Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The last post of 2008...

Well here we are, New Years Eve once again...just as I had gotten used to 2008, it's now time for 2009, bloody nora.

Anyway, rather than do some 'year in review', which is ever such a popular thing at this time of year, I'll just ramble on about what's been happening since I last posted.

Well - the new computer arrived, however there is one problem with it, which I believe is to do with RAM configuration - will get that sorted soon. Apart from that issue, it's fair rockin' I have to say.

Got some nice prezzies for Xmas and have read two of the four books that were under the tree for me (amongst other presents) ... although they weren't the heaviest of tomes, but they were bloody funny - The Big Book of Top Gear 2009, and Mock The Week: Scenes We'd Like To See, both rather funny.

Speaking of funny, I started on Volume 3 of Jeremy Clarkson's world-weary rants dubbed For Crying Out Loud ... also funny, WALL.E on DVD - a great film. Dead Set on DVD was also rather welcome, same goes for the great Gears of War 2, which I'm currently at the end of Act Three on.

Speaking of Act Three - I finished the first pass of Act Three of The End last night. Well, the first half has already been polished up a bit, so really there's just the second half of Act Three to be polished and then it's done! Currently it's 130 pages, but I suspect it might lengthen as I'm thinking about adding in some more dialogue in one of the scenes.

But yeah - that's all coming along nicely, and I'm already starting to think a bit more about my horror script idea that I want to get writing, and having seen the excellent new Brit-horror flick Mum & Dad (which lingered in my mind afterwards, it was quite disturbing at times) I've been inspired to get cracking with said horror script of mine, which I originally planned to write before I wound up doing my zombie epic called The End instead.

I think I mentioned previously that I was planning on being inspired by Mum & Dad, which sounds odd, but it was because I knew from the trailer and reading about it, that it'd be right up my horror movie street - next up I'll check out the DVD extra features, and the idea is to send the companies/groups/people involved in that film, a treatment for this new horror script I'm going to be writing - considering its aim is trained on a low budget, such as that of Mum & Dad, it might be a good opportunity to get that script seen by someone - which is, of course, the point in my zombie epic script - which is obviously targetted at a higher level of budget (well, comparatively much higher actually) - but when you've got the time available to write, why not write and get some ideas fully written out and in your own creative bank?

Anyway, coming up soon is the start of a new educational DVD project - on the topic of the environment, but don't worry, I'm not becoming some eco-mentalist ... even though I am not at all fond of waste (be it food or packaging or fuel or whatever).

Okay I'll shaddup now, I've rambled on long enough and I've got the 2-disc unrated DVD of Pineapple Express sat right in front of me - aye, the R1 disc a whole week early - and two weeks before the R2 release, woohoo!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

My musings on Mirrors...

Aye, another slice of musing I've been slack on posting up here, but better late than never, eh?

Another one I'm catching up on - and it's Keifer Sutherland's latest, and not only that, it's Alexandre Aja's latest. Being a massive 24 fan (and indeed much of Keifer's other work), and a big fan of Aja's Switchblade Romance and Hills Have Eyes remake, I was quite looking forward to seeing Mirrors.

Not sure if I heard this right or not, but I think I heard it was an American remake of some J-Horror flick ... I wouldn't be surprised if it was, it's part of the remake trend in America at the moment, a trend that is almost entirely soul-sapping and completely lazy, not to mention far from creative or original. Or perhaps it isn't a J-Horror remake, I can't remember and I can't be arsed to look it up.

Anyway, what did I make of it? Yeah ... pretty decent. Nothing to write home about, but not a complete travesty either.

I do think Sutherland needs to find a role, in between his stints on the brilliant 24 as the rockin' Jack Bauer, that's something vastly removed from the 'Power Hour' man himself. You can't help but feel a sliver of Jack slipping into both this, and The Sentinel (another mid-24 Sutherland flick).

Plot wise, not a lot to it, but I have to say the reason for the mirrors being the 'bad guys' could have done with being introduced a tad sooner - or at least something to give us a bit more purchase on events, instead of just having to swallow it whole and wait for the digestion to come later ... if I want to push this strained metaphor that little bit further.

But what did really strike me about the film (amidst the meh plot) was the production design, I thought it was great - the Mayflower shopping centre and the ... place beyond it (won't spoil that). Perhaps it was just me, but I was constantly getting very strong vibes of the videogame BioShock - which not only a great game with superb graphics and a cool story and great atmosphere, but which had fantastic 'production design' (or the videogame equivalent).

The burned and battered manequins loitering the Mayflower, the mid-20th-century hey-day look, even the architecture gave me very strong BioShock vibes - this even continued into the water-logged basement of the building, which reminded me of part of an early level of BioShock (if memory serves, somewhere at a doctors or dentist's office - when the lights cut out, and you see a scary-ass shadow on the wall as you wade through water in a tiled corridor).

So yeah, not a superb film - despite the moments of nifty gore (an Aja staple), although there wasn't anywhere near as much on show for the gorehounds as we saw in his previous two horror offerings ... perhaps it was in aid of trying to move the film a tad away from the horror genre to be more palatable to the Keifer Sutherland fans who didn't also happen to be gorehounds.

However, Mirrors remains primarily a horror film - the asylum sequences proving to be the most disturbing (well, aside from that bit in the bathroom) - but it never quite takes off into something more, instead faltering at times with that annoying freckle-faced kid (you know the kind, the sort that cocks up their parent's plans to protect them from the monsters and/or ghosts they seem compelled to befriend with child-like ignorance.

And oh yeah - yes, I get it, the images are in the mirrors and not in the real world - you don't have to keep showing me over and over and over throughout the whole damn movie that that's the case! Sheesh.


Worth a watch for Keifer fans with a gut for horror, and likewise for Aja fans who want something far better than the dire P2 to be attached to his name (even though Aja didn't direct P2 ... but he stuck his name on it ... and it was shit, wasn't it? I mean ... really shit).

So in summary - Mirrors isn't P2, so huzah!

Monday, 22 December 2008

I'm absolutely barging this script...

Yes, it continues to go well - in fact, last night I had a midnight sesh that just kept going and going, with me sat there with The Dark Knight soundtrack (among other stuff) feeding into my brain through my head phones - it was one of those cases where you say 'oh I'll just finish this little bit off here, then stop and go back over this whole bit' ... but that doesn't happen.

Instead, you do that part, then find yourself writing a few sentences more so you have a good lead-in for the next section, to allow yourself a smooth re-entry into the script, to pick up where you left off, if you will.

However, this cycle just kept happening. I'd write a bit to set myself up for another writing session, then I'd have to write another bit to link in, then I'd have a great idea and have to write that, then I'd remember about a character, then another character and then another character that needed to be placed in the ensuing chaos, and then I'd have to flick back and forth, and at one point I had to re-write a couple of sentences to allow one character to get to a certain location to allow another sequence I had in mind to play out.

Oh yes, chaos indeed - both in what's being written, but also in how it was being written. I was glued to the keyboard hammering away, completely gripped, with the text on screen flying across the glowing monitor at practically 88mph.

I was planning on tying up the end of Act Two, and lying the foundation for the start of Act Three, but instead I not only finished Act Two, but wrote half of Act Three straight away!

Today I tidied up on scene I left aside from last night (as it was truly getting quite late), and so then I'll head back to page 93 (prior to which I've already been through and refined a few days back), have a little tidy up - I'll no doubt lace in certain characters here and there - the trouble with such an ensemble of protagonists is it's easy to lose track of them, so I sometimes have to fix that on my hook back around to refine what I've just written throughout an act.

So once that refining is done, I'll be back to do the second half of Act Three - or indeed, the eighth of eight segments as per my previously mentioned brainstorm map of the whole script.

How many pages now then? Currently I'm about half way down page 116.

I have written a script this long (indeed longer) before, although that wasn't in Final Draft, and it wasn't in a traditional three act structure (it was almost a sort of catharsis for myself in developing ideas, and debriefing myself from my three years at university) ... so really, this is the longest proper script I've ever written (I mostly do short scripts, but my previous feature lengther was 90 pages), and it's most certainly the most complex script I've ever written.

It's been a battle (in the best sense) to write a script with a broad ensemble of characters, covering an epic story, with a considerable amount of action - as well as ideas, and zombie fan nerd wish-listing - but it's been a great experience to write this.

If I'm lucky enough to get the opportunity to actually develop it further, I'll no doubt seek to add things, change things, manipulate certain ideas and so on further than I currently am - but then again, right now I'm coming from nothing on the page at all to something quite big all written out in first draft form (technically second draft, considering that I go back over what I've written each act, and refine ... fettle, if you will). So aye - if given the opportunity to develop it, then I'd already have a very deep, complex, thought-out structure to complete the 'build' upon, so-to-speak.

What's to be written next after this? Well, I might have mentioned some time ago about a horror script I had in mind - related to an allergic reaction I acquired from dodgy clothing dye - in fact I was initially planning to write that before this feature length zombie epic (which is specifically designed for a big budget - well, relatively speaking - and use of CGI, and sets, and kick ass professional gore, and actors and so on ... essentially "The End" is being written as my own ideal zombie film with no budget in mind - or at least a budget infinitely beyond my current, and near-future abilities).

Anyway, yes, where was I? The horror script - that's what I was on about - yes, I'll be looking to write that, and that will be a fair simpler affair (less characters, less locations, an over-all simpler 'potential production'). In fact, I plan to be quite inspired by the up-coming Mum & Dad, a new British horror flick in the vein of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (it's not even out yet, and the Daily Mail has already had a whinge ... or was it the Daily Express? Anyway...)

Yes, this horror script would be designed for an indie budget, and indeed a British setting.

So with my scripts, I write shorts that I can film, and I write shorts beyond my means when I have something I need to get onto the page. I write really short-shorts for quick ideas, or for sending to certain groups (like the London Film Academy, although they didn't dig the script I sent - no doubt too anti-government for them ... incumbent Labour government anyway).

Then of course, feature scripts - again, beyond my means at the moment, but set up for the future - it's best to have an idea, which is written out fully and stored away, than to have an idea that's still in your head years down the line when you get the opportunity to put it out there - a time when you might (and hopefully should) be busier than you are (or indeed I am) at present.

Although I'm not exactly twiddling my thumbs either, far from it. So indeed - feature scripts in themselves, which I write, come in different genres, on different scales.

For example, there was 'GenPro' (short nickname title for it), which was a comedy of an indie production level. Now there's 'The End', which is a zombie horror of a big budget production level. Then there will be 'Un-named Horror Script', which will be horror again, but of an indie production level, and a different topic entirely.

I've rambled on long enough, tatty-bye-bo (as Adam Buxton might say).

Oh - and Merry Christmas to one and all (or indeed whatever holiday you enjoy at this time of year).

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

How's the writing going? Good! So it is...

Been a while since my last script update, it's going swimmingly however, so that's good.

I'm currently on page 94, the first act has been given the polishing treatment, and I'm now about to embark on polishing up what I've got of act two so far.

Yes, page 94 and still in act two - but remember than act one took more pages than usual, just because of the sheer volume of detail to explain. However, act two thus far - between page 49 and 94, a lot has happened - I've even added scenes that just sprung to mind and weren't planned at all.

As I'd said before, part of my planning for the script involved a brainstorm layout of the entire script in its simplest form, on which were eight segments. Five of those eight segments are now done, and there's one more to do to finish off act two.

But, I'm going to hold up for a moment, go back to page 49, and work my way through - fettling away, trimming any extraneous fat, adding anything I've neglected, or what have you. I've really gotten into this script writing lark recently, so it's all flowing very freely now, it feels great to be writing this well, especially after I had such a prolonged period of writer's block/malaise prior to finally opening up Final Draft and setting to work.

So yeah, I'll polish up what I've got of act two so far (three of four segments), and once that fettling is done, I'll finish act two and either A) continue into the third act, or B) fettle that one remaining segment of act two.

How long is that fourth of four act two segments gotta be? No more than 15 pages, I don't want to go any higher than 109 pages for the end of act two - and ideally, a little bit shorter than that.

For the script over all, an absolute maximum of 139 pages is my target, but ideally I'd like to clock in at 130 pages...told you it was a zombie epic.

It's been enjoyable to work on this second act, having spent a fair amount of time plugging away at the first act, which was mainly about one thing, whereas act two has a whole variety of stuff going on. There's action, there's a lot more dialogue, there's different locations, there's new ideas, there are montage moments (I need to show the passage of time at certain points, which helps make the whole situation - and certain things that happen during act two - more believable).

So yep - going rather well indeed. I don't know when I might get it finished to the 'draft 1.5' standard that I seek, but it might not take too long - but on the other hand, the Xmas season is coming up shortly - will I get it done before then? Unlikely. Will I get it done before New Year's? More likely, but perhaps not a sure thing. Mid-January would be an easy target to achieve mind you, but I'll hopefully finish it earlier than that.

There's still some final editing to do on Sexual Ethics Part One (the second part will be sometime later, possibly winter 2009), and the next educational DVD I'll be setting to work on hasn't gotten going yet beyond script pondering, so I've got a nice relaxed gap in my day-to-day schedule to really seize the opportunity and write like the wind - in fact, this time last year I was in the midst of writing Generation Procrastination, which became a 90 page graduate comedy...with a surprising (to me) amount of romantic comedy elements ... but surrounded by swearing and discussion about things like public toilets.

Indeed ... anyway, onwards to Final Draft, version number unknown!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Death Race...(musing catch up part three)

Paul W.S. Anderson (sometimes known as "the Paul Anderson that's not much cop", when compared to P.T. Anderson - the man behind Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood).

Well ... Resident Evil was terrible, and the sequels didn't fare much better, the third inspiring the 'best you're gonna get' moniker of 'the least shit Resident Evil movie' ... but it was still pretty stupid, and decidedly meh. Alien VS Predator ... dreadful, seriously-seriously-shit.

Death Race meanwhile, isn't as shit at those two buckets of eye-rape, but equally it's not that good either. Jason Statham's on standard Statham form, not excelling himself, but not phoning it in either ... Tyrese Gibson though, feels every inch the token black guy here, hardly puts forward a solitary little piggy in the shoes of Stallone's original Machine Gun Joe from the original Death Race 2000.

The action is decent, but quickly begins to wear amidst the sheer onslaught of grey and quick-fire editing, and occasionally really grindingly mis-chosen music (cue blatantly obvious, dime-a-dozen rap track to introduce the prison, and a really tacky little number to assist in gawping at the lead prison femme, for two examples).

The script - typically Anderson, at best it's standard. It almost feels like paint-by-numbers, the token 'brain' to the central band of characters - as well as token Latino, and token British guy who reads little books and wears little glasses, smacks of that numbered-paints philosophy.

Compared to the original (and still best) film, what's retained? Cars - yes, and admittedly they're better than the cheap-o wobble-wagons slithering about in front of undercranked cameras, but lacking flair - a race - yes, and admittedly the 'pay per view' angle does raise your interest the first time. Dare I say it, it even suggests satire ... but then that's all ditched in favour of some more "meh" plotting and ultimately tiresome racing about.

There's no satire, which was one of the original film's strong points. The racers are either throw away cannon fodder or pre-sold cut-outs, complete with text-book back stories. The villainess of the piece, one-dimensional baddie with token henchman.

Another key aspect of Death Race 2000, was that it was a televised trans-continental road race. I begrudgingly understand why they might have chosen to keep it located to one dreary industrial location, but if the original could achieve a transcontinental road race on peanuts, why can't this bid budget re-hash manage it?

And that is, after all, what it is - yet another month, and yet another dime-a-dozen remake. This re-heat culture really is the filmmaking equivalent of microwave cookery, nowhere near as good as the real deal.

Finally - Death Race 2000 was famous for it's carnage. The idea was to score points by running over civilians (be they protesters, passers by, fans or whomever) - here though, we have ONE person get smeared. ONE. That's it, and the character is a numpty anyway. Such a key aspect of the original, and it's nowhere to be seen - perhaps the product placement car firms didn't fancy letting their cars run over anybody ... but were fine with them being cobbled-over with all manner of defensive and offensive capabilities, like giant fuck-off machine guns designed to kill the other drivers. Hmmm...

There was a whole slew of Carmageddon videogames (which I enjoyed immensely), and yet here we are with a movie - that's thankfully R-rated - completely avoiding one, of several, key aspects of the source material ... speaking of the original, I'll stick with that thank you very much.

Burn After Reading...(musing catch up part two)

I was quite surprised that the Coen's struck back so quickly, after the bloody fantastic No Country For Old Men (I can't understand why some people abhor that film, I really can't). No wonder then, that its good - but nothing more - the Coen's overall talent sees them through to producing a solid (and sometimes surprisingly dark) comedy caper ... but the sense of under-cooking drops the film right there, on the better side of the middle lane.

The comedy is good, but not guffaw-worthy. The plot is good, but not gripping. It's the case with the whole film, but for a decent viewing time without investing too much effort, it really is worthwhile - particularly for Coen brothers fans.

Righteous Kill...(musing catch up part one)

Hey, here's a great idea, get two acting greats who've not really flexed their muscles in a while, who once shared screen time only once before in a fantastic film, and put them together again in a really average, mediocre one!

Aye, the flick's not much cop. "Meh" could quite easily sum it up actually. You see the 'twist' coming a mile away, and the in-between either makes not a lot of sense, or is so incapable of gripping you, you have to wonder what the point of it all was.

And what's more - in this day and age of good quality, low price camera gear - why is it that every time you see a videotape, or a security camera feed in a movie, the picture is always awful ... but awful in a really precise, controlled, pre-figured way. It does my head in, it's as bad as all that fake camera glitching you find so often in first-person-view films (of which there were many in 2008).

See, that's how "meh" it all was, I've ended up talking about a small issue that gets right on my tits, instead of the movie in question ... you're certainly not missing anything.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Time for some fettling...

Well, the first draft of act one was finished a couple of days ago now, and yesterday I started fettling away at it, thinning it down, trimming off the fat.

I'm 20 pages into this, the second draft of act one, and I've so far managed to cut away 4 pages of waffle, so that feels good - plus it reads better, and looks better when staring at the page as a whole - again I'm taking inspiration from that recent Charlie Brooker Screenwipe special about writers, on which one of them said about keeping the writing as simple and punchy as possible so you hopefully avoid the reader's heart sinking when they see great big chunks of text all over the coming page.

So yeah - this fettling away makes it read better, and look better. I'm tightening the dialogue, fixing the odd sentence that needed changing/removing so that it made sense when something happened/was described later on.

But mostly it's about trimming down the descriptive stuff, taking out extraneous words, shortening words (so "zombie" becomes "zed", or a vehicle type becomes simply initials), that sort of thing.

It does take quite a while, staring into the void of white on screen, pocked with thin black text ... but it feels really good after a session of fat trimming.

As before, it's coming along nicely, and as you can see I forced myself to pause at the start of Act Two, head back to the beginning, and set about trimming away (it also helps to get your head into everything that has come before in a more condensed fashion, you remind yourself about what has happened, about the characters etc, and thus it helps when you get back to the beginning of the following act to continue writing anew).

This said, I do look forward to getting onto Act Two, there's a lot more happening in Act Two, in terms of variety - Act One was two segments on my brainstorm, while Act Two is four segments - and hopefully I won't be writing as long as I did for Act One. I think that first act just had a shed-load of action to describe, lots of visual elements to establish, to get the reader into the world at hand...it reads a little longer on the page than it would on the screen, is what I'm trying to say.

Aye, I don't bother doing a second draft of my blog posts, who's got the time and boring amounts of patience for that? Blogging is like emailing, it's rash and instant!

...

In other news - next week I'll hopefully be ordering my new PC, which will become my primary editing rig ... oh I do look forward to rendering Magic Bullet nice and fast, and yes - to finally getting to play STALKER: Clear Sky, which was sadly just too much for my current rig, a rig which will remain in constant use for all my other tasks - like script writing for example.

Tatty-bye!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

234th post spectacular!

You know, just because it was post 2-3-4 ... yeah?

Anyway, the script's coming along nicely, and the first act is now done to first draft standard ... here's the problem though - it's 56 pages long, and the first act should be 30 page roughly.

So yep, there's some thinning to get done, but I'm certainly not gonna manage 26 pages of thinning - it's just gonna be one of those detailed scripts, because the story I'm trying to tell has a lot of detail. The visuals I'm trying to picture in the reader's mind, are very detailed and specific - and so it goes on.

I'm properly chuffed with it though, and I really feel good about it ... not from a stand point of "because I'm writing it", but just from a zombie genre fan perspective, I think it's a good script so far - and indeed, this was part of the planning process for this script, me asking myself "as a huge zombie genre fan, what do I want to see, what haven't I seen, and what do I want to see more of that hasn't been shown enough?"

The answers to these questions formed the basis of the planning for this script, and it feels really great to be incorporating them into the script, especially during the fast-paced action sequences - even I'm getting drawn in as I'm writing and reading them, my typing gets faster, I hunch towards the screen, the text ploughs across the screen ... it feels *this* close to seeing the real deal on a screen at times.

Anyway, now that act one is done (to first draft standard), I've just started act two - although I'm going to try and force myself to stop - go back to the start - and get the first act to second draft standard, then continue into draft one of act two ... although I'm rather tempted to at least write the first chunk of act two, after spending days on the main thrust of act one, it feels really good to write about a new location, with new characters, and a different feel ... certainly, the first act has been a real mountain to climb - several characters in several locations (near to one another) at the same time, communication either face-to-face or via CB radio and so on (I could go on, but I'd be dropping too many details, and possible spoilers).

So yep - it's going swimmingly, and I've found myself buoyed by the recent Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe special on script writers, who talked about their processes, their insecurities, their problems and so on - and it felt good to realise that my processes, insecurities and problems were not disimilar, or indeed identical to those of the dudes getting interviewed ... although I'm not in their league mind you, I'm not a deluded, gloating ego maniac so calm down there skippy.

But nor am I some amateur, I'm investing serious thought and time into this script (and have done so with my other scripts), I've thought about them practically too (if I'm going to end up shooting them myself) ... and while I've not been formally trained, I wouldn't consider formal training to be a must-do - just like with filmmaking - but that said, I'm not dissing formal training either.

What I'm saying is - both informal and formal ways of learning the craft of filmmaking or writing for film, work in my opinion - and they can sit beside one another in harmony.

Plus I had a short script turned down by the London Film Academy, as one self-deprecating example, so it's not like nobody has read my stuff either ... I can't remembe which interviewee said it on Screen Wipe the other day, but they said that you cannot consider yourself a writer until you've completed something - and I have completed something, a number of things in fact, many small, some large.

I guess you could say, in more 'professional' terms, I'm currently an 'unsuccessful' writer...sort of...if I wanted to beat myself up ... but you know how it is, I'm at the beginning of my career, and filmmaking is one of those careers that takes years to get off the ground - but hopefully, it's one of those careers that rewards for the dues you have paid over the years getting there, crawling on your belly, fretting your hair out and doubting your own worth.

...

So yeah - going well! *thumbs up most definitely*

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

I've got tha' feev'ah...

...the writing fever that is.

Have had a good couple of days hammering away at the keyboard in my spare time, I even managed to clock up 10 pages yesterday, so it's coming along nicely - I'm now at page 40.

Like I said before, this is still only the first act, so it's running long at this point, but I'll be going back over Act I after I've finished the first run through, and look to trim it down a bit, tidy things up.

I'm really starting to feel the script writing vibe now, I'm feeling much more fluid in my operation of Final Draft again, my fingers have regained their memory of how it all works - as I said before, it's been a while since I've written a script, so it's about getting my head back into it again - but that seems to have happened and it's going well ... have I said that it's "going well" enough times?

One more - it's going well.

In other news, I'm looking to get my ass a brand new computer specifically for the task of editing this month. I need some extra oomph to feed my Magic Bullet addiction, plus I just need to separate the editing side of things from my existing rig on which I do everything else.

For the past few months I've been researching for my custom spec, getting into the jargon, finding out any potential flaws, seeing who's the current tech leader, and generally getting my brain melted by the confusing world of knowing what you want to put inside your rig - off the shelf this rig most definitely is not.

Ooh I canny wait to get my mits on it! Getting a new computer, plugging it all in, booting it up for the first time, and generally creating your own nest of familiar software (and giving it a thorough run with a flashy game), is one of those joys in a guy's life ... like getting a new car and huffing that new car smell like it was going out of style, hell yeah.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

...and the writing continues!

Yepperooni, the script writing is coming along nicely. It's been a week now (typing away in spare time amidst other things to do) and I'm approaching the 30 page mark very, very soon.

It's going well, I'm just writing the ideal zombie movie in my mind, tapping away on the keys what I see in my head and getting it onto the page. There's a lot of description abound, so many of the pages are quite heavy at the moment, there's a lot of visual information to be laced in. It's important to convey as much of that information as possible, I'm even loosely editing how it would look if it was on screen, creating a loose rhythm to certain scenes or moments to help further illustrate what I have in mind.

I'm rather chuffed with it so far, and just as a zombie fan myself, I'm chuffed with some of the stuff I'm writing in - I'm getting to 'see' things I haven't seen yet on screen, and I'm getting to 'see' crowd-pleasing zombies (and zombie kills), I'm 'seeing' a world which hasn't been explored before (or far from properly anyway) in the zombie genre.

Yes, it's going well, even though I've still not got fully into the groove - such as operating Final Draft (still getting used to which keys to press at what point, and getting a real fast flow going on - it's been a while since I was last writing anything you see).

Currently one of eight segments (I did a basic brainstorm of the entire script as part of my copious planning and mapping out) is done, and the second of eight (which will constitute the first act) is about half way done.

I'm writing it long at the moment, partly due to additional information that the reader will need to know to understand what's going on, but mainly due to the sheer amount of visuals I have in mind - and the detail of said visuals. What I'm seeing in my head is mostly quite clear ... so yeah, once that second-of-eight segments is done, I'll pause - go back to the start - and sweep through that first draft of the first act and tidy it up - tighten things, add things, remove unnecessary things, clarify things, and give it a general tidy up.

This is what I did when writing "Generation Procrastination" a while back (in fact that was about a year ago now), and by the end of it what I had was a first draft that was in fact a second draft, ha! Plus it really does help to clarify things in your own head, and you get to catch up on what has come before in a far more condensed space of time - say over a day, rather than possibly two or more weeks (depending on available time, writer's block etc) that it took to originally hammer the keys in the first place.

One thing I will say, the current segment I'm on involves a lot of characters, and I'm having to learn fast about how to deal with so many characters at once - as well as realising that there's only so much you can do too - I even came momentarily a-cropper when I realised my detailed notes for the segment (all segments are fully laid out in note form) didn't include character names (e.g. "one vehicles goes here, the other stays there") - I had to figure out who was where and who dies when, etching in their names at every instance throughout my notes - but the momentary crisis was averted and the segment made a lot more sense to me.

Mind you, on the soon-to-come sweep through, I'll be looking to add a lot more dialogue and get the myriad of characters involved a lot more - even something as simple as finding an opportunity for the characters to use each other's names at least a couple of times (so a potential viewer of the potential film would know who is who by name), is in itself a task.

But aye - it's going well, I'm seriously digging the script when I step back and fully engage 'zombie nerd mode', factor 9, full speed ahead with The Gonk as the anthem in the background.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Finally! Writing begins...

Well, last night I finally started work on my latest script - a feature length zombie epic based on a short script I wrote called "The End". I'd previously sent that short script to Gary Ugarek (the dude behind Deadlands) and he rather liked it and said I should expand it into a feature length script.

As soon as he said "you should...", I knew I'd end up doing it sooner or later. This is exactly how VHS: Long Play came about, when a fellow member of Homepage of the Dead said he'd love to see a sequel to VHS and that I should do one. That got my brain started immediately and within hours I'd thrashed out an idea for it, and a few months later I'd actually gotten around to filming it.

Obviously, this new script - this feature length zombie epic - is way beyond my own means. The purpose of writing this script would be to get it seen by people far higher up the ladder, so-to-speak. The idea is to try and come up with new areas not explored by the zombie genre, or areas that have been glimpsed at, but not expanded upon. I want to answer the little questions that fans such as myself came up with in reaction to Land of the Dead (a film that I loved by the way), and finally to really come up with some memorable and even downright fucked up moments, with a sprinkling of action throughout.

Prior to starting this script however, was a month of desperate malaise - I'd started the Final Draft file, gotten the text and font and so on set up how I like - and before that was a period of brain storming and sequence & segment mapping out. Essentially the script is written ... in a brief form at least ... all I have to do is fill in the blanks, glue the parts together, and generally polish the whole thing.

So I got it going last night, a month after I'd started the Final Draft file, and managed to squeeze out three pages. Now yes, that's not a lot, but it's something. Besides, starting a new script - just like starting a new essay when I was at university, or throughout school - is always slow at the beginning.

You're trying to get into the mode of thinking (I had to fish out an old script to familiarise myself with the layout again, not to mention remembering how to use the software itself), and you're also trying to get into the script itself - the surrounding story, and the plot within the confines of the first and last pages. You've got to get your head into the characters, you've got to get the projector in your head rolling so that you can see clearly what you want so that you can write it down - this is what I do when writing. I watch the film in my head, then write down what I see.

Also, there's the issue of getting my head back into my notes and scene/segment layouts I'd written a few months ago. I've got to find all those little nuances, those little ideas I want to sprinkle throughout and figure out all over again where and when I want them - like last night, I was writing the beginning of the opening segment, but forgot I was meaning to include a radio broadcast throughout the first interaction between two characters, so I had to head back and lace that in between what I'd written.

It feels really good though, to get this script going, and like I said before, even though I only did three pages last night, I actually got the thing started. I overcame my crushing malaise, double clicked that FD icon, and started hammering the keyboard. Hopefully I can continue with the script from now on with as little hindrance as possible.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Siege...

I've had this in my collection for donkey's years, and I've never watched it. Insanely belatedly I got to it ... decent enough, wasn't balled over, not overly fussed. Perhaps it's just odd watching it in a 'post 9/11' world, if I dare be so brand-named about our current climate, especially as the flick is set in New York.

At times it does feel like it descends into 'lefty preaching' while making a valid point. It's insanely difficult to make a serious political picture, especially when you're within the time of Islamic Terrorism (although the terrorists are hardly Islamic ... they're simply terrorists).

It's just like the slew of Iraq-related political dramas that are over-run with Hollywood afford-to-be-liberals, it just feels forced and finger-waggy. It feels smug, it feels too soon, it feels like concluding the unconcluded.

I certainly hope we don't have yet another stupidly premature 'pull out at 98% complete' on our hands, if you start something, you should be up for finishing it (not thinking it'll be done in a month and then party time, which is just a retarded way of thinking and strategising, considering the enemy and style of warfare). Charlie Wilson's War, which focussed on Afghanistan during the late 80s, made a deft point of showing that the government couldn't be arsed to go that last mile, after blasting their way through the previous blood-soaked slog.

This of course brings me onto the bleeding heart, lefty chattering class that spread themselves amongst the news media (both printed and televised), pondering over anything and everything from an afford-to-be-liberal stance. You get the impression they'd think otherwise (at least some of them), if they were a struggling plumber with a wife and three kids, for example.

Don't mistake me for a Fox News loving righty either, my politics lie in the common sense middle ground (but far from the absolute shit of the current Labour government who've royally shafted the UK for 11 and a half years now, and have introduced legislation/proposals that are far, far more right-winged than the UK's 'right of centre' Conservative Party would ever dare - ID Cards, communications databases, the new preposterously ill-thought-out laws dealing with prostitution, the ghastly mis-use of the terrorism legislation and so-on ... I could go on, but I'd just piss myself right off).

Needless to say, I'm not a fan of Brown & Co.

Rolling back from my tangent, and returning to The Siege - meh, I guess.

The Cottage...

I'd waited on this one a bit, I almost saw it in the cinema (it vanished before we had a chance), and I almost bought it on DVD when it first came out, but I bought something else instead. Saw it for six quid though, and figured why not? Nabbed it, watched it, rather enjoyed it. It's not Shaun of the Dead (in terms of British horror humour), and perhaps the segway from kidnap caper into horror caper could have been handled better), but it was a decent effort with plenty of decent fun to be had.

I'd have liked the horror aspect to have been darker, scarier, far grimmer than what we got - but there was certainly a satisfactory air of 'Ed Gein's farmhouse of horrors' about the final stretch.

I've not seen London To Brighton, well I've seen bits of it, so I can't really compare The Cottage to that...what I can do is compare it to Severance, another low budget Brit 'horror in the country' outing. It's not fantastic, but it's far from shit ... aye, I'll leave it at that.

Hellboy 2...

I was never a fan of the first Hellboy, which I found merely "alright", indeed I could use the word "meh" (now officially in the dictionary). Again, with this sequel I was thoroughly "meh" throughout. I turned down the opportunity of peeping it out at an early screening with a friend of mine (whose blog, the McLegs Mainframe, is over there on the right somewhere). Now he actually digs Hellboy, but he only gave it an average score ... but then again, he dissed The Dark Knight a bit too...deary me.

Now, TDK - my top film of 2008 - was absolutely ball-bustingly awesome in my view. Hellboy 2 ... couldn't give a stuff in the end. It is certainly the work of Del Toro, but I'm just not all that bothered about weird and wonderful monsters flapping around on screen, nor schmaltzy love themes thrown about within said framework.

Right on to those who love it, fair play to them, but it's not for me. I'll be over here awaiting my double-disc doovde of The Dark Knight thank you very much.

The Strangers...

Took me a while to get around to this one, but I finally got around to it. In a world of ever-increasing splatter dished out by an impossibly-forward/backward/upside-down-thinking cancerous engineer (Saw 4 was almost entirely crap, and Saw 5 is no doubt of a similar pong), it's a pleasant surprise to find that the old art of suspense remains out there somewhere.

Admittedly there occasionally is a reliance on 'shock bangs', which are an incredibly cheap way to scare your audience (the cinema equivalent of your mate yelping "BOO!" at you from behind the sofa). However, there is also that slow, creeping sense of dread (kind of like living under a Labour government) that isn't used nearly as much in the mainstream as I'd like.

The flick isn't quick to please, it crawls along at it's own pace thank you very much, and quite masterfully cranks up the tension and worry of that which is not understood - namely, what the fuck are these masked nutters here for? "Because you were home", as the trailer chillingly mutters.

This sense of dread aside, the film does begin to crawl too much once it's gotten going. Do these masked freaks do much else but disappear from sight and creep around houses? A dash more propulsion in the second act could have helped solve this droop. Strange really, the film is a mix of two types of slow pacing - the good, and the bad.

I can't see this going down well with the moronic, gore-hungry-and-nothing-else-will-do folks who consider SAW 4 to be a superb slice of terror, but for those who like their horror genre varied, there'll be some meat to chew on here.

Zack And Miri Make A Porno...

As a big Kevin Smith fan, I was eager to see his latest - consider it moving away from the Askewniverse, take two. After the (actually not bad) Jersey Girl, he returned with the superb Clerks 2, which served as a true way to round the Askewniverse off (although, if a Clerks 3 was do-able, I'd definitely watch it).

Now it's time to move away from that universe again, although the vibe is still very much present and correct - providing a much smoother, gentler transition away from Smith's tried & true universe. Mewes is back and not playing Jay (leaving nothing to our imagination), Anderson is back and not playing Randal, and Jen (Smith's missus) is back for another cameo/bit part (although I found her appearance in Z&M a bit of a pill to swallow considering she's surely a few years senior to Z&M's graduating year).

A guffaw machine throughout the first half, the gags start to spread out a little in the final stretches when the story takes centre stage - which happens a lot in similar comedies, it has to be said. The final act especially, could have used a few more chuckles and could have done with having a few of the loose ends tied up.

Plot wise, there's certainly a rom-com lying in wait somewhere amidst the dick, fart, poop, fanny and vibrator jokes ... yes, you could say it's a bit on the schmaltzy side, a smidge on the obvious side, but at the same time - it works. You like these characters, you enjoy spending time with them, they amuse you, they're sweet and kind natured souls who are probably not that unlike those viewing the flick itself.

It doesn't quite have the full polish that Clerks 2 does, but then again - Clerks 2 was following Jersey Girl (which I liked, but don't consider a huge triumph by any means - it was a simple and sweet romcom ultimately, with a dash of new-fatherhood wisdom). Zack & Miri follows the 8-minute-standing-ovation-receiving Clerks 2.

Thoroughly enjoyable throughout, and one for the Dawn of the Dead uber-fans like myself. Not only do we get the well-known Monroeville Mall (Mecca of the zed-head), but we get cameos from Tom Savini and David Early.

Yes please and then some for the sure-to-be-great DVD, complete with highly anticipated Chop Shop Entertainment making of.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Well that was a productive day...

Every now and then I have these moments of 'let's get some shit done', and today was one of those days.

I'm rather lazy when it comes to getting a haircut, so I only go twice a year. I walk in with my hair all shaggy and looking naff (the bad side of long, as opposed to the cool side of long) and then walk out with it all shaved down with a razor cut. Today was no exception, aside from the fact I was lucky enough to walk in, sit down immediately, and be walking out within 15 minutes.

Then, straight down to Kodak for a set of passport photos (which I've been busy not getting for months now), had those taken within 2 minutes. Then, dart over to the bank, deposit a cheque and then zoom off to get some new threads - two pairs of jeans, a t-shirt, and a zip-up-hoody, and this of course officially pointed out that I had dropped a jeans size (I was daft and just indulged during my time at university), so hazah!

Nip back to Kodak, pick up my photos and back to the car - time elapsed - one hour.

Oh yes, I like to get shit done ... after I've procrastinated for ages that is ... I don't procrastinate over everything of course - such as, if it's work related, I get it done. When it comes to filmmaking then I get it done ... script writing on the other hand, that's a mixed bag, for instance I'm currently wading through a bout of malaise about double clicking that Final Draft icon and the remainder of the work to be done on Sexual Ethics Vol. 1, so there we are.

Anyway, after all that, I check out the new South Park, get a chunk of editing done, finish reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, then watch Taken - and to cap it all off - had a bacon butty for dinner.

Taken...and the oldest profession...

I'd seen the trailer for this numerous times in the cinema recently, and I figured - might as well. Didn't know it had anything to do with Luc Besson, the trailer made it look like a guy who so wasn't the bad guy appear to be the bad guy, and it had a line in it that my mates and I ended up finding strangely funny. When he says "they're going to take you", we just found it rather amusing, I'm not sure why, but we did.

Anyway, checked it out, and while nothing amazing, it's an effective thriller - the best part though, is Liam Neeson kicking arse, taking names and generally being awesome throughout. The dude gets shit done, and he's forever got a trick up his sleeve.

In typical Luc Besson related style, there's plenty of improvisational shit-kicking to be had (as in, use your surroundings to extract seven shades from each and every baddie - in this case - Albanian traffickers).

It's interesting actually, in the last couple of days the government has revealed that it's estimates for the volume of human trafficking going on in the UK were actually way higher than the reality. It's even being suggested (by commentators) that the figures could very well have been inflated to back up government ideas to ban prostitution out-right ... this of course all reflects on Taken, which has female trafficking at the heart of the plot.

Needless to say, such activity is sick and wholly wrong - but if the government do want to see the trafficking figures they were suggesting, then by all means ban prostitution out right, because that's what will happen. Unfortunately, 'the oldest profession' will continue to happen, so why not legalise it, tax it, and most importantly - provide a safe environment for all involved, an environment that would help keep drugs, disease and pimps out of it.

That all said mind you, the idea of prostitution just gives me the shudders personally. I've been working on an educational DVD for the last few months, on the topic of Sexual Ethics. As part of that we are using stock footage of the clubs and bars of Thailand where horny Europeans go for something on the sleazy side. Ultimately, such imagery (which isn't even graphic - far from it) just depresses me, and indeed, it was a bit "blimey"-inducing to see shots of a business dealing specifically in European girls (as opposed to the local Asian populace).

In the end though, I have to return to my default position - "is it consensual?" - if so, I've no problem generally speaking, because it's not for me to impose my will on others in such topics - and indeed, in all socio-political topics, and I believe that others should follow that guideline. Legalising the oldest profession would certainly help clean up the game itself, and hopefully bring true consent to the heart of the business ... in the mean time, I'll be hanging out over here chilling with some videogames.

Swinging right back to the topic of Taken however, can you do without seeing Liam Neeson kick plentiful arse? Quite frankly, the answer to that question should be a firm no, no you can't do without seeing Liam Neeson pummel seven bells out of grubby traffickers.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

All The President's Men...(and a political rant)

For a while now I've been wondering - what exactly was the Watergate scandal? I've heard and seen numerous mentions of it and references to it across a variety of movies and television, but it's always been in the context of assuming the audience knows what it's all about. Of course, they're American shows and movies, and being that it was an American scandal, they're probably not that bothered about educating foreigners who are not in the know (be it fully or totally).

The straw that broke the Camel's back so-to-speak, was finally getting around to watching Oliver Stone's Nixon - which of course partly involves the whole Watergate thing, but even here I wasn't fully clued in.

Then - All The President's Men - I'd seen snippets of it on Sky Movies and figured it'd be my kind of flick, I don't half dig a bit of 1970s 'New Hollywood' era cinema. I just love the vibe of it, the look of it, the acting talent, the sense that these films struck out from the status quo and signalled a significant shift in cinema.

What it's all about, is indeed, the whole Watergate scandal - so finally I got off my arse and nabbed the 2-disc DVD for a fiver and set about indulging myself in a bit of the aforementioned New Hollywood vibe. At last, I got the bottom line on what Watergate was all about.

Watergate, home to the Democratic Party offices, was broken into by five guys working secretly on behalf of the Republican Party (who were in power at the time, and looking for dirt on their opponents to secure a second term for Nixon - which happened due to government stalling, but of course led to Nixon's impeachment). A 'slush fund' set-up for shady dealings, such as the Constitution-shafting bugging and snooping around being conducted, paid for this - and that's the career-making story that Woodward and Bernstein (Redford and Hoffman in the film) found themselves caught up in ... at least that's what it is unless I'm mistaken somehow, ha!

Also, I finally got to see where all this 'Deep Throat' business came from (which of course was all referenced in the first season of The X-Files, and indeed that vibe continued throughout the show's run) - here he's played by Hal Holbrook, whom I know from George A. Romero's Creepshow (currently being absolutely name-raped by Taurus), so that was pretty cool as I haven't seen many Holbrook flicks.

Continuing on from my love of the New Hollywood cinema, a love that fed into the absolutely superb Zodiac by David Fincher (which appears to reference ATPM via the San Francisco Chronicle), it was such a pleasure to see pure, old school journalism on show.

If I could time-travel, it'd be neat to visit that vibe - but I'd not want to stay, I couldn't do without broadband and all the other technological (de)vices I crave. No mobile phones, simply wired rotary jobbies, phone booths, paper records in the library, the office full of bright 70s desks adorned with type writers (a device I've only ever briefly played with in my youth) ... like I said, New Hollywood cinema, I dig it.

It also got me thinking about the current state of journalism, an issue discussed in the extras, and indeed it's certainly not the same as it used to be. Now we have corporate news not wanting to piss anybody off, not looking to put out the dangerous story (and sometimes when they do, they've blatantly fucked up in epic style - Piers Morgan knows a thing or two about that). This is an era of 24/7 news, an ever-rolling repeat of the same old shit over-and-over four times an hour, the very same shit all the other news networks are reporting at exactly the same time.

This of course was another thread of discussion in the extra features on the DVD - the political leanings of the news networks (in America it is seemingly either rabidly left, or rabidly right), a bunch of preening celebrities reading news that scrolls mindlessly infront of their eyes - these are not journalists, not proper journalists anyway.

The 'blogosphere' may not be the perfect thing, but at least it affords the everyday person with an opportunity to speak at length, to air their frustration and anger at a system that refuses to listen, a system that refuses to report fairly...it truly does depress me to great lengths.

Returning to ATPM, Bernstein was a Democrat and Woodward was a Republican, and both respected the system to use it, and fight for it and to help maintain proper practice within the government. Damn straight, we could do with more of that passion and political fairness today.

Hooray indeed for All The President's Men, a superb political drama, a superb journalism story, a superb slice of New Hollywood ballsy grit ... go on, once more - superb.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Deadlands 2: Trapped...

Well here we are, after the rather bloody successful Deadlands: The Rising (a true case of indie spirit - a bunch of mates get together, learn as they go, and put out a cheap-but-full-of-scope slice of zombie mayhem). So great stuff indeed ... even if the zeds do run (I'm firmly in the 'shambler camp' - that said however, Deadlands and recently Dead Set are my exceptions).

I remember describing the original Deadlands, at one point, as a "technical lava lamp" ... I think what I was meaning by that (whilst also day-dreaming of pulling out my own lava lamp from the cupboard), is that Deadlands was a melting pot of attention-grabbing, learn-as-you-go, full-on indie spirit.

Deadlands 2: Trapped is similar in its success - only this time everything is ratcheted up several notches, displaying in abundance Writer/Director (and a few other titles) Gary Ugarek's dedication to improving on his craft as a filmmaker. Not to say Deadlands: The Rising was bad (I've been a staunch pro-ponent of the flick), but Deadlands 2 is leaps and bounds beyond it.

The cinematography and editing are two distinctly immediate slabs of improvement served up to your eyes. The pace is tight throughout, the coverage is more organised, and the camerawork itself - again, nothing but improvement. At times, the 24-like quiver amplifies the power of the more violent scenes, helping to sell a genuine sense of "oh fuck!" when the zeds storm a military checkpoint for example, or capturing a war of words among our cinema-dwelling protagonists.

Plot wise, it goes like this - some rather unsavory government types are up to no good with a secret biological test, which as any good zombie flick hound knows doesn't go too well ... or does it? Caught in the middle however, are your average and everyday middle-Americans either working the register at the Hagerstown 10 cinema, or out for a night of bar-hopping.

The characters are fleshed out fully in the first act, and are performed well - especially for an indie production. Obviously, you're not going to find Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino burning up the screen over a cup of coffee, but anyone expecting such things from the indie scene simply don't understand the scene. That said, even the non-professional turns dotted here and there stand up against other similarly grounded flicks - but its the central performances that shine. Jim "helicopter zombie" Krut brings the suit-and-tie-menace in gleeful abundance as the diabolical biological project leader, and Durbin, Davidson, Clark, Young and Brush all push their respective boats out.

Excuse my inability with connecting names to faces, but 'dude with the cap' and 'chick with all the ear-rings' were absolutely superb, they grasped the intensity of the situation at hand, the over all "we're fucked" nature of proceedings and delivered performances that punch above the usual indie belt. I'll be honest, I got a few chills up and down my spine during the more explosive scenes.

One of the things that most excites me about Deadlands (the original, and now this sequel), is that sensation of people at the start of their careers (be it in front of, or behind the cameras). This is certainly no truer than the case of the young lads behind Spaghetti Industries - these guys serve up some fantastic, blood-soaked moments of gore.

Finally - scale - there's a boat-load of the stuff, and considering the budget (even lower than Deadlands, which wasn't exactly surfing on the budget of Heaven's Gate) it's incredible to see so much on offer, again leading Deadlands 2: Trapped to punch above the usual indie belt - especially on such a small budget (just to hammer the point home).

Any bad? To be honest there's not much point focussing on any minor, fleeting issues all that much. The political stance of the film (during certain scenes) occasionally strays into blunt-force territory, some dialogue doesn't quite roll off the tongue, and (as a filmmaker myself, at the relative start of my career admittedly) I noticed a few editing issues here and there that I would have tweaked or perhaps done slightly different - but that last point shouldn't bother the vast majority, that's just the filmmaker inside me talking.

What's that pedantic filmmaker amidst my juicy viscera saying? The odd audio issue (e.g. quiet car journeys, the occasional scream bursting forth a bit too loudly, the odd moments of the audio mix being a bit out-of-synch or levelled inconsistently) - the occasional edit issue (e.g. the odd shot appearing grey in comparison to the gloriously deep blacks throughout, and the final moment - which I'd have edited slightly differently...but then again, Gary isn't me and I'm not Gary, so that's purely personal editing choices & styles).

But as previously stated, said issues are piffling in the face of a properly successful, and properly indie-spirited venture - roll on Deadlands 3!

8/10

Madagascar...

I'd never seen this before, and I most certainly partake in CGI family fare from time-to-time (WALL.E was my #2 flick of 2008), so I figured I'll have a gander. Entertaining throughout, loads of movie references that kids would never get, but adults would - and superb little-seen side characters in the shape of two literate chimps and a quartet of Capone-like penguins.

I mean who doesn't want some of that? What else would you not want to do without? A colony of Lemurs lorded over by the most self-aggrandising King of the Lemurs ever? Seriously, what's not to like? Bounds along at a hell of a lick, the plot never putters out and it's got enough balls to have a crocodile (or was it an alligator?) snap up an intensely cute duckling!

Not just cheap CGI kiddy schmaltz, but rather an actually well written, witty and frequently guffaw-inducing slice of family entertainment that adults should feel free to enjoy on their own. As a kid I've craftily sneak a look at horror movies, now as an adult I indulge in animated flicks about loveable robots or talking zoo animals ... but I can't go for too long without seeing some blood getting gushed across the screen, muah-ha!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Hancock...

I finally got around to seeing this, and all I can say is "meh". I wasn't expecting a lot already, but thought it might be enjoyable enough fair after reading what Total Film had to say about it ... I did get some moments of entertainment from it, but over all I really can't remember too much about it, or nothing really properly worth remembering anyway.

I guess I would have much preferred to see the original R-rated version those behind it had in mind, I think that could have really provided something fresh and different to the super hero action sub-genre. Instead, we get quite safe fair (I wouldn't say having him mutter "fuck" once, shove a head in an ass and be a bit hung over at the start - before a swift-to-come clean-up as daring territory).

As for the twist - it's pretty obviousy pretty damn soon, and I wasn't exactly fussed...then again I wasn't fussed about the whole movie. Worth a watch, but I could easily not watch it again.

Now if you don't mind, I fancy watching the "Last Day" trailer for Gears of War 2 yet again - now that shit is top notch!

The Lone Gunmen...

As I've mentioned before, I've recently had an absolute X-Files marathon (it essentially replaced the vast majority of my TV and film viewing for more than two months), so as part of said marathon it was my aim to get my mits on The Lone Gunmen spin-off, which I'd never seen before.

After some cheeking price raising (after retailers caught on that X-Files box sets were selling well after the recent release of the second flick - which is the reason for my epic marathon), I got my mits on a copy of the box set and finished watching it the other day.

Simply put - enjoyable enough, but far from the excellence of The X-Files, indeed it's a completely different show, almost entirely so. Despite being lighter fair, it still doesn't rise to the heights of the lighter episodes of The X-Files (which were, honestly, superb). It's not complete trash - far from it - but they never really figured out what the show should be, never quite got the tone right. A good idea, unfortunately not a fully successful one.

Some people quite liked it, and fair play to them. Perhaps I was still bowled over by the awesomeness of The X-Files (even though the last two seasons weren't quite up to the standard of the first seven seasons) ... I think I can best sum it up this way.

When I was watching The X-Files, the most episodes in one day I managed was seven (hey, don't judge me, we all have our DVD box set splurges from time-to-time), whereas the most episodes of TLG I managed in one day was two. What now though? Why, Band of Brothers of course - I finally got my mits on it for cheap, it's been over thirty quid for feckin' years!

Jackie Brown...

Back in the day I rented this from our local video store, having already seen Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (both of which are great flicks, obviously), but much to my dismay - I did not dig Jackie Brown. Sure, this was a decade ago (back in the fun days of VHS rental, ahh the memories), so this is why I figured that at four quid I might as well get the DVD.

After all, having recently re-watched the entire X-Files saga (said episodes of which I'd not seen in at least several years, and at most a decade), and subsequently gotten even more out of it now that I'm a decade older (it's now my new religion, ha!) I thought this might be the case with Jackie Brown.

Well...I loved The X-Files originally, and I've adored it further now that I've had my marathon of it ... I didn't love Jackie Brown originally, so having just seen it the whole way through in one sitting for the first time in a long time (if not ever), I cannot say I now adore it. I certainly don't hate it anymore, I can dig it, but I still maintain that - for me at least - it is Tarantino's weakest flick. Perhaps this comes from the fact that he adapted the script from an existing book, so perhaps it's not the truest Tarantino out there.

So aye - I like it better (or a good deal better) than I originally did, but I remain un-bowled-over ... but it is nice to now have all of QT's flicks on DVD...onwards to the extra features!

Futurama: Bender's Game...

Admittedly, this and The Beast With A Billion Backs were a little bit of a let down compared to the triumphant return (and far more consistent guffaws) of Futurama with Bender's Big Score - that said, Futurama that's not quite as rosy as it once was, is far better than no Futurama - and indeed, better than any current Simpson's episodes.

Here's hoping that the fourth and final installment of this Futurama return to our screens finds all of its heart and soul once more, because a new season on television would be most welcome. The well is far from dry in the Futurama universe and it would be criminal to lose out on future Futurama.

Regardless of the drop in giggles, all Futurama fans should check this out.

Do you reckon I said "Futurama" enough?

Quantum of Solace...

It's been a bit of a slow time these last few weeks for blogging, I got a bit out of the way of doing it, but I've had a sudden flood of things I've watched to pimp some thoughts on (as such, forgive any spelling or gramatical slip-ups, having just written all this blog juice I can't be arsed to proof read it, it's not like I'm paid for it ha!), so here goes, the first of five posts this evening!

Quantum of Solace...

Having recently dived back into Casino Royale (with the spiffing 3-disc deluxe DVD), I was all set up and ready to go for Quantum of Solace, a sequel with no small amount of hype surrounding it - but QoS was always going to be a bit of a let down after the super-high, concrete-punch return of Bond in Casino Royale.

Indeed, this is the case - but with CR being so damn good, it means that QoS is still a highly enjoyable Bond outing (and certainly a damn sight better than the daft silliness of Brosnan's last outing). Methinks QoS does suffer from not being directed by Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale) who would have probably brought more weight and balance to the second third, which is where QoS does - quite honestly - sag a bit.

That said, the third-third picks the pace back up again (and is indeed occasionally quite rough for a 12A rated flick), but it's the first third where shit really hits the fan. A blistering, gasp-inducing car chase kicks proceedings off immediately, leading on to a considerable amount of action up front - then we have the plot all come in one big lump (pretty much anyway) and this is where it decides to tread a bit of water. Had Campbell been directing, there would have no doubt been some better balancing going on around about here.

That said, Marc Forster does a solid job - but considering he's the man behind flicks such as Stranger Than Fiction and Monster's Ball, perhaps he's not best suited to this sort of film.

Daniel Craig is still absolutely rocking it as the ever-so-smooth (but not sickly so) James Bond - so hurrah that he's signed up for more. The action - when it's rocking your socks on screen - barrels the film along at a fair lick ... it's just that mid-third where it wobbles somewhat. Although I'm adamant that those expressing cries of "boring" are making a mountain out of a molehill, but nor is it a pebble in the road.

QoS is a good half hour or so shorter than Casino Royale, but Campbell's flick feels far brisker and more consistent throughout, whereas QoS erupts from the off, runs a bit out of breath, then regains its composure for a solid closing set piece (although admittedly the sinking of the house in Venice was more impressive).

Don't expect Casino Royale, but likewise don't expect the last of the Brosnan output, and do expect Craig's continued sock-rocking and all should be right in your world.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Frieze Film 2008 - YouTube links...

These are the original edits (the ones shown on Channel 4 were a smidge different, with certain gory images replaced) of the Road Movie project, viewables on YouTube.

Part One:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=LW4cbIw3IW8

Part Two:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Qf4ci7QH8

Part Three:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=tLe4lglgTGA

Part Four:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=tTbcnolKJB8

Enjoy.

...

And yes, there's not been much blogging this month, not sure why ... guess I'm not feeling the blog-juice this month. Anyway, I'm in the midst of writer's block/frustration - trying to get my zombie epic script started ... I finished my X-Files marathon the other day, or about a week ago now actually, and am currently going through Mulder & Scully withdrawal, ha!

Oh yeah, I'm gonna get around to updating my showreel, so expect to see that sometime soon.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

3 Minute Wonder - further details!

http://www.friezefoundation.org/film

Go to the above link and watch Parts 2 and 4 - where I have footage used.

Obviously everybody only gets brief bits used, as there was 2 hours of chosen footage edited down into four 3 minute shorts, but this means I've had stuff shown on Channel 4 prime time television, and of course I'm credited on the end credits - according to my YouTube channel name of course - which is ZombieWagon.

There's one of my shots (seemingly flipped vertically and horizontally) in the opening titles of each of the four films - again, high contrast black and white footage of the white road markings ... on a road, obviously.

Anyway, in Part 2 my footage is the two high contrast black and white shots driving along a road with a dull sky overhead, at 0:21 and 2:17. (I do actually think Part 2 is the best of the four, and not just because I've got the bulk of my exposure in there, but because I do think it's the best one generally speaking).

In Part 4 I have a brief shot used at 1:35 (grey image with 'ash' falling through the frame - it's originally snow of course).

So aye, on the grand scheme of things and comparitively speaking I have had a good amount of footage used - and of course my original, uncut film can be seen both on the Frieze Film 2008 YouTube page, as well as my own YouTube channel (as linked to in the links section on the right hand side of my blog).

As for air times - well, as I've got a shot used in the opening credits, that gets shown before all of the films, but as for the specific parts I'm further used in:

Part 2 - Tuesday 14th October 2008, Channel 4 at 7:55pm (or an hour later on C4+1)
Part 4 - Thursday 16th October 2008, Channel 4 at 7:55pm (or an hour later on C4+1)

And as previously noted at the top of this blog post, you can see all the films on the Frieze Film 2008 website.

Monday, 13 October 2008

3 Minute Wonder...

As previously mentioned, I took part in the Frieze Film 2008 "Road Movie" project (with my short "Memories of Falling Ash", as seen on my YouTube page). Part of the project was for the organisers to pick some of the submitted shorts to be used for four 3 Minute Wonder shorts on Channel 4 at 7:55pm - October 13th through 16th (Mon, Tue, Wed, and Thur).

Of the 140 videos 'attached' to the FF2008 YouTube page, 38 were picked by the project director - of which, I am one.

So fingers crossed they'll use some of my footage in one or more of this week's 3 Minute Wonder slots on Channel 4 at 7:55pm (or indeed Channel 4 +1 at 8:55pm), they obviously liked it enough to pick it, so hopefully that's a good omen and then I can say I've had stuff shown on Channel 4's well-known shorts showcase in prime time television territory, which would be pretty cool.

As for the project itself, as previously stated it's based on/inspired by the 2006 Cormac MacCarthy novel The Road, which I recently bought and am now reading - pretty good actually, I look forward to seeing the film adaptation with Viggo Mortensen.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Do you want a digital copy with that? How about an iPod?

No, no I don't. I've no idea where this craze kicked off from, but it's a waste of time and effort - and is occasionally a flat-out nuisance.

The two disc DVD of Rambo appeared to only differ from the single disc in terms of having a digital copy, so I bought the single disc (this was a while back now) and what d'ya know - I got royally fucked over on ALL extra features. Not a single extra feature - because they were all on the two disc edition, with the "digital copy" - which, as I don't have an iPod, is next to completely useless.

For one reason or another I couldn't return my single disc, so yeah - nuisance.

As for the "digital copy" idea in itself - silly. Is this supposed to make piracy harder for the cyber-peg-legged sorts out there? Surely it makes it easier, but then again, who wants to watch a movie - especially one in 2.35:1 widescreen - on their piddly little iPod screen?

So they can sit on a bus annoying people, thinking they're really stylish and 'with it', when in actuality they're just targets for crime. It's like UMDs - again, I see no point - a slightly bigger screen comparatively of course, but it's still a pokey little screen with pokey little speakers - WHY?!

When do you get the time and opportunity to watch an entire movie on an iPod? For the majority of people it's probably not that frequent, and if certain people really had to have a dinky little copy of a movie - why not just download it from iTunes if they're so desperate to be so bleedin' hip?

Meanwhile - us normal folks who buy DVDs don't have to pay extra to have the 'extra feature' that is the same movie, only encoded for tiny bloody screens. Also - as I've bought the DVD, surely I have no intention of slapping a peg leg and an eye patch on it so I can flaunt it online to a bunch of random downloaders (half of whom, seemingly don't understand how to download in the first place anyway).

Simply put - it's annoying, just stop it.

Why bring this up? Because all I ever seen now is "includes digital copy of the movie!" emblazoned across the artwork, and I just spotted it yet again on the 3-disc X-Phile Edition of the second X-Files flick.

Maybe it's just me, who knows, but I reckon digital copies should piss off. Have you seen the size of an iPod Video? Have you seen the size of a cinema screen, or indeed the average person's telly? Exactly.

...

Speaking of iPod related stuff, I was recently using iTunes to move some tracks onto someone's iPod, and I still hate the software. Once I finally blundered my way into figuring out how to put music onto the device it was fairly straight forward - but finding out how to do that was a total accident, ergo - shit software, or at least I think so, maybe newer versions are more straight forward and have less fiddly track lists and recently added this, and recently played that and so on - keep it bloody simple - just give me a massive button saying "click here to take music from your computer and plonk it on that iPod thing in your hand!"

Seriously, why do I have to either pick one track at a time, or one entire folder (seemingly there's no such thing as an in-between), then stick it in some mid-way, half-way-house, middle-man, pain-in-the-arse track list thing, then copy all that stuff, select some other playlist that's actually on the iPod itself, then paste ... why the fiddling?

This is why I stick to MP3s on my computer, or making my own mix CD's (which are now about as 'old school' as making a mix tape - something I used to do many-a-time back in the day, even in my Sixth Form years) - I open the disc burning software, I pick a bunch of tracks, drag them into the order I want, click burn and in five minutes I've got a new CD to listen to in the car - sorted.

Maybe it's me, but all this iPod, iTunes, i-Whatever bombardment gives me a headache, ha!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Sabrina & the Engineer - Part 2!

This time it's most definitely personal ... well, sorta ... to my back ... and my left ankle (yeah, this ankle):

http://deadshed.blogspot.com/2007/11/guy-fawkes-in-eye.html

Anyway, I've literally just gotten back home having been out all day in Bridnorth (yeah, this Bridgnorth):

http://deadshed.blogspot.com/2007/08/20-hour-saturday.html

Fortunately it wasn't that early a start, setting off around half-noon ... ish ... as I got stuck behind the slowest tractor on planet earth with a trailer filled with American prison style hard labour boulders.

So off we went and soon enough - back to the field we'd been in over a year beforehand. Unfortunately the weather wasn't as nice ... I say nice, but piercing sun and sweaty heat don't do it for me (but by popular definition, I use the word "nice" to describe last year's weather). Mind you, that was August ... this is October.

The previous week had been a bit chilly during the evening performance, but was calm-aired and clear. This week however it was windy, nippy all day and raining intermittently in varying degrees. A bit of a sit down was in order, but not before checking out the base of operations tent - which was full-on M*A*S*H style ... the movie, not the telly show (to me, cos I've only seen the movie, ha!)

Then a meeting in a rowing club, which was a tad random with these three or four dudes in really comfy-looking seats watching the rugger on the box - then back to camper van HQ for another well-earned sit down, then I remember there being a trip to the burger van nearby (I've never before had a burger from such a van before actually, so that's a first for me) - I had a rather good bacon cheese burger, a quarter-or-so pound of lush.

So, after that exertion it was time for another sit down - with the heating blasting, natch. Time for a chat, on a whole range of topics - from how I think Gordon Brown is a gigantic fucking prat (and indeed his entire party, Mandy included when he's not busy being fired), to the intricacies of censorship and internet porn availability, variety and dodginess to goodness knows what else.

Before I knew it, it was time to suit up and get shifting - which involved putting on my rain cover, an item I bought after the filmmaker's nightmare of a project I did last year where everything just went wrong (surrounding the film, not the film in the end happily), but I'd never had reason to use it until now, hazah! One problem, it isn't half a fuss to get over the camera!

Charging forth into battle was next ... which involved a gasp-inducing clamber up the cliff-face that is Bridgnorth (no doubt what started giving my ankle grief) to begin filming at the church - kids, lanterns and more kids with lanterns - then to the streets with a brass band and a boat load of people - then meandering down through the town grabbing wide shots of the approaching procession - then across the bridge and to the first chunk of the main performance.

Chaos (to an extent) descended, stuff was happening but I wasn't entirely sure what was going on, so I grabbed the shots that I could and hung out in anticipation of the steam engine (which crashed a little bit a few minutes later, nothing serious). Annoyingly I'd forgotten to change my widescreen shooting mode, but rectified that on a new tape (so there'll be some sort of cropping jiggery-pokery to do on the first tape - you always forget one thing, guaranteed).

Onwards we marched, grabbing shots of the procession headed by the steam engine, then to the stage (grabbing our pre-placed, and damp, tripods to get going on the main chunk of the finale). The rather spiffing water woman (who was mirrored by water man later in the performance) returned to wow the audience, then onwards to the show proper - singing, lights, flashes of fireworks, a little boat in a man-made temporary river-pond-lake construction, then water man - and then kaboom, kaplow, whizz, bang, ooh and indeed ahh - fireworks, a spiffing show in itself.

I forgot to mention - the rain came in and out during the performance, which was unfortunate, but my gripe was kneeling on wet, freshly mown grass ... nay, soaking grass with clumps of mown grass scattered around ... regardless, I managed to get some nice shots (this water fountain-cum-projector thingymabob was rather nice for my frame compositions) and then ... the end.

A hobbling stumble back to the burger van and an absolutely heavenly-lush injection of Orange Tango, most definitely what the doctor ordered. A stagger back to the van, a quick debrief, then a weary drive back - and now here I am, still in the same jeans that got all soaked and grassy, still stinking like a dead animal after all the running about, and looking forward to a nice kip ... shame about the stiff back and the bastard ankle, perhaps walking four miles on it after spraining it wasn't a good idea ... but it did make me feel a bit like Rocky when we got to where we were heading.

Maybe next time I hurt myself I'll just flop onto the floor and refuse to move until the best care on offer on the planet is delivered immediately, with a free DVD of something awesome is thrown in ... dancing ladies chanting my name optional, ha!

So ends another hectic, yet ultimately rewarding, filming experience.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sabrina & the Engineer...

http://www.severnproject.com/home.html

Having helped shoot the Sturgeon Moon project in 2007, I returned to help shoot the new Severn Project performance - Sabrina and the Engineer, taking place in September and October 2008.

Don't try and ask me what the story of S&E is about, because when you're covering it, that's one of the last things you're focussing on - instead you're concerned about the sequence of events, and timing, as well as camera placement and who goes where and when.

On all the Arts Council projects I've covered thus far, there seems to be a bit of a running theme - they're always filming challenges, providing real coverage conundrums to solve, and of course - lots of chaos.

Fortunately the day wasn't as lengthy as some have been before (so no 'up at the literal arse crack of dawn and down plenty after midnight' this time ... which was nice). That said, it wasn't a cake walk either - we got a walkthrough of the events, which I initially struggled to grasp - but then again, it's a bit tricky when you're new to the project (as in, you're not one of the creators), you're new to the location and you're trying to learn choreography and in turn translate it into your own practical choreography...aye, tis complicated.

Throw in a near-last minute change of filming possibilities, a bit of confusion over the timing of certain events, and then another as-you're-in-it change of filming possibilities and you've got a hectic time alright ... oh and my filming position mid-show was interupted by an unexpected cart used in the performance which I wasn't expecting...but it's all part of the fun and chaos of filming such an event.

I don't enjoy the build up, the time spent waiting for it all to get underway, but once it gets going - it's done in a flash. During the performance you're almost fighting your way through, like a safe and artistic-based version of war photography. Things happen around you, you've gotta think fast and act quick and adapt immediately ... all the while being mindful of your white balance settings, your focus, your exposure, your zooming, your framing and your input volume ... among other technical issues.

So aye - chaotic, but during the performance, when it's "go time", that is what I enjoy ... like I said before, the waiting and building tension beforehand isn't something to enjoy but to endure - the actual performance being the prize, and then hopefully after the dust settles you can sit back and enjoy some quality footage as you debrief ... then the weary journey home.

So what stuff was on show? Well, a steam engine leading one procession, another procession with the show's Sabrina on-board a decorated cart meeting the first at the main performance area, live music, fancy lighting, a boat on the river adorned with lights, a bunch of fireworks and then a load of waterjets either side of a woman rigged with hoses up her back and along her arms firing more jets of water (which was actually quite spectacular, very well performed and a joy to film in itself).

All in all it's probably not the sort of thing I'd usually go and see of my own volition ... but is if I was living in a city that did such things, with a group of friends (but I'm not as I certainly can't afford that just yet) ... but that said, while I didn't quite "get" it all, I certainly enjoyed the spectacle of it all and thought everyone did a great job. The audience were certainly all behind it, so that too, in itself, was a pleasure to witness.

The only downside - my back decided to play up throughout the day, and I woke up the morning after with my back a little better, but still a bit 'hung over' and stiff.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tropic Thunder, the lads & I, and The X-Files...

Another week, another six-fifty, and another comedy laugh riot...well, I probably laughed more riotously at Pineapple Express the week before, but TT has me roflcoptering and lulzing on numerous occasions, with many of the chuckles-a-plenty coming from RDJ's superb 'dude playing the dude disguised as the other dude'.

It's this sort of flick that really is ideal for a lads night out at the flicks, and it's indeed how comedy works best - viewing with others - you end up spurring each other on, inspiring each other's laughter to continue. A prime example being three of four weeks before TT, when we all went to check out Step Brothers. We figured it'd be funny, but not as funny as it ultimately was - it had us in stitches, and the long-winded moment of butt-trumpet glory had me and one mate roflchoppering each other onwards deep into the next scene or two ... a good fart joke goes a long way. Heck, we got our six-fifty out of that moment alone.

So, back to Tropic Thunder, were there as many classic lulzor moments to be had? Personally, a few less than Pineapple Express ... but that's not necessarily an insult, I just found Pineapple to be insanely funny (death by Daewoo, anyone?), whereas I felt TT did have the odd moment where it steered a tad wide of the mark, or occasionally didn't pack the largest punch that it could have.

The send up of Hollywood is certainly present, but not merciless, but then again the target is less satirical and more targetted at giving your ribs a good tickle - Black's strung-out, fart-comedy, dope-fiend's man-on-man-oral bribe to be untied is purile, but for us lads - hilarious - and quoted at least four times on the drive home.

Much like "big muthafuckin' titties!" (or was it "big fat titties!") ... regardless, 'that guy from Pineapple Express last week' stole one golden moment for us lads, as did the trailer-worn-but-still-punchy flinging the stabby toddler off a bridge (the subsequent look on the kid's face even managed to raise a wide variety of "awws" and "lulzorz" in equal measure from the audience alone.

The comedy swings between riotously funny, to mainstream satire-lite, and purely out there (Tom Cruise not freaking everyone out on YouTube for a change was one of the high points). The action also - this essentially being an action comedy - is handled with aplomb, and even dishes out a totally unexpected shock that stunned the entire audience, before an "eww"-laden eruption of hilarity.

All-in-all, yet another successful round trip to the flick-factory for myself and the usual suspects ... so usual that one's other half reckons we're actually all off to a strip joint, rather than the movies, hah!

Next up? Quantum of Solace no doubt - a definite must-see (roll on the 3-disc Casino Royale too)...but for now, back to itching and fidgetting as I wait for season five of The X-Files to rock up on the door mat (I'm so properly hard-core back into that show, since fondly watching the final episode back in 2002). Like a fine wine, it's just gotten better with age - both that of the show, and my own appreciation of it.