

Such as "You Look So Fine" by Garbage, or on a script I wrote in 2006 I listened to certain tracks by M83 that would fit certain scenes to inspire me in writing them. There was also "Adagio for Strings" (from "Platoon"), that inspired me in that script from last year (a practice script really) in which there was a paint balling sequence.

Also on that script from 2006 I found that "Can't Even Tell" by Soul Asylum (end credits of "Clerks") inspired me, which also does a little on this script...but not much.

I just generally listen to my music in general to get a vibe going. What helps me most of all is getting into a routine, because it keeps me plugging away at it, but it also gets me into the necessary mindset.

Recently when fiddling around with "IAZM3" prep, I was listening to the "Day of the Dead" soundtrack to get me going...and with that there were certain tracks that fitted certain scenes. The "Rocky" best-of soundtrack was also a big inspiration for writing "IAZM3"...so I guess that script had more in the way of a soundtrack-to-the-writing, certainly more-so than this current feature script I'm doing.

...

As an aside, I've just had the shittiest wake-up call ever - massive indigestion/heart burn. Seriously, I felt like John Hurt in "Alien" just before he explodes all over the dinner table...absolute agony would be a good description. But after a good half hour of sitting/standing up (whilst wincing an awful lot), sipping milk and then taking a chewable Gaviscon I'm sitting pretty again.

...

I should have the Richard Hammond book finished today, it's been a bloody good read, just a mere 60 pages left. Also, "The A-Team" is still awesome as I progress into Season 4 with gusto, and "PGR4" is proper good fun.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Merry December the 27th people...

Hope you lot had a groovy Christmas, mine was a good one, got a good haul and have been taking pictures like there's no tomorrow with my new digital photo camera. I've also been getting stuck into some A-Team: Season 4 as well as Richard Hammonds book "On The Edge", which is absolutely bloody brilliant and I'm steaming my way through it. A superb read, especially for "Top Gear" fans such as myself.

Anyway, I'm taking a well deserved rest from the comedy feature script at the moment being that it's Xmas and all, but I'll soon be back to it to fine tune the second act before heading onto the third act - after which, one of two horror scripts I have in mind.

I've also done the dialogue recording/editing for "IAZM3", although I might want to re-record one character's lines again.

Anyway, just stopping by to throw some blog in your faces, boshty.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The muse continues to work her magic...

As previously blogged about, I've been going great guns on my feature comedy script I'm currently hammering keys on. Last night I completed the second act, and now stand at 77 pages.

I will go over the second act again, maybe twice, and polish it up - at which point I'll print off a hard copy and then continue into the third act and hopefully get it completed in the not-too-distant-near-future.

But I think, having had a good run of it, that it's time I took a short break from writing and fiddled around with more "IAZM3" prep (filming of it has been pushed back for now, hopefully not for long, but just because there's not the time at the moment - but hopefully sometime very soon). So aye, onwards to editing those dialogue clips methinks...a sizable chore considering I have to find the perfect take (or assembly of takes) within several minutes for each chunk of dialogue, and then filter it all to create Zombie Man's sardonic drawl...still, once that's done I'll have another dose of that wonderful drug called "sense of achievement".

Breaking the habit of a lifetime (minus 5 years)...

As mentioned in a previous blog, I recently went to the doc's for the first time in (a correction here) 18 years. Indeed, I was a bit on the anxious side and sitting in the waiting room I looked thoroughly out-of-place amidst my elders. To be honest, what with all the chaos and bureaurocracy surrounding the NHS here in the UK (a huge issue completely skipped over by Michael Moore who insisted on painting the NHS as glory-in-a-can...it's better than the American's have, but we've had it better in the past - much better - and that's the problem), I was expecting a hassle.

Fortunately it was all rather quick & easy, even had my blood pressure taken - which was fine by the way (so I can be proud of that fact). Of course, that and asking "do you smoke" appear to be government-set targets, ticking & dealing if you will. Get some statistics out, it's what this government love after all...sheesh.

Anyway, my doc - whom I was meeting for the first time - was a nice chap, so even though a trainee doc was there as well, it helped allay my own anxiety about being in a building full of sick people, and what my obsessive-compulsive side would consider to be a building covered in germs and airborne snot of all types. So yes, a quick in-and-out and some pills to hopefully get shot of an allergic reaction I gained a while ago from a pair of jeans - is it just me, or any dye that could cause trouble for the sensitive-of-skinned, be gotten rid of in favour of a less cheap-ass substitute.

I mean, this dye must have been cheap-as-chips, because never before have I ever had a problem with wearing brand new clothes without washing them first. It's odd really, the effects of that dye I mean, the doc described it as coming 'from within'...I started thinking about "Alien" and "Shivers" and other such films ... perhaps I'll work it into a script at some point.

As for the NHS, I still maintain - it's the current system that's the problem and not the men & women on the front line. Although I will point out that my local NHS facility had a significant chunk of it paid for by private fund raising, rather than coming from Darth Bastard Gordon Brown's footloose-and-fancy-free idea of public spending. It's not about how much you spend, but what worth you get from what you do spend - YOU GIGANTIC FUCKING PRAT!

*sigh*

Anyway - Labour hatred aside - strong recognition should go out to those who fought hard to raise the cash to help bring Ross Vegas its own proper medical facility, something we're lucky to have - and wouldn't have - if it wasn't for said fund raising that helped bring it to fruition.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Doin' well...prefaced by angry swearing...

First of all, let's let out some aggro, *ahem*:

Fuck Gordon Brown, fuck the Labour Party and fucking the EU Treaty. That sniveling rat bastard bully-boy self-aggrandising shit-bag sold us up the swanny after outright promising an EU referendum, one of many promises he and his piece-of-shit 'government' did a 180 on. Fuck them all.

*ahem*

Normal service has resumed, and onto a cheerier note.

I've chuntered out the raw dialogue recordings for "IAZM3", and have certainly made good inroads on the second act of my comedy feature script. It currently stands at 51 pages of a projected 100 (who knows what it'll end up being, considering a practice script I wrote in 2006 clocked in at 5 drafts and 140-odd pages). Anyway, progress there is good and that in itself is good.

What's also good is that "Aliens: Definitive Edition" on DVD arrived just now, so I can enjoy my day by pouring over that.

Penultimately, I broke the habit of a lifetime (or somewhere around 17 years) and made an appointment to go see the Doc next week. Nothing to worry about, but a nuisance nonetheless. Being of sensitive skin I recently acquired an allergy caused by a textile dye...so hopefully he can prescribe a magic pill that'll get shot of it for good...but needless to say, after a 17 year absence from the Doc's room, there's a hint of apprehension. The only times I've been inside a hospital in the intervening years was either to get an arm poked at by someone who said "it's only sprained, have some tubigrip" or to visit someone.

Anyway, that's something not to look forward to, but then again who does look forward to going to the doctor's? I'll probably catch a cold or flu or bird-flu, or rabies or some soul-melting-super-virus or...*thinks of puppies playing*

On a new lighter note, I was helping out my mate Ben ("Trapped"/"IAZM2"/"VHS") yesterday to film a couple of physics-related videos for YouTube. One was about siphoning, which is simple enough to film but surprisingly tricky to explain quickly. The main one however was regarding non-fiction friction (in which I cameo, lol).

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yPUaroviuow&feature=user

Have a gander and enjoy.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The new (now old) flesh...

Admittedly there has been a nigh-on two week lull since I said I had recaptured the muse (regarding my feature comedy script)...although that time has been filled with a couple of filming/editing gigs as well as various bits of IAZM3 prep so it's not all bad. However to celebrate my return to said script, and now onto the second act no less (I'd previously found myself going over the first act again and again to get the tone and vibe right intentionally for the benefit of the rest of the script), I will regail you all with a tale from my formative years regarding VHS culture...something dear to my heart.

Now as great as DVD is - admittedly my ambivalence/anger towards the format after its release was really towards the people who were ditching VHS in a heartbeat and dissing it in the process (this leaded to a short film I made called "VHS") - VHS just has something extra, that I feel has been lost in the oft-promoted clarity of Digital Versatile Discs.

From a very young age I was using a VCR to record films (which I obsessively watched repeatedly with a spell-bound fascination), and so VHS tapes were part of my life from very early on. Around about the time I was crossing into the teenage threshold I had started to purchase official VHS tapes (my first was "Critters 2", closely followed by my then New Year's Resolution (to acquire) "Terminator 2").

At this time I was also heavily getting into the horror genre, something which grasped my imagination and never let go - the genre that has ultimately brought me to the chosen career path of filmmaking. This time was also important because the British Board of Film Classification changed leadership in 1999, which resulted in a sequel of sorts to the 1980s 'Video Nasties' era. Previously banned horror movies and other 'nasties' came pouring into the UK, many completely uncut (others which were not, now are).

This meant that these films were new to the video rental shop in town, and at this time I was a keen VHS renter (well, technically it was my parents). Either first-hand through the video rental shop, or via the second generation dubs from school friends (which I then made my third generation copies for further viewing), I was gradually experiencing the horrors & violence of two decades of cinema all within a couple of years. A baptism of fire if you will.

Where does the VHS culture really fit into this memory lane session? Well, as I'd said, I was watching these newly unleashed horrors - such as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (banned for 25 years in the UK) on VHS tapes - more specifically second or third generation dubs. Finally being allowed to see such films (with an edge of taboo-breaking within my household) was a key experience in my formative years. There was something illicit about it all, these taboo films spooling through my VCR...the sound was degraded, the picture was gritty and rough...and it was all encased within this black plastic case - an item rendered so brilliantly sinister in David Cronenberg's "Videodrome" (methinks "DVDrome" just wouldn't work).

The VHS tape became a symbol of my formative years, of my ascension into my teenage years. A symbol of self-discovery (ultimately guiding my career choice). While I am gradually more accepting of DVD discs as a tangible item, VHS tapes just feel like a movie to me. There's something to grab hold of (rather than delicately transfer from disc drawer to disc case).

A film on a VHS tape was just that - the film - the primary, powerful focus of all your attention. There's something mini-monolithic to the appearance of a VHS tape, and a VCR itself. There is an essence of simplistic brutality there, rather than the high-browed, slim-line elegance and diet-thin presence of DVDs. Videotapes had no special features, no commentaries, no menus, no deleted scenes, no unfunny gag reels - and no fucking warning screens you can't skip through.

I feel that with DVD, the film is no longer the prime focus. I mean, yes it's what is selling the package, but - and I myself am one such person now - you find people disappointed, rabidly so, by 'vanilla' DVD releases. You feel cheated, you expect a myriad of information to drown the main feature itself. You expect multiple discs and fancier packaging (although same-artwork cardboard sleeves can fuck right off). DVDs have pitch-perfect audio, they have clean and crisp images that never falter, never warp and degrade or bleed.

Of course, a clean picture that retains its quality is superb, but with that superiority comes a lack of soul. I will point out that one problem with the picture quality of VHS tapes was the abominable Pan & Scan, which zoomed in on images (dreadfully so from 2.35:1 original ratios) and thus degraded the quality (as well as chopped the image maliciously). With videotapes there was a hint of danger, a hint of a transitory mystique - you got a sense that the more you watched this tape, the closer it approached it's final play...perhaps a home-bound version of film prints, one might say.

This image degradation of course, was one of the driving forces of the inherent power of such films as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". It made them scarier, more taboo ... but watching the same film on a digitally remastered DVD with a host of special features that answer every possible question you once had, removes some of the scares...the taboo is gone, it becomes acceptable. There's a soul that videotapes had that DVDs do not possess...a sense of character, a sense that everything didn't have to be perfect and intensely pin-sharp.

My exploration of the horror genre, and the effect it had on me, has just as much to do with the videotape as it does with the films themselves. If I was at the same stage, but 10 years on (by which I mean the present day) and viewing these films on DVD, a large chunk of the power would be lost...the rich texture of the culture which surrounded that time in my life (thanks to the videotape) would be absent.

While I'm a big fan of DVDs (my own collection totals well over 300, including all the films that made such a splash with me during my formative years), the VHS tape will always hold a special place in my heart ... perhaps it's odd to get so deep over a media format, but unless you shared this experience...you just don't get it.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Bus-surfing to nowhere else but Oxford...

Why the title? All in due course, but here I am to blog up my December 8th 2007. A return to "Contempt of Conscience", this time to cover a double screening/fund raiser in Oxford.

After about 5-and-a-bit hours of kip I dragged my carcass out of bed and immediately went for the Pro Plus - not being a tea or coffee drinker, this is my caffeine hit for such days. Downstairs and the first hit of Special K for the day, no not the drug as dealt in that text-only game we all used to play during the Sixth Form about drug dealing, but the cereal of course. A stint of random TV later and I was picked up at 8am to head off to Oxford.

It was a day for at least one first - my first time using Park & Ride - and only the second time I've been on a bus since before I graduated in 2005. This of course meant I could re-apply my 'bus surfing' skills (while have a memory lane session). What is bus surfing? Standing on a moving bus, to really stay upright and not crash into people (helpful when you've got a fairly weighty tripod over one shoulder and a shedload of camera gear over the other) you have to anticipate the motions of the bus and counteract them with your legs, thus keeping you steady, level and upright.

Mind you, when surrounded by people it is wise to hold onto a pole...but if you find yourself alone on a bus, by all means have some fun and literally surf the bus' movements...something I did on the way back from the Hereford Art College during a taster week there when I was 15.

We ended up getting there early, so sought shelter from the rain and wind - at first in the entranceway to some really famous library I've never heard of - in a book store's coffee shop, and this is where I thought to myself "this could be nowhere but Oxford". It's Saturday and it's early, we've already seen one student-sort wearing the local colours on his scarf (which was tucked into a fairly swish overcoat) and here we are in a book store filled with coffee drinkers waxing lyrical about poncy subjects.

It's at times like these I would leap into a loud discussion about the merits of the demise of Captain Rhodes from "Day of the Dead" just to ruffle some feathers, if I wasn't so British.

Anyway, a shot of Coke (the beverage!) and an Oxford-poncy 'gluten free, organic' brownie later and we gathered in the now-unlocked music hall where the event was happening. Now, not being clued-up on city universities (I went to UEA, a campus university), I think this music hall was part of the university...and I overhead, I think, that the building is famed for it's acoustics in the main hall...although again, all news to me.

We set up the gear for the screening in the main hall - which had a ludicrously slippery wood floor - and soon had the first of two screenings of the most recent version of "Contempt of Conscience". Afterwards it was time for some new interviews/pieces to camera from some of the Peace Tax Seven members who were in attendance...then another screening. After the second screening (and 2 of 3 Special K energy bars later) it was time for more pieces to camera/interviews...oh and I forgot, after each screening there was a Q&A.

By the end of the day I'd shot around 100 minutes, all for a segment which will probably clock in somewhere up to five minutes (although I've suggested the Q&A could make a DVD extra feature). Early evening and it was time to go, while the event was still continuing into the evening with the fund raiser-proper, myself and Joe (the director) had to get back to Hereford.

So after twelve hours since leaving in the morning, I was back and digging into a Curry (that happened to be Weight Watchers) ... and it was fucking disgusting. 'Meh' chicken, horrid 'sauce' with a rank taste...thank heaven's for the Naan breads! Then some Omid Djlili...or however you spell it...and then bed a while later after turning in a respectable 18 hour day...then I had a slothful 12 hour kip! ... Hey, I'm the sort who really needs their kip, I was catching up from the day before...bah, screw the naysayers, ha!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Pan & Scan my arse...

The other day I decided to re-watch "Die Hard 3" for the umpteenth time, but I still only have my original copy on VHS that I bought years ago (it's really hard to find the full cut on a decent package DVD, the search continues)...and it got me thinking again about the horror that was Pan & Scan.

For some reason back in the day some moron thought - hey, let's pander to idiots who don't understand that a widescreen film will leave black bars on their square televisions, so let's horribly molest the original image by chopping off vast quantities of the edges and zoom in so the image quality is grainy.

No wonder the "amazing picture" sales line of DVD was so easy to pimp, of course they looked loads better, because VHS tapes were being fucked over essentially, by having inferior copies of films transferred onto them which made them grainy and make the cinematography look like it was done by a drunk monkey.

Now, zooming in from a 1.85:1 image isn't intensely atrocious - well, some of the time anyway - but zooming in from 2.35:1 (which I assume is what "Die Hard 3" was, but haven't bothered checking) is just insanity. A myriad of scenes go by with additional camera pans that never existed before. Towards the end when our protagonists are strapped to a bomb, they literally have a conversation between the backs of their necks for a really long time, it's beyond retardation of the highest order...and maddening to me now.

I didn't notice such things as much, or at all even, when I was a kid or in my early teens...I'd often see films for the first time on video - so the images were zoomed in on already, but now when I re-watch one of my videotapes it just pains me to see the molestation that Pan & Scan caused - who on earth thought it was a good idea?!

Hey, instead of pandering to idiots - just fucking tell them what's up, and that with Pan & Scan they actually ARE losing parts of the image, which is what they thought they were losing with widescreen films on square televisions...you know, it's that kind of pandering that will doom mankind back to the oceans.

And this brings me on to what I call 'nu-pan-and-scan'. With the standard aspect ratio now being 16x9/1.85:1, the old standard of 4:3 poses a problem. While I don't mind stretching the full 4:3 image to fill a 16x9 display (you easily get used to it), I do mind a 4:3 film being butchered to now appear in 16x9 when it was never filmed in such an aspect ratio. I can't think of an example of the top of my head right now, admittedly, but I have seen it happen...not to the high-regarded classics like "The Maltese Falcon" (and rightly so), but to 'lesser' films/genres it has - and it's just further retardation. Either put up with black bars on the edges of your screen, or just widen the image out, it's really not bad - and you're not losing any image, importantly.

This does ultimately bring me on to the general public not understanding aspect ratios, it really isn't a hard thing to understand, at least the main thrust of it anyway. I remember at uni on many occasions coming down to find my house-mates watching a 4:3 broadcast on 16x9 zoom mode and baulked at how they didn't notice the difference whatsoever prior to me correcting their mistake.

But I must force myself to end this rant here...and discuss one of the very positive sides of VHS culture that was very important in my teenage years, something which is sadly no longer the case - at least nowhere near as much as in my day. But that will follow in another post.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Great Malvern Christmas Lantern Parade 2007...

Following on from an earlier blog, and with several days in between to reflect more realistically, the sense of post-filming blues vanished by the morning after (as I've already said). That day I uploaded the footage, and save for a few audio problems in the first few minutes (didn't matter as I wasn't using the audio anyway) and a few blown shots (in a swarm of people it's sometimes hard to avoid kid's faces getting in the shot - so said shots have to be ditched) it was actually all good.

Come Sunday, two days after the actually event which was on the Friday, I set about editing the footage into the final 5 minute piece that was required. The actual filming session was a challenge - poor weather, limited different things to film (icons of the evening, if you will) and it being a 'last minute' job that I'd accepted - so it made the editing process tougher than any filmmaker would prefer. However, I was still able to cut together a solid five minutes (obviously, there's things you'd change or would have liked to do better, but that's the power of hindsight...something which doesn't take into account the 'then & there' of the situation).

Anyway, afterwards I decided to punch up the visuals a bit, so I turned to the trusty Magic Bullet - a superb software plug-in you simply must have if you're an editor. Notice in the credits of shows/documentaries where it says "colourist" - that's where Magic Bullet (or similar softwares) come in...a prime example of it's use would be a personal favourite of mine - "Top Gear".

So yes, I used one of my own presets that I'd created, and now all the colours were stronger. The blacks were deeper and the array of multicoloured lights on display now all kicked out a nice shimmer of white diffusion. While DVX100B footage looks great, if you add Magic Bullet to the mix, it looks even better.

Magic Bullet - once you use if, you wonder how on earth you managed without it! If only they made glasses so you could see the world through the eyes of Magic Bullet...ahhhh...one day maybe.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Stuck in the old noggin...

Kind of following on from my thoughts regarding the post-filming blues...I'm not sure if it's just me or others experience a similar vibe, but I often find after a day's filming I can't get the images and experience out of my head. I mean it's lodged in there, burned onto my brain. I hear audio clips, if you will, of the day.

It's odd, but then again I have a tendency to get things stuck in my head - annoyingly so - they get stuck in there so fast they go around in a seemingly never-ending loop, which is why I can't stand it when people whistle jingles from adverts. Not only have I had to put up with seeing the advert a million times, now I've got somebody whistling it to me - and even a mere couple of notes will inject it into my brain and I'm stuck with it for at least several hours...unless I replace it with something else.

I often find this to be the case when I wake up in the middle of the night when nature calls. In that semi-conscious state, my brain is functioning enough that I know what's going on, but I couldn't solve a riddle or something more complex than simple movement - muscle memory functions I've done countless times I mean. It's at this time that all of a sudden, random chunks of songs will come flooding into my head, or snippets of something someone said days ago, or events that happened days ago...like someone hit "random" on my own brain's WinAmp list and is only playing 10 seconds of each item.

So back to the point, I get a day's filming stuck in my head. Even specific moments will be forever etched into my brain and come back to replay in my mind at seemingly completely random times, like somebody up there in brain-land is constantly knocking over my mental file cabinet and random crap just keeps spilling out. It's actually very annoying, because it hinders the ability to decompress from a day's filming. You can't properly assess what footage you've got - and I guess in turn, this leads me personally towards the aforementioned 'post-filming blues' zone. Normally not to great depths, but once in a while - like the other night - for some reason all those swirling crystal clear new memories and snippets just cause such an ever-spiraling mind-clutter that leads to the inevitable harsh come down (to use a drug analogy) where, for a few hours anyway, everything is kinda crappy.

But then, to continue the analogy, you sleep it off and you're right as rain again - ready to do it all over again.

Anyway, just thought I'd have a ramble as I'd neglected to mention this particular aspect in the earlier post.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip...

There's a mere couple of episodes left to run on the series here in the UK, but I couldn't resist the gripping lure of the K&R storyline and had to see the final episodes before they aired here, and might I say they were bloody brilliant. It's a real shame that the show was cancelled, a genuine shame. By the sounds of it one of the main problems with the show's original airing in America was the schedule - gaps that lasted weeks, changing times and so on - something which often means death to a show, and obviously dwindling numbers as nobody knows when it's on or if it's on.

I still maintain that the Americans are absolute idiots when it comes to scheduling their shows - take season 3 of "Lost" for instance. They rush it out before Christmas and show a mere 6 episodes, at which grippingly exciting point they piss off for a break - a THREE MONTH LONG break.

It destroys continuity, it pisses the audience off, and it's just not cricket...to put it in a very English way. But seriously, it's just idiotic and it appears that "Studio 60" suffered typically American scheduling cock ups where 'a week off here, two weeks there, a month over there' is perfectly fine - shock/horror, it fucking isn't whoever you dimwits are that decide such schedules!

Apparently "Studio 60" was highly rated for 'record for later' audiences (and if it's getting shown late on a work night, of course people are going to record it for a more convenient time, another shock/horror but the audience are not slaves to a network's every whim and ultimately wield the most power when it comes down to it - the power to switch off, the power to record and watch later. And of course the power to fast foward through adverts, turn the sound off during them, switch to another channel during them, or heaven's forbid use the time constructively by taking a piss or getting more munchies.

To be honest, 'sponsored by' advertising works a lot better in this day and age where the public mass and increasingly seeking to do their viewing how they want...but still, even sponsoring a show doesn't guarantee somebody will drink your booze or drive your car.

Back to "Studio 60" and while it sagged a bit mid-season (but then again, many shows do, such as "Lost" which routinely does so), the first and last thirds of the season were intriguing, entertaining, enjoyable and in the latter third's case, absolutely gripping - genuinely quality television. The acting is top notch, the dialogue and the scripts are top notch - and yet it was still cancelled.

An absolute travesty when the likes of "Nip/Tuck" - arguably one of the weakest of the current spate of 'quality dramas' (a show which I've watched since the beginning) doesn't even have half the tension, intelligence, quality or interest that "Studio 60" had. "Nip/Tuck", while a nice enough distraction, is generally as shallow as it's profession-of-focus, lunging from one lecherous plot line to another. The protagonists make one retarded decision after another - the fifth season's meth-head storyline makes barely any sense and is nestled in as subtly as a rabid badger in a flopsy-the-bunny sanctuary.

Seriously, the characterisation feels blunt and unwieldy - tabloid-like, or soap-opera-like - meanwhile the absolutely excellent "Dexter" (thankfully renewed for a third season recently) has deep and troubled characters. You can at one point hate someone and then 40 thoughtful minutes later you pity/like/love them instead...such as LaGuerta in season one.

So with "Nip/Tuck" being generally 'meh', why on earth was the intelligence and genuine wit of "Studio 60" cancelled after merely one season?! Was the routine attack at back-stage corporate TV politics too close-to-the-bone? Was it too smart? Or were those in charge of the big red "yes" and "no" buttons just too stupid to get the show. Then again in a world where "Futurama" was cancelled, then anything superb can be cancelled...but then again, at the very least "Futurama" has finally made a return with the first-of-four DVD movies recently.

It's an absolute shame that "Studio 60" was shit-canned. For another solid reason for it's greatness, Matthew Perry had found a character who wasn't Chandler. He had successfully moved on with a new persona who was complex and intriguing. The entire show was filled with such protagonists.

May a thousand angry red-arsed baboons descend on those who made the decision to shaft such a quality slice of television.

The Post-Filming Blues...

Perhaps not as melodramatic as the title suggests, but I just wanted to wax lyrical for a moment regarding what I'd call a very real phenomenon amongst filmmakers. Think of it as the filmmaking specific rendition of 'the artist is never happy with their own work' - and while that sentiment is still true of filmmakers (each case to varying degrees, so it's far from an exact science), I think filmmaking has it's own slightly different addition.

By which I mean the 'come down', if you will, from the act of filmmaking itself. I've discussed this with a few people I've worked with and they themselves testified to the same experience on occasion. Sometimes you can feel elated and really pleased after a day's filming, like you really achieved something and you just know it's going to work - that's usually on a day when everything has gone according to plan.

More often than not though, the opposite feeling occurs when things haven't gone according to plan - but are not exclusive to such a troubled day however.

The reason I'm having this mini-rant about it, is because I got a call (inconveniently when I was still in the shower) and it was a collegue of mine passing on some last minute work in nearby Great Malvern. The task - to film a lantern procession which preceded the Christmas lights being turned on (thankfully note, no sign of "festive lights" in the remit, ha!)

After getting the basics - which was all I ended up acquiring (my whole involvement was last minute, and as seems to be the case with these sort of events the behind-the-scenes appeared to be hectic), I got a post-code (little did I know that it was for the entirety of Great Malvern - and neither did Multi-Map, which pointed me directly to Landsdowne Crescent) and headed off on my way. Now, I haven't been to Great Malvern in over a year at this point, and I didn't drive - in fact it was when I picked up my sexy new DVX100B from H Preston's who are situated there.

Now, my navigational skills are about as keen as that of James "Captain Slow" May from "Top Gear", so I immediately went to Preston's as it was the only place I knew in Great Malvern. This of course, as I later found out, was beyond Church Street - where the parade was happening. After heading into what must have been Little Malvern (seriously, there must be about 100 'Something' Malverns in the same area) at which point I admitted male defeat and asked for directions - at which point not one single bastard would let me exit onto the main road. I felt I was poking out onto the main road and didn't want to get clipped by a truck, and when I tried to reverse I just got a rude horn blare from the idiot behind me who had dicided to drive right up my exhaust and half way into the backseat...at which point swearing was bellowed by me, but who wouldn't?

Eventually I got much nearer Church Street, but thanks to an absolute legend in a High Visibility Jacket, I was pointed in the specific direction I wanted to go - Lansdowne Crescent. Of course, once I got there I found out (after several failed phone calls ... signal troubles or something) that this wasn't supposed to be where I was heading - although no meeting point had been arranged anyway, I might add. So while cursing Multi-Map (which annoyingly refuses to load empty gray areas - which are always where you want to actually look - when zooming in), I saddled up and headed up Church Street to the location of the parade.

I will mention that it was raining, it was cold and it was dark - so it was pretty much November, put simply. I will also mention that true to my generation's occasional failing for being procrastinators, I didn't have a rain cover. But in true A-Team style, I fashioned one to cover the important guts of the DVX100B - which also thankfully is built like a fucking tank. A drippy lens case and eye piece isn't so bad. Of course, if was lens-wiping-a-go-go throughout but eventually you must admit defeat (which came after the whole parade/lights-on-thing had been done). The rain was too obtrusive and I had to halt filming...fortunately I had enough footage for a 5 minute film - which I'm still to edit at this 'day after' stage, at the time of writing.

As if rain wasn't enough, there was a foam machine firing foam snow into the air, so I got doused with that and was forced to retreat into the nearest building - the local Tourist Information - where a very kind woman gave me some paper towels to dry off my gear and myself - before I headed out again for the final shots before retreating to my car.

At this point I'll say I proudly made it back to the car without injuring myself. On my last filming session I'd re-sprained my left ankle, but I didn't slip, twist or fall - which considering the wet surfaces (some covered in foam snow) deserved saluting I say. Of course, the weather wouldn't let me off lightly, so no sooner had I removed my drenched waterproof jacket, than the rain became torrential. So in the mere seconds from closing the boot, to getting inside the car, I was drenched anyway.

I headed homewards, which was better than the journey down - this time I didn't need to read the signs, which was an impossible task on the initial journey. It was dark, it was raining, blaring headlights were in my eyes constantly, and there was always somebody seemingly bearing down on my rear bumper at all times. Although I will say, I was behind - at two different times - the slowest white vans I've ever come across. Evidently 'white van man' was cautious that night.

But back to the initial point about post-filming blues, after the challenge that was that evening's filming, I was tired, damp and obviously grumpy. More to do with the circumstances surrounding the event rather than the event itself - although getting absolutely stuck in a huge crowd, which made for nigh-on-impossible filming at one stage wasn't great either.

So indeed, the post-filming blues struck last night - you just feel crap in general, you reckon the footage is going to suck and not cut together, you doubt your skills and end up non-plussed with almost anything. This happened to me last night, something which hasn't happened in a long time - nor struck as hard.

However, the saving grace of post-filming blues is that the morning after is always so much better. Once you've slept on it, and then actually looked at the footage - everything isn't a disaster anymore. You feel more confident, and you're confident you can get a film out of it after all, so in other words - it's all good once again.

Perhaps a round-about way of getting to the point, but I guess this post was also just to relay a challenging night's filming...now onwards to actually edit the thing, which should hopefully not be clouded by rain, foam snow and road rage, ha!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Super-Double-Big-Score-Agent Grooviness...

Futurama: Bender's Big Score:

Praise be, "Futurama" has returned, albeit in the form of four films over the next 12 months (essentially the animated version of a TV movie, as it didn't have the flashy visuals to match The Simpson's Movie, but instead was more akin to the original show itself - ergo - animated TV movie). But that's not to bitch, far from it, because - just like the show itself - "Benders Big Score" was absolutely hilarious. While at times the gags slow down to make way for the all-important story (not sarcasm, "Family Guy" would do well to take note) but when that can take a back seat, the jokes - which were already flowing steadily - come thick & fast in a veritable deluge.

The plot is similarly entertaining, while the internet spam angle is a bit late-1990s the story is intricately woven and, true to it's sci-fi origins, folds back on itself in a mind-bending manner as the very fabric of the space-time-continuum is fiddled with to head-scratching extents.

I certainly look forward to the following three "Futurama" movies, because if they're anything like "Bender's Big Score" they're going to be leaving us all in stitches.

Superbad:

It's taken me a while to get around to seeing this Apatow-blessed coming-of-dick-joke-laden-age flick, but I was lucky enough to receive the Region 1 DVD damn near two weeks before street date - ahhh bless pre-ordering and early stocking. Anyway, not being the sort to turn a good dick-gag down, I found "Superbad" to be absolutely hilarious...I think Jonah Hill might very well have to be crowned the official dick-joke king after this performance.

I was similarly pleased to see genuine heart amidst the field of dick drawings, the central theme of two male best friends facing the daunting end to High School and the separation that University inevitably brings - something many have, are and will face in their lifetime.

Clearly, anything touched by Apatow (and likewise the superb Seth Rogen) turns to gold, and judging by the preview clip of "Pineapple Express", that too is going to leave many-a-face aching from laugh-jaw. Back to "Superbad", how on earth could you resist a film that includes a "Real Ghostbusters" lunch box filled to the brim with increasingly absurd dick-doodles?

...

Otherwise, I was proud to complete "Splinter Cell: Double Agent" the very morning that "Superbad" dropped on my door mat. Having snuck my way through it for two weeks, I was chuffed to finally complete this game. Initially I was wondering whether the purchase had been wise, as I was struggling with the joypad controls (I'd played the previous three games on the PC), but I stuck with it and was soon zipping around cracking safes and dangling from pipes over the seemingly mandatory 'glass-room-in-a-Sam-Fisher-game-bit'...although I was rather gutted there was a distinct lack of cut-scenes. The previous games were loaded with them between each mission, but in "Double Agent" there was the odd bit here and there...I guess they were trying to go for a more 'Half-life' style where it all unfolds in-game, which I guess is admirable.

Regardless, as a fan of the franchise, it was a welcome entry...even if I was rather late to the party, ha!

...

Finally, following on from recent exclamations I'd reclaimed my muse, I'm slowly following up on the claim...with thanks going to "Superbad". It re-inspired me to get on with my feature comedy script (even though they both have almost nothing in common - but that's not how inspiration works really is it). I went back and added in a few lines to one scene, and now must re-read the first act to get myself back into the mindset of the script, also re-read all my notes and really wrap my head around it all again before I proceed with the second act...but fingers crossed I've regained my muse for real!

Only time will tell...there's no point rushing and coming out with ropey-old-pish at the end.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Viva Ross Vegas...

So I'm not the sort to go 'out on the tiles', it's just not my style. The quantity of people and the whole binge drinking culture just isn't my bag. I've witnessed and experienced enough of it for my fill pretty much, but for the benefit of actually getting the chance to catch up with some long-lost friends from back-in-the-day I simply had to dive in.

I will add that I'm typing this up having literally just got back, the time is currently somewhere past 1-in-the-am ... and while to the letter of the law I would be unfit to operate a vehicle, if some psycho appeared as if from nowhere and held a gun to my head and demanded I drive him to Newport, I'd manage to concoct a Cunning University level scheme to foil him ... mind you, the whole 'gun-to-head' thing isn't exactly likely, least not in Ross Vegas, my home town since I was the tender age of 8 years old.

Anyway, back to the main story. A few days ago I get a phone call from Sully Woo, one of my chums from my high school days - who despite living a few hundred yards away from me, I've not seen since 2005/2006 New Year (life is a strange thing I guess). Anyway, he was arranging a gathering to get some of the old crew back together, chaps I haven't seen in years ... at the very best I've spoken to them online, but haven't met in person in a long while.

So it was a complete and utter 'back-in-the-day fest', but certainly a good one. As I said, I'm sparing with my 'night-on-the-tiles juice', so I think I'm good for quite a while now, but regardless, it was a huge trip down memory lane as we all told stories - either the classics or stuff we'd forgotten about - some stuff I'd not thought of in literally years, up to seven in fact. It's amazing how this sort of stuff can blow your mind, sober or no.

So indeed, Saturday night - 24th November - the gathering began in Weatherspoons ... or is it Wutherspoons? Regardless - "Spoons" as us young sorts call it (although I often felt fairly old throughout the evening when I started considering how long it was since I thought of "man on a mission" or other classics from my GCSE years) was the kick off point.

Time for a couple of pints and some food, which is where I made a poor choice - side dish of chips. Firstly, this was no side dish, it was a flat-out bowl...secondly, it was not of 'side size'...the fucker was bigger than the main course plates Burge, Bufton and Sully all had. Thirdly, the chips were fucking rank, nuff said - undercooked and at first WAY too hot and then (after a brief avail of the facilities) WAY too cold. I might as well have chewed on a raw potato ... two quid my arse!

Anyway, then we all skipped off to The Eagle (and away from clean, crisp toilets I might add), coming into contact with some bloke who was apparently Canadian (maybe French Canadian) who was in search of direction, so we guided him on our way down to The Eagle, at which junction he praised the strength of English beer (after we assured him we most definitely are in England, and not Wales, which is only about 15 miles away). The place was the definition of dead, we were the first lot in there. Save for us and the staff, the place was like McDonald's on Christmas Day.

After savouring the silence (and shite music selection) it was time for pool (and some proper music) and another old face from back in the day - Mikey P, a chap I haven't seen in even longer than either of my three other cohorts this night. All these chaps haven't changed, except they're taller than I remember...while standing in The Crown (our third port of call) I felt like Richard Hammond on Top Gear, surrounded by towering cohorts.

By this time I'd noticed the anti-smoking legislation recently introduced to England (Scotland and Wales were long before England, for those not in the know). For one - I could breathe - for two I could blink without cringing in mild discomfort. Not being a smoker, a choking atmosphere whilst savouring my newest pint is not an enjoyable experience, but fortunately it's nowhere near as bad now. So it was all out onto the decking area at The Crown - an area I never knew even existed until that moment. Oh yes, just prior another old school chap from my GCSE/Sixth Form days appeared - Pommie - who was, to put it lightly, shocked & stunned to see, and I quote - "Nick ... in a pub?!" ... indeed, it is a rare sight and one worth savouring.

So yes, up onto the deck in late-ish-November on a damp night, but much hilarity and back-in-the-day story telling was shared, at which point we all confusedly decided to stay for one more before heading on, having to shake the hand of some random drunkard who seemed to think everybody passing by was an absolute legend ... so after reluctantly shaking the man's hand (I dearly hope he was the sort to wash them after visiting the facilities) we were onwards and outwards.

It was on to The Charlie (King Charles II, I think it's properly called), where not only were there bouncers (separating me from my chaps for a spell), but you had to splash out three-bloody-quid to stand in a hot, loud, cramped, sweaty gaff to scream at your mates. Not soon after my final beverage of the night, nature was hurriedly kicking down my proverbial door, so with the official facilities lost somewhere in a sea of random signing/dancing/slurring patrons I had to make do, exiting while telling the bouncer "yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah" to whatever it was he asked me. Mere moments later and I was hitching a lift back with Sully Woo (his sister being Miss Designated) and before I knew it, I was sat in front of my computer writing up this blog and transferring my mobile phone pictures of the evening ... as you do.

Needless to say, a good night out even though admittedly it's not my personal style in the least - but the main point is that I was able to catch up with long lost friends whom are all legends, so fair play lads and here's a clinky-clink bottle-to-glass chime from me to you lot.

Now it's most definitely time for bed...by the time this is actually posted, it'll be tomorrow...hello future self! *future self* Hello to you too!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Get in thar, me hearties!

No, not pirates...no idea why I thought that'd be a good title, still...guess who's got a letter in Total Film for the second time this year? Okay, it's me obviously...not surprise there, about as much tension as "Hostel 2", but infinitely better.

Yep, I got all inspired by Issue 135 where some chap had posted a picture of his DVD collection, and with a keen sense of "mine's bigger than yours" circling my cranium, I boshed out a picture and email to the good people at TF to boast of my '331 and counting' collection, all alphabetised and organised - and ta-da, Issue 136 in the Letters section at the front, look who has their DVD collection on display...niiice.

So now just to wait for my free DVD - "Transformers". I have seen it, but I don't own it...and it's free...so I'm chuffed with that. Last time round I got "Severance", which I neither owned or had seen.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Finally, I've recaptured that damn muse!

Although it isn't Salma Hayek dressed as a stripper (*ahem* "Dogma", for those not in the know *ahem*)...

Yep, after struggling to sit down and do some scripting, I'm finally getting back in the chair. I've returned to IAZM3, having bought up some props to use for it as well as printing off certain other paper props I'll be using throughout the film, I got all inspired and returned to the script itself.

Initially I wrote the first two drafts in Word, which is what I used to use for scripting - at the time I didn't mind, but since switching over to Final Draft (which is the dog's nutsack-dwellers by the way) I just couldn't stand to see the script in Word anymore - so I rewrote it in Final Draft and am currently tweaking it into it's 3rd draft shape. It's been two months since I last touched the script pretty much, so it's nice to get back into it.

I've also had more thoughts about my feature length comedy script that I was burning away on a while back, but have since ground to a halt on...rather annoyingly. Admittedly it was so I could write some other scripts which were far shorter - well, they were shorts after all - but of course that meant I ran out of steam on the feature length one, which does at least have a completed first act - so that's something.

Anyway, I've had several dialogue/scene ideas for that script, so I'm starting to get wound up about that script again, so perhaps I'll get bashing some keys over that soon too.

Ahhh the muse, an evasive little bitch so she is...

...

In the mean time, I've also checked out a couple of new movies - "Black Snake Moan", which was pretty good, kind of like a big budget exploitation movie with more heart & soul & seriousness ... and "Rescue Dawn", my first Werner Herzog film (hey, there's so many movies out there, you can't possibly get around to seeing them all straight away) ... anyway, it was somewhat grueling but it was ultimately worthwhile...despite the seemingly odd loss of certain characters towards the end that was just kinda left wide open. But, from what I've read, retains the characteristics of Herzog's filmmaking - man versus nature, struggle through adversity, obsession and fleshed out characters...no cheesy lines or prison camp cliches here. A rather good film.

A rant about Cloverfield...

About the cinematography specifically, starting with fake Hollywood DV tape glitches.

Either do a real-looking tape glitch, or don't bother. Grrrr! If "Grindhouse" can manage real-looking film print damage & glitches, then some editor can manage realistic digital tape glitches for a miniDV camera - which is what the entire film is supposed to be shot on, even though the footage is from a much fancier camera set up than your average mid-range miniDV, which is what the characters would own.

Also, looking at the footage, it'd be better if they did a mix of DV type stuff, and other stuff that was filmed hand held but by someone not included in the movie - like they did on "Saving Private Ryan" on the beach sequence - just tell the cameraman to get stuck in, documentary 'in the moment' style and there you go.

And yes, fake wobble is annoying, and the picture is not true to the sort of DV camera those people would own, nowhere near for the most part. Also, why would those sort of people have a mounted light? Those sort of people would more than likely use night vision, or just have a dark room, or use existing light.

It's that sort of stretching of the DV aesthetic that I find pointless. If you want the documentary immediacy, either:

1) Write it from the point of view of a news crew(s)
2) Do it 'Private Ryan style' (as previously mentioned)

"The Zombie Diaries" did FPS DV shooting properly, so it peeves me off when Hollywood emulates it with really expensive camera rigs, set-ups and editing.

And then finding ways to get big sights 'caught first hand' is just pushing it. Either do it as-true-as-life, or do it from a news cameraman's POV ... or 'do it Private Ryan style'.

Despite my personal grievances with the cinematography and the possible mindset it represents in high-up filmmakers, I still want to see the movie. It does look good and it should be fun, just as long as it lives up to the whole "we're going to cock tease you for months without showing you anything beyond shaky-cam and the odd choice cut" hype.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Clutching on a re-sprained ankle...

Well it was back to Hereford for a couple more pick up shots for "Contempt of Conscience", which is tantalisingly close to completion. I should be seeing a near-complete cut soon as well.

So yes, it was back to Hereford this morning for said shots, but it seems I was just going to have one of those days.

Having finally bedded down somewhere after midnight, I was planning on getting up at 7am, at which point I'd lie in till half seven, but that went arse over as I slept in till past 8am, even with my hi-fi blaring HIM's latest album, I must have been that tired. Fortunately I felt refreshed after sleeping in longer than anticipated and soon I was heading off to Hereford, with an ankle (which I'd sprained on November 4th in Bristol) which was looking much better thanks to the recent decision to switch from normal bandaging to tubi-grip stuff or whatever it's called.

So we did the bulk of the filming with no issues, then it was time to get a pick up shot outside the city's magistrates court, which completely unbeknownst to us, is apparently now illegal to do - a new anti-terrorism law has literally just come into being, so fresh it's umbilical cord to central government is still uncut. So, after having gotten the shots, we were cornered in a 'from both sides' manner by two chaps, security guards I think.

Fair enough, I can understand where they're coming from, and had we known about this kicking & screamingly-new law that had come into play, we'd have steered clear. Although in fact, we only had to delete (tape over) about 17 seconds of footage, the rest was perfectly fine, so said the security chaps, and we were once again on our way.

On the way back to my car we collectively rolled our eyes at the government's penchant for new criminal laws (for any Americans reading, Labour have created a boatload of new laws, even to an unprecedented level), and all because of - you guessed it - terrorism, which isn't terrorising for the vast majority of the time...it's just a bloody nuisance. Forgive my mini rant, it's no secret I'm not a fan of the current British government, but it feels as if more trouble is caused defending against terrorism (up to the eyeballs perhaps), than by the terrorists themselves...while the situation is certainly not happy-happy-joy-joy, I question the climate of fear the government pedals to us (and likewise in the USA, whose news networks adore the climate of fear). Clearly the security establishments are doing a superb job already and have been for quite some time, but are we really on the brink of epic terrorism?

I don't mean to be flippant about terrorism, far from it in fact, but you just end up questioning the true extent of the problem - bad, but not imminent death, one could say.

Anyway, I digress and fair play to the security guards who were doing their jobs, we co-operated fairly and it was respect all round, especially after we explained the situation and showed them the footage (again, a mere 17 seconds had to be deleted - stuff which wouldn't have been used anyway - and all was smiles).

So now, mere yards from my car, a moment of distraction led to me slipping on the pavement (an unforeseen greasy patch) and I re-sprained my not-far-from-healed left ankle, thus sending my injury back in time about 10 days. Fortunately I was able to double-double-up (4 layers) my tubi-grip support and managed to use the clutch all the way home - even if 3 tractors added a certain level of grievance to the journey...literally an insult-to-injury, you might say.

Thankfully, this time, I won't have to walk 4 miles on it and I'm using this excellent tubi-grip stuff from the off, so fingers crossed...still, talk about shite luck today, eh?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Night/Day Watch...

I'm not entirely sure what all the fuss about "Night/Day Watch" is for. I mean yes, the Russians don't make movies like this normally and yes there are some spectacular ideas in it and the effects sequences are great...and while I dig all those things about the films, I found myself mercelessly bored at times.

I get the impression that the film is punching above it's weight in terms of story importance, trying to be the "Lord of the Rings" of vampire films or something, mythical for myth's sake...if that makes sense. At times, especially with the first film, I felt like the film was shoved right up it's own arse...it felt like it knew it was unlike anything from Russia before, plus I found the story a tad on the needlessly complex side...at times it feels as if weird stuff is just happening for the sake of it, like being weird and oddly mythical is superior to letting your audience get what you're on about.

My main gripe though, are the moments, sequences or flat out stretches of the films where you're left tired out waiting for something exciting to happen, rather than scenes that don't feel at all necessary ("Day Watch" just didn't need to be 2 and a half hours long) or scenes that just drag on too long, or just plain drag.

Particularly with "Day Watch", it feels bloated. It needs to be more direct, not as poncy about it's storyline and just get the job done efficiently...they both had the potential to be great films, but their down sides really bleed over onto the good sides and muddy the over all quality of the films, which is a real shame in the end. At times it feels like the makers were finally given access to the toy box, but just went crazy rather than play constructively and decisively.

Maybe it's just me, but I do honestly feel these gripes are justified as I do feel these films are unfortunately flawed in their execution, robbing them of their deserved greatness.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

A rant about Hostel's...

Hostel Part II (and Part I as well, I guess):

I actually really quite liked Roth's debut, "Cabin Fever" and have watched it many times...but then I ended up being fairly disappointed with "Hostel". Admittedly upon second viewing I liked it much better than I had at first, but the problem that simply not enough fucked up shit happens. It's reputation is bigger than the payoff, the bark bigger than the bite ... oddly enough it's kind of like a modern day video nasty. Many video nasties just didn't live up to their bark (although some did with snarling to spare) - and this was the case with "Hostel". It was pimped on it's 'European-nutters-kidnap-backpackers-for-rich-people-to-slaughter' schtick almost single handedly...and then when almost nothing happens in the first half you're ticking over by the time anything properly nasty gets going.

And then the nastiness stops and it's just some running around in the dark and then the end (at least with a deadly trip to the bog, though).

However, for all it's flaws, "Hostel" is a genre masterpiece when compared to "Hostel: Part II". I cannot understand how Total Film gave this such a high rating (a magazine I respect and which more-often-than-not shares my own personal movie opinions) - - 4 out of 5 if memory serves. I'd struggle to give it 2 out of 5. This isn't my initial opinion, I've actually sat through it twice now, just to see if I'd appreciate it more this time around.

From the get-go we already know exactly what is happening and who the bad guys are (or are likely to be). There is a complete lack of tension, I mean absolutely none whatsoever, Postman Pat losing his van keys to a magpie is far more arm-rest-gripping than this shoddy sequel.

Add to it a sloppy bundle of boring/lame/just unlikable characters, and you've got nothing to tide you over for - again - the first half...although the first torture set-piece does peak your horror interests while it's on screen. A scene, in fact, that's actually handled quite well, it's both grim and interesting.

But then it all goes rather dull again until finally - the shit starts hitting the fan - I will say at this point that the bidding war was also interesting, and opens up one of the more intriguing parts of this film. This time we actually get to see it partly from the viewpoint of the silver-pocket-lined suits who impart their torture onto others...it's just a shame the entire film didn't follow this angle, instead of half-resorting to re-hashing the first film's backpackers, but just making them all women instead of all men...it's like a mirror that fancies itself for gender re-assignment, the two gangs and their initial trapper are that similar. Like I said, rehash.

So yes, finally we're into the depths of the human-hunting-underground-nutter-lodge-gaff, and finally - some serious KNB gore gets thrown around with gay abandon, about damn time. For a movie(s) marketted for their relentless grottiness and horror, it sure takes a long time for anything seriously nasty to get going. I wouldn't mind as much if the waiting was actually interesting for the most part, rather than tiresome and reheated from the first film.

The black & white reactions of the key client protagonists though is still as annoying as it was the first time I watched this film. It's either one reaction or the other - gung-ho or whimpering...and to add insult to injury we're forced to swallow not one, but two complete attitude reversals, it just feels rushed...sloppy...underdeveloped.

The second half is better than I remembered it, but the first half is twice as bad as I remembered it...so ultimately the film is no better.

I appreciate what Roth is trying to do with the "Hostel" films, and I maintain that if you took the two movies and put the good parts from each movie, cutting away the bad parts from each movie, you'd end up with a bloody superb 2 hour horror fiesta...but alas that never happened. Instead we've got two so-so movies with larger reputations than actual balls (ironic really, considering the end of the second film, ha!)

I just hope that Roth doesn't bother doing a third "Hostel", but you just know he wants to desperately. He almost has a trilogy under his belt, but come on man - do something different and really put some full-on effort into the script. Don't use a gimmick if you're going to skimp on it. If you have a good idea, follow it full-heartedly ... don't glance around it a bit and then add some re-heated-first-movie-filler.

I was kind of surprised to hear that Roth bitched about horror fans downloading the work print that got leaked - it's not the horror fan's fault, it's the fault of the leak you've got on your side of the movie-making exchange. If something is put up for free, and before release, of course the horror fans are going to flock to it. But perhaps people are getting a bit tired of these torture movies (I despise "torture porn" though, it's a childish dismissal of these films which are, ultimately, important to the history of the horror genre and deserve more than a flippant sound bite).

All-in-all, it's just a let down that didn't need to happen...but should Roth choose to tread some new ground, then I'm all ears, eyes and everything else.

All guns blazing...

Shoot Em Up:

I'd heard little bits about this film on the internet, things like "delivers a baby during a gunfight, shags during a gunfight", so I figured this was John Woo meets thrash metal meets speed & cocaine in a blender. And indeed it was with brass-shelled-gusto.

Admittedly I didn't really bother following the twisty-weird-story, I guess every film needs a story (of some sort) even a film that takes indiscriminate action up to 11 like this film does, but who cares when Clive Owen is chomping on carrots and blazing pistols? It's genuinely entertaining, the whole film just getting more and more ridiculous with every passing minute and gunfight.

Clive Owen is beginning to carve out a niche as a gun toting badass of late, what with this and 2005's "Sin City" where he played Dwight. Everybody involved is clearly having the best time ever, and in turn the viewer has a bloody good time too. This film is sheer entertaining committed to celuloid, 'nuff said.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Continuing Contempt, and you know, stuff...

Just got back from filming a couple of insert shots for "Contempt of Conscience", we're just filling the odd little gaps, or rough spots. The film should be done sometime soon, when it's done I'll post up more information. Further projects to follow soon.

Obviously, this meant a jaunt off to Hereford, so it was a chance to test out my ankle, which is feeling better but still a bit swollen and a little iffy. 50 miles of clutching and a quick nip into GameStation for "Splinter Cell Double Agent" and "Tony Hawk's Project 8" on 2-for-£20, which is pretty darn good.

And having just watching the season 19 Simpson's Halloween episode, what the hell does Mr & Mrs Smith have to do with Halloween? It's supposed to be horror, sci-fi and maybe fantasy - not action movies. The last few Halloween specials have been a bit lame or really lame because of such things, but then again you can't compete with the one where Bart & Lisa raised the dead...season 4 if memory serves, it was the third Halloween special anyway.

Monday, 5 November 2007

A Guy Fawkes in the eye...

With Halloween done and dusted (without bothering to do anything about it, admittedly) it was time for Guy Fawkes...although November 5th is the official day when The G-Man stuck it to parliament, or tried anyway...it didn't end up being "V For Vendetta" really, not a single Natalie Portman in sight!...we celebrated on November 3rd (being a convenient Saturday).

Regardless, myself and Ben went on a mini road trip to Bristol to see some of our friends who are now living there and "living the dream" - which is of course, residing 'across-and-over-one-from-Justin-Lee-Collins-off-Friday-Night-Project- and-Bring-Back-the-A-Team' ... but alas, I didn't spy him hanging around his gaff.

Upon arrival in Bristol (after being guided by the holy hand of Buddy Christ on the dashboard of Ben's Micra Monster Red Devil) it was beer, pizza, sketch-based comedy and cats-acting-like-people with a slice of kids-falling-over clip show jollity.

Mid-evening and it was time to bundle up to brace the bitter mildness of the weather, so much for gloves and coats then. The Downs (a big park/field area) was fenced off, those bothering to pay on the inside and those of a tighter-fisted disposition outside ... the roads on the latter side of the fences were packed. A few fireworks later (coming from all directions as it seemed multiple events were taking place across the city) and it all ground to a halt, some poor bugger had been hurt. But myself and Emma "the girl zombie in Trapped" Clark-Bolton (and everybody else of course) gawked like zombies at the "sky flowers" ("Land of the Dead" style) when it all kicked off again, at which point the defences broke and soon everybody was flooding into the event for free (until they parted cash to go on shakey rides, like the one that uses centrifugal force to keep you from being fired off into space). After a series of people showed off by hanging upside down in it or poking their heads out, some of our gang elected to give it a go and barged the centrifuge ride thing with gusto.

Then, after narrowly averting being blown up by chav-aimed fireworks, we did a tour of the grounds before staggering off into the main street of Bristol, desperately seeking refuge in any licensed premise, ultimately coming to rest at some random, out-of-the-way, over-crowded, too-noisy-too-small-too, trendy bar where I had a shouted conversation about "Grindhouse", "South Park" and everything in-between.

I turned round to discover the place had near-emptied during said conversation. Back to the 'just across and one over from The JLC' flat for arse-parking and shoe-ridding before more sketch-based comedy and then "Apes of Wrath", an episode of the absolutely superb "Garth Marenghi's Dark Place". By now everybody had either fucked-off-to-bed or was making their merry way to bed-fordshire, at which point Ben and myself prepared our makeshift beds for the night. Ben settled on sofa cushions on the floor, while I was lazy and used a sleeping bag as a duvet and crashed on the three-seat sofa.

A bizarre sleep later - the sort where you're not sure if you're dreaming ambient noise or actually conscious and just hearing, drifting in and out of consciousness - and we finally all got dragged out of our kips for a quick late-breakfast. During the night I'd somehow managed to work myself practically into the spot down the back of the sofa where spare change should be found, not sleepy bloggers. Then it was time for a "30 or 45 minute walk" (to quote Ben) to the Downs ... and beyond.

We stopped off by the cliff edge and gazed at the Bristol bridge, as well as egged-on falling trees that were being chainsawed below. After this brief pitstop the decision was made to barge it to the bridge itself, and this is where it all went arse-over-the-proverbial-tit. While descending a brief stack of ramshackle rock-steps, having been concentrating on the right foot, I sprained my left ankle. Inevitably I collapsed amidst a torrent of foul language that a shedload of kids nearby no doubt heard...but fuck that, swearing is funny - FACT. Fortunately I was wearing my boots, which of course are high around the ankle, had I opted for my shoes as I'd thought of doing, I could have even broken the damn thing...small graces I guess.

So, with me carrying a weak and somewhat-floppy ankle, everybody marched forth as I hobbled behind looking like a right prat. We got to the bridge and then went beyond, seemingly touring the city to get back to the flat. Said short walk turned into a Rocky-style marathon for me, where I ultimately hobbled for what must have been 4 miles on a sprained-and-unsupported ankle.

Never has a Nissan Micra looked so Godly. After my "Gonna Fly Now" mental-montage had ended, I parked-arse in the Micra and enjoyed the sweet relief. It's not exactly riding 20,000 miles around the world on a motorbike like Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did, but still...4 miles of a 5 mile Sunday-afternoon-meander on a sprained ankle is still pretty impressive...well I was impressed anyway, don't know about you, but I was.

And onwards home to Ross Vegas, a battle against Bristol city centre confusion and near-Newport traffic jams - but we did get a second fireworks display sitting in traffic. After a panicked minute at the Severn Bridge toll - a frenzy of jangling change and "we're twenty pence short, exact change, exact change!!" - it was the final leg of the journey, where in the meantime mine had gone to sleep and stiffened-like-a-zombie.

A well earned and most definitely necessary bath later, I was kicking back - ankle bandaging in place - to the African special of "Top Gear" before "Long Way Down" continued being likewise awesome. A quick bosh-around on the internet post-LWD and it was off to an equally well deserved night's kip.

It's only the day after (at the time of writing), but the ankle is a little better - yet still swollen and weak. Evidently places beginning with "B", and my well being, don't go hand-in-hand. Four months prior to Senoir McSwollen Ankle, I was filming in Birmingham where I slipped full-blown slapstick-comedy-style flat onto my back. It knocked the wind right out of me and I've almost finished recovering...2007 - a good year for career progression, a bad year for physical well being, lol.

Friday, 2 November 2007

The post-Halloween round up - part 2...

Additionally I checked out "SAW IV", which from the off I felt was unnecessary. To be honest it was tied up nicely at the end of the third film, but they've found a way to keep it all going (albeit a bit of a naff one, just find a new apprentice in pretty much the same way as before).

I am a huge fan of the original "SAW", it was fresh, unique and the ending left my jaw on the floor (although not hacked off in a pool of blood thankfully). The follow-up however, I didn't really like. The premise wasn't as good, the characters were cut and paste bastards - whore, junkie, whiny little bitch teenager, panicky white collar worker, school-of-hard-knocks black guy and so forth. No wonder it wasn't as good, it was based on Bousman's own script for a completely different film, and James Wan did not have a hand in the script (only Leigh Whannel). However, those two chaps did have their hands in the script for "SAW III", which produced a much better film than "SAW II" I feel, the ciclical nature of the film - treading alternate and unseen angles of plot from the first two films - was what I enjoyed most ... and yes, rotted-pig-slush-device-thing was the grossest thing I've seen for a long time.

As for "SAW IV", with damn near everybody from the previous three films slaughtered - including the main man himself - you just think, what's the point? Sooner or later everyone is going to die, even if they do escape a trap, they'll just be brought back and continue to not think outside of their own boxes so they'll just get hacked up again. With the first three, particularly the first and to a lesser extent the third, you actually cared and wanted people to escape their fates (I could have barely given a thrupny toss about those in part two, bar Donnie Wahlberg).

Another gripe is the sheer scale of the tricks, devices and so on. The scale of the devices is getting a bit silly now, particularly the main set piece in this fourth outing. It's just too big, too flashy and too designed. The great thing about the first film was it was just some grotty old bogs in a grotty old tiled room and the premise of their predicament was fairly simple, yet still terrifying and horrific.

Inevitably this was going to happen to the franchise, everytime you show a bit more and get a bit more outlandish, you have to go further the next time...but can't you just make it more mentally torturous than visually icky? 100 ick units and 0 mental units (to use a bizarre equation I've just cobbled together) is nowhere near as good as 50 ick units and 50 mental units.

The sheer thought of the predicament in the first "SAW", plus the adequate (and at the time actually fairly extreme) gore was an ideal combination. No doubt this won't be the case for "SAW V" or "VI" (which are to be shot back-to-back apparently - not a good sign, most back-to-backs usually suck, and this late in the day as well - have they not seen "Return of the Living Dead 4 & 5"?!)

But to end on a higher note, what I did enjoy about "SAW IV" was the continued way the franchise circles around the same area of events and characters, minor parts from earlier films become main parts (with varied success), and events flash back to earlier events as well as parallel events. You could say that the "SAW" franchise is the new "Friday the 13th" franchise for the 2000's, but in terms of horror in general, at least this franchise seeks to link the films together with at least some depth and complexity.

I appreciate what they're doing with the franchise immensely, but they really need to look back at the first film and regain control over themselves before it gets completely ludicrous and out-of-hand. The best way to make a good sequel is to properly understand the films that preceded it, rather than the cliche of "bigger this, this and this".

The post-Halloween round up - part 1...

Well, tis the season no more ... until Guy Fawke's night ... and then the inevitable shit-fit-frenzy of the run up to Xmas.

What did I get up to horror wise? Well, I checked out the European Cut of "Dawn of the Dead" (original & best, obviously not the retarded & pointless name-rape remake), and I have to say that it's nowhere near as good as the Extended Cut aka Cannes Cut (my personal favourite, which is 139 minutes of sheer heaven). The Euro Cut is understandable, Argento recut to suit Euro audiences, who would subsequently be inundated with 'zeds-n-muff' naffness like "Zombie Lake" - although I actually really enjoyed "Zombie Lake" because it was so silly.

However, even though it's understandable, it's still not very well done. The unseen-in-English-speaking-gaffs scene extensions are a Dawn geek's treasured treat, but the exclusions - particularly NO HELICOPTER ZOMBIE, pure madness incarnate - and the soundtrack are a real shame. Superb moments are either chopped out (sometimes in favour of more footage of roaring motorbikes), or the scenes are rendered a clunky and uncomfortable because of Argento's insistence on a purely Goblin-lent soundtrack. Romero used Goblin tracks sparingly and sensibly, they fit the scenes and provided background tension. Argento uses them in a scattergun approach, fades them out abruptly, cuts them off a beat-too-late or just plonks them in the completely wrong place where they become overpowering or just unsuitable.

It is however interesting to see a movie I'm so familiar with (yes, I quote the film as it plays) in a different light, but from a technical and critical standpoint, it certainly isn't an exceptional cut of the film - now, the Extended Cut, that is the glory. All of GAR's flair and choice editing, but in greater detail. One could say that Dawn was truly Romero's epic - it's got everything plus a pie-fight after all.

Also in my Halloween season line-up was the Halloween theme latest episode of the excellent show "Reaper", certainly one of the most interesting shows to come across the pond in recent times. Otherwise, I also dug myself into "SAW IV", but I'll blog about that in a new post (above).

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Happy Halloween...

Well, it's been a productive October for the blog, I've fair blogged all over the shop.

Happy Halloween to everybody, particularly the Americans who do the season justice, not like here in Britain where people have already skipped over thinking about Guy Fawkes and are already spending for Xmas ... admittedly I've already bought some gifts, but that's a far cry from the norm. One seasonal holiday-type-deal at a time already!

Also, here in the UK we have teenagers wearing their normal clothes, coming two days early, in the middle of the day jangling spare change in their pocket as a not-so-subtle hint at what they want their treat to be. First of all - wankers. They should fuck off home and watch TV instead. Secondly - you kind of think that Halloween, in the UK at least, is pointless. Back in the day when my parents were doing it, it made sense. They didn't get Buzz Lightyear action figures for Xmas - back when it was known as Christmas for a reason too - so Halloween was a chance to get some pre-C'mas sweeties and have a bit of fun - plus they'd actually do a bloody trick, be it a joke, an extract from a play, do a bit on the piano or whatever. They actually earned their treats and didn't egg people's doors afterwards.

My point being, because we in the UK don't celebrate Halloween like the Americans do (e.g. adorning our porches with severed heads, zombies, witches and blood-dripping skeletons), there's pretty much absolutely no point in 'doing it' in the UK, beyond some dedicated souls who might host a fancy dress party...that's at least half-way to the spirit of the season. Get wankered whilst pretending to be Jason Voorhees.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

I took a Wrong Turn down Pleasantville and ended up in Ratatouille...

Ooh, that title gag was a bit forced wasn't it, or was it? Regardless...a few movie musings for you, my kind readers.

Ratatouille:

Pixar suffer the same fate as "Cars" with this one. It looks superb, has a solid story, but it's almost entirely devoid of any solid humour. There's the odd chuckle to be had here or there, but the focus on telling an epic animated story, rather than providing genuine entertainment means it comes out just as I've said - a beautiful looking film, with a moral and winning storyline, which unfortunately barely achieves a genuine guffaw.

The design is creative, even inspired, the death-like food critic being a key example. The characterisation is top notch, even managing to evoke genuine emotion. I'm not sure why, but I was really impressed that his office - in an aerial shot - was shaped like a coffin. It's an entertaining film, but not in a very humorous way...it's almost like a live-action coming-of-age drama, but you know, with rats.

If only Pixar would rediscover their funny bone, the sheer onslaught of comedy mixed with their eye for emotional depth in films such as Toy Story was what made them great. They haven't lost this talent it seems, the shorts that they still produce are invariably a laugh riot - so why have their features become over-long gag-lite epics? For the love of Woody, give me something to laugh-till-I-cry at once again.

Wrong Turn 2:

First of all, I thought the original film was complete pish. A bunch of retarded (not literally) characters with terrible dialogue making stupid decisions getting killed by woodland freaks. Admittedly there was one properly good scene - the silent escape attempt from the nutter's cabin - but beyond that (and oh yes, the really annoying woman getting something sharp in the head) it was pish.

Similarly the straight-to-DVD Wrong Turn 2 is pish, but with a lower budget, shot on lower quality equipment, with lower caliber actors and yes you guessed it, a lower quality script. Nu-horror meets reality TV ... that sounds familiar but why? Oh yes - Halloween 8, another pile of fetid shit.

There's a few good gore moments, but the overall tone of "who cares" washes over everything, including the cast of characters, the sort of people who deserve to be chewed up by mountain people. And why on earth is a retired Marine so shit at dodging in-coming fire?

Pleasantville:

At last, a film that didn't disappoint me this week. I've been meaning to get around to this film for years, but finally got around to it. An original story, solid or even great acting, a brilliant script and a technical marvel (at the time at least when the selective colour effect was new).

I'll keep it brief, but the aspect that really impressed me was how the entire civil rights movement was re-enacted in the 'black-and-whites VS coloureds' unrest. In fact, it was so well captured it was often devastating, laying bare the simple fact that hating someone because of their skin colour is completely moronic. An act of the small-minded and ill-educated. We're all the human race, after all.

It was a genuinely spell-binding watch, a quality piece of filmmaking in the truest sense. If only Hollywood would snap out of its 'name-rape' fad (aka remake fad) and grow a set of balls again to invest in originality and imagination.

Michael Moore is a SiCKO...

Bowling For Columbine - it has its flaws, but there's a general good message about responsible gun control, ownership, and the utterly oddball surroundings of American gun culture. The idea that you can buy a gun and all the ammo you could want in a supermarket, but not an Unrated DVD of a horror movie, is just ludicrous.

Fahrenheit 9/11 - this is quite literally where I switched off to Michael Moore (having not seen anything he'd done prior to BFC, still haven't either). His own hatred for Bush just overflows unprofessionally as facts are thrown around as liberally as the lies are. It's all rather band-wagon-jumpy for my liking, and that's not to say I'm pro-Bush. I'm indifferent, he is a bit of an idiot, but I don't live in America so I won't pretend to know anything about American politics.

Sicko - once again the facts are as fudged as a Labour manifesto (now you see where my political vibes don't lie, hahaha). The truth is mixed with confusion and choice cuts - the key choice cut being the representation of the UK's NHS. Now while it's better to have a free public health service, Moore completely neglects to mention that it's all paid for by us ultimately through taxes. He also forgets that NHS Dentists are fewer and farther between than before, some people are electing to pull their own teeth out and you pay over £15 for a 2 minute, once-a-year check-up-fly-around-your-gob if you're lucky enough to have a place on an NHS Dentist's client list.

The deadly and growing problem of MRSA and CDIF are also neglected. The fact that GPs got more money for doing less work is skipped over, same goes for the 'business hours medical care' vibe that's creeping in in some places. The issue of waiting lists is neglected, as is the closure of localised facilities, as is the deadly increase in beaurocracy and pen pushing, as is the increase in training medical practioners graduating and then failing to get a job whatsoever.

All issues that are shown time and again in the papers, on the news, and represented in the house of commons, not to mention my family's personal interaction with the NHS. Some will be lucky enough to have never run into any problems, but evidently many are running into problems - some of them large and life-endangering, even life-taking. When the staff themselves say something is rotten in the state of Denver, who are you going to believe? Government mouthpieces showering you with fudged statistics, or those working on the front line?

This brings me to a sidetrack for a moment, I would like to say that I have maximum respect for nursing staff. From what I've seen first hand, they're the front line of medical care - whether it's working or faltering - they get the shit end of the wedge for most definitely not enough money. Our absolute respect is owed to them (except the few bad apples there no doubt are in the nursing profession - call me a pessimist here, but every section of society and the workplace has a bad egg or two).

At the very least, if our fingers get severed we're quids in and pay nothing, but with the amount of public spending that's been lavished on the NHS (draining into silver-lined pockets, rather than clean wards where it's supposed to be going) we should have the best health service in the world - and yet we don't and it's worse than it was 10 years ago.

A bit of a tangent rant, but the fact that all these problems were completely ignored by Moore, and the NHS being painted as the messiah of health care (complete with a bunch of Brits mockingly-chortling into their six-quid-prescriptions cut together to shove a middle finger right into the eye of all Americans), is just offensive. This is my British point-of-view of the film, and the only one I can give.

My point is, Sicko is exploitative, it's selective in its attention and it's manipulative. The American health system certainly appears to be a dodgy old mare (I'll go no further as I don't live there and won't pretend to know of it first hand) - there's a solid and important message that must be heard in the film, but once again Moore loses his bottle for a fair, intelligent discussion and instead goes for populist entertainment - documentary-as-movie.

The guy even exploits the fact he ANONYMOUSLY sent a cheque to pay for the health care, of the partner of a man who runs an anti-Moore website, for this movie ... I mean come on.

There's a message within him somewhere, if only he wasn't such a bloated afford-to-be-Liberal do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do'er.