Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Dark Knight...

This is a great superhero movie. Not only is it a great superhero movie, but it's a great Batman movie, and not only is it a great Batman movie, but it's a great movie ... and not only is it a great movie, but it's a great film.

The Dark Knight is most definitely 'The Godfather II of superhero movies', and indeed so it is the T2 and Aliens of the Batman 'Nolan-verse' (to quote Kevin Smith, who recently ranted and raved passionately about how simply awesome the film is).

Now, at a hefty two and a half hours, you might think it's a tad long - but not once did I check my watch, or think "I wonder how far through is it now?" ... actually I tell a lie, about mid-way through I wondered how far through we were, and hoped that we were only a quarter through the movie, it was that good and I was enjoying it that much.

It's grand, it's epic, it's weighty and it packs a powerful punch.

Just the acting talent on show alone sets this movie high above all other films in its genre. Bale as the eponymous hero continues to rock copiously after his triumphant turn in Batman Begins. Oldman continues to paint Gordon with due care and attention, creating a character you truly respect. Caine again steps up to the plate as Alfred the Butler, the sort of chap anyone would love to have as their uncle, a man of pin-sharp wit and never-bending loyalty.

Now - the two villains - firstly, I'll have to say that Eckhart as Harvey "Two Face" Dent was fantastic, so much so that yes - I too believe in Harvey Dent. It is a shame that his sheer acting talent in this film will end up being kicked aside somewhat, due to the demise of Heath Ledger - who, quite simply, was astonishingly good at being The Joker.

Indeed, with this being Ledger's final full performance, he most definitely went out on one of the highest career notes in cinematic history. Just the scene where The Joker exits an exploding hospital (which was done for real, in one take), leaves you completely entertained as well as staggered. Jack Nicholson definitely created a legendary Joker in Batman 1989, one that was somewhat dark but mostly full of comic exaggeration. Indeed, Burton's Batman - often described as being dark and brooding - is comparatively light and fluffy when sat next to Nolan's shockingly bleak and complex entry. Only in the world of Nolan could The Joker be so exceedingly pitch black, while still managing to raise a wry grin and hearty chuckle from the audience - his "magic trick", or his fussing over a faulty detonator, exemplify this humorously dark tone that Ledger so beautifully captured.

Action wise - again - it leaves you staggered. From the technical marvel of a one-take, Ledger-involving, razing of a hospital, to Batman taking out a semi truck as only he knows how, to many other set pieces, you're just left nothing short of clamped to your seat.

Indeed, certain action sequences demonstrate such a potent and skillful understanding of tension building, that you are desperately strapped in position, and - when a character suffers a certain fate - you're genuinely blown away. In terms of the gloves coming off, I can only think back to the season five opener of 24 as being this shocking.

Why is the movie so involving? The script - which is truly adult in nature - no, I don't mean there are titties flopping around all over the shop. What I mean is, the issues at hand are often deeply complex, and there are some amazingly deep ethical scenarios played out throughout the film that left myself and a friend talking all the way back home again.

Through no action of my own, The Dark Knight remained one, two or three steps ahead of me. I barely was allowed room to stop for breath (or time to grow weary), and by the time the final shot cut to black and the title appeared before the credits, I was gagging for more.

I would have gladly watched another hour of something this well scripted, this well acted, this well directed, and this well assembled. Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding the film - but try and forget about as much of that as possible - and just get swept away by literally the best film of 2008.

I'd previously said that WALL.E was my #2 of 2008 because I was holding #1 open specifically for The Dark Knight - I was not left disappointed, and am still swooning over how bloody brilliant it all was days later.

One final note - here in the UK it's a 12A, which is an advisory rating. As such there were kids as young as eight (guestimate) in the audience, and at times I did wonder (as Kevin Smith has also), what are they getting out of this movie? This film works on so many levels, most of which circle the depths of the grown up world, that you start to think - is this serving to entertain the kids as much as previous, far lighter installments did?

Well, it must do (at least for some), because when the trailer-bothering shot of the semi truck getting flipped over front-wards, some kid near the back just yelled out "WOOOOOOWWW!!!!", and indeed wow, it was a bloody cool sequence (especially Batman's idea of an about-turn).

Indeed, The Dark Knight stands up and shows the world that even a comic-book-based film can become something to be taken very seriously, that even ballsy box-office-owning entertainment can leave you mulling over a myriad of issues - from the superb acting, to the complicated ethical choices that characters must face throughout.

Now, actually finally, The Dark Knight is occasionally fairly shocking - the sheer detail in the revealing of Two Face alone made my jaw clatter to the floor (both in terms of Nolan's execution, and the CGI wizardry). Truly, this film won't be forgotten anytime soon - and yes, you miserable old farts on Newsnight Review, in a decade The Dark Knight will be looked back upon as a milestone in cinematic history and not just superhero movie history.

Truly great filmmaking, full stop. See it now.

...

Now gimme a top notch DVD to pre-order, chop-chop!

Monday, 28 July 2008

The "Death Proof" Theory...

Having just watched Death Proof for the fourth time (same amount of times for the equally rocking Planet Terror), I thought I'd sit down and actually blog out my theory regarding one aspect of Death Proof, a theory which I've held since I first saw the film.

Right at the beginning of the flick you get a split second of the title, the 'real title', which is "Thunderbolt" if memory serves, but it obnoxiously cuts to a rough-as-a-badger's-arse white-text-on-black insert with "Death Proof" printed on it.

Now indeed, in the true nature of grindhouse cinema, many films would go by many names - flicks such as Last House on the Left or The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue would have a slew of names at different showings as they toured the country, seemingly seeking for the best, audience-pleasing moniker.

However - I have another theory, which links to this title change. In the world of 'the filmmakers who made Death Proof', or rather the filmmakers who rest somewhere between our reality (as we sit there and watch Death Proof, which was one half of the fantastic Grindhouse experiment) and that of the characters in the film (i.e. Stuntman Mike and so on).

In this world, there were at least TWO Stuntman Mike movies - most likely made a few years apart, considering the sheer volume of print damage to the first half of the flick (everything from the titles to the last frame of Earl McGraw's exposition-spouting hospital-walk).

Now, "Thunderbolt" - featuring the girls in the bar - was the first Stuntman Mike movie, but it would have only been quite short, most likely somewhere between 70 and 80 minutes. This film would have gone on to be quite successful, and obviously got a lot of wear and tear on the circulating prints.

Then - a new Stuntman Mike movie (perhaps simply "Thunderbolt 2") - featuring the girls from the set of the movie being shot in Lebanon, Tennesse. This second half of Death Proof, features far, far less print damage - so it's a brand new flick practically (maybe only touring a handful of states at this point).

So - we come to one particular exhibitor, and he fancies getting one over on everybody else, and creating what he'd class as some sort of third Stuntman Mike movie, which is actually a mish-mash of the two actual Stuntman Mike movies.

The second half of Death Proof, as I've said, barely features any print damage - except in the first few minutes (this is in the extended cut that you and I have been treated to by Tarantino). Why might this feature more print damage? Repeated viewing of this transition from first flick to second flick, by this phantom exhibitor who has spliced the two Stuntman Mike movies together into his own creation - titled "Death Proof".

As for the black & white chunk, who knows - perhaps there was an interesting story behind that. Perhaps the exhibitor, while cutting away in his fag-smoke-choked projector room, accidentally wrecked that portion of the print, and had to find another print as best he could - only sourcing a black and white version of the clip he needed. Either that, or it was just a mistake in his copy of the print for "Thunderbolt 2".

Death Proof is a film that is very divided, right down the middle. It's one set of chicks, then it's a new set of chicks - but always Stuntman Mike. The tone from one half to the next is different, the chicks are also very different - first half they're pure victims, the second half they're pure ass-kickers, as if they each represent a different era of cinema and female audience attendance.

This is how I like to think of Death Proof anyway. There have surely been cases of exhibitors making their own cuts to movies, indeed I swear I've heard/read such stories.

Also, considering that many of the movies from the era RR & QT were celebrating would focus far more on dialogue, but advertise mainly according to one or two key set pieces. In DP's case the trailers zoned in on the car action - mostly ignoring the chick-chat-out-and-about majority (which is actually in-keeping with grindhouse advertising).

I've always considered Death Proof to be a very shrewd, and perhaps more intricate movie in terms of referencing its source material.

Perhaps my theory isn't the case at all, but I think there's a strong case for that line of thinking, and I fancied sharing that ... it certainly fits the vibe of the film itself at least.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

WALL.E...

Finally! Pixar have returned to their best, with this superb effort. I was less than impressed by Cars (visually strong, but weak on the performances and story ... to be honest, I couldn't give much of a stuff about emoting vehicles) and Ratatouille (again, visually impressive, but lacking in the humour department with a story only moderately better than the forgettable Cars).

Riding to the rescue - Andrew Stanton (who directed Finding Nemo - Pixar's last properly good feature). WALL.E is both gripping for the eyes, but also gripping for the heart, it sucks you into the characters (especially the eponymous bot) and litters its running time with a variety of gags of varying intensity. You'll smirk, you'll grin, you'll chuckle and you'll out-right guffaw.

The pacing is spot on, you're never left wanting to get a move on, there's always something new to see and something new to ooh and ahh over.

Visually, the film is enthralling. It leaves you silent with wonder - whether it's the (actually somewhat depressing) destroyed planet earth, or the super-clean, lard-arse-infested Axiom ship (new home to mankind). It is, when you stop to think for a moment, quite damning of Western consumer culture (soon to become very much a staple of the Eastern world too, which for some it already has).

Quite rightly it pretty clearly says we need to look after our planet, but it never crosses into preachy, hemp-trouser territory as it's set several hundred years into the future, makes you giggle and looks incredible. In fact, it can at times become quite dark - the afforementioned enviro-disaster theme is one thing, but the Axiom's top secret directives (enacted by the all-powerful, Hal-9000 riffing 'Co-Pilot') are surprisingly complex and evil for a U-rated movie.

But then again, this is key to the movie's greatness. Like the best Pixar films, it appeals to kids and adults alike, all of whom get something different out of it.

Myself and a friend went to see it at a morning showing (when it's cheaper and less crowded) and we were quite possibly the only people there without kids, but we perhaps did the most laughing out of them all. Perhaps some kids might find it a tad dull in certain parts, indeed the generally sedate earth-bound opening is where said distraction might set in before the generally fast-paced Axiom-bound second half.

Plot wise, it's got all you could ever ask of a Pixar film. Interesting and entertaining characters with genuine heart and soul (you'll quite possibly choke up towards the end when our hero gets into a spot of bother, which yes, was bound to happen - a sequence which is truly audience silencing - you could hear a pin drop). The plot has real meat to it and leaves a lasting impression, acting as the very antithesis to the buy 'n' bin consumerism as symbolised by the film's mega-corperation, Wal-Mart-riffing, 'Buy'n'Large'.

Which brings me on to the joyless bastards out there who have to smugly point out the irony that WALL.E is essentially anti-consumeristic, but is completely commercialised in our world. Firstly - fuck off sapping the brilliance out of the movie. Secondly - they're giving the kiddies what they'd want regardless, stop killing the innocence of child hood. Thirdly - it's not a total condemnation of consumerism, instead it's a cautionary glance at it.

Consumerism works, but don't let it get carried away until it becomes a case of monolithic, faceless Buy'n'Large stores and branding, to the point where we all just become obese, lazy bastards lounging around on hover-lay-z-boys.

But what of WALL.E and EVE? If it wasn't for the fact they were robots, it really would be a classical love story between, well, the Lady and the Tramp. WALL.E is the dusty, bit knackered-out, old romantic while EVE is the bit of upper-crust (i.e. technically superior, with digital eyes and everything) totty he must swoon.

It's all incredibly sweet (not just when WALL.E looks right at anything with those big robotic doe-eyes) - all WALL.E wants to do is dance and hold hands with a companion (as exemplified in a worn copy of a musical he repeatedly views on his top-loading VCR in his make-shift home), and he finds that "awwwww" style aspiration in EVE.

It really is a wonderful film. Consuming, heart-warming (occasionally heart-breaking), humorous and genuinely awe-inspiring. In fact, this will be the first Pixar movie I actively seek out on DVD (pre-ordering ASAP), and has most certainly gone into my top five of 2008. Indeed, this will most likely be my #2 of 2008 ... The Dark Knight (still to see) will almost certainly steal #1 spot of 2008, which I've been holding open for months now.

Anyway, go and see WALL.E now!

The Machine Girl...

Essentially this is Japanese grindhouse. It's low budget, it's pretty darn crazy, and it's violent ... but shot on digital rather than film, and promptly covered in de-saturation and high contrast colouring.

Basically, girl with one arm (it gets hacked off mid-way through) seeks revenge for her brother who was bullied to death by a bunch of Yakuza offspring. Obviously, this means attaching a great big gattling gun to the stump and obliterating anything that dithers around in front of it for more than a milisecond.

It's crazed, often fast-paced, extremely violent and doused in the sort of gore that would make Peter Jackson very happy circa Braindead. It does sputter a bit when the story drifts on a tad too long in-between violent bouts of splatter, but when it picks up again, it flies off the handle and seeks to slice your head off along with the rest of the severed hunks of meat.

Solid fare, I've seen better, but I've seen worse. It's all good fun, and a definite must-see for fans of crazy and bloody Asian action flicks.

Action in the North Atlantic...

The Bogart obsession continues, this time with one of his World War II ship-based actioners (I'll be pimping my thoughts on The Caine Mutiny in due course, which I recorded off Channel 5 back in 2002 - at the same time as ...North Atlantic).

It's more like 'Action in the first and third acts of the North Atlantic, with characterisation shoved into act two' ... but that's not a catchy title in the slightest, but quite true of the film's structure. It does feel a bit pieced together, a bit ... average perhaps - at times anyway.

The first act is nothing short of thrilling, the action really does kick off with a sizeable bang. It's all rather fast paced and in your face, with some great stunt work and special effects. Then once that's done with, it's time for second act character building, which is where Bogart (mostly) goes on vacation from the set leaving you wondering if pimping the movie on his name alone is all that suitable.

Regardless, it's still an interesting watch - and yep, once again (as I've previously talked about), marriage is dealt with astonishingly flippantly ... in that "might as well get married, what the hell" sort of way. But no sooner is Bogie hitched, than he's off on another venture into the North Atlantic with a fleet of other ships taking supplies to the men on the ground.

But disaster lurks below, those pesky Germans from the first act are back and are intent on sinking our ships! Indeed, it's all rather good VS evil and quite propagandistic ... but who cares really, even Casablanca was used as propaganda to an extent (it only got the green light after Pearl Harbour happened, and indeed the script was read the day after the event).

Back to Action in the North Atlantic - basically, a bit hit & miss, but when it hits it really goes for the KO.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Phantasmagoria Film Festival...

Visit here for more info:
http://www.phantasma-goria.co.uk/

So aye, it was set up by the same bloke who did Bristol Bloodbath in 2006, and again he was asking for short films to show - so I was able to get VHS: Long Play in on the short film billing.

I was unable to attend the fest, but got word from him today that it got a decent score. Obviously some liked it, some didn't like it - and indeed it seems a number of people just didn't "get it", which in turn I don't quite "get", but I guess that's what happens when you come up with an odd little idea.

Apparently it looked really good on the big screen too, which would have been nice to see, but as I said I was unable to attend (swamped in editing at the moment, so I am).

Sunday, 20 July 2008

DeadShed.com updated!

I've added a project page for my new short film "Signing Off", which is currently in the editing/colouring stage right now.

Also, I finally got off my arse and put up a full listing for the 2007 DeadShed schedule, and an up-to-date listing for the 2008 DeadShed schedule.

Thar ya be!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford...

Aye indeed, earlier this year I spent many-a-blog-post ranting and raving about how jaw-droppingly amazing this astonishing piece of filmmaking was ... and my opinion hasn't changed one bit.

As I sit here listening to the soundtrack (which is beautiful, by the way), my love for this film - which has found it's way into my Top Ten (well, my version of a Top Ten anyway, where only a #1 exists alongside 9 equals) - hasn't abated one iota.

Yes, the first hour might be a tad ponderous, but the train robbery is a superb sequence and the low that follows that high (as seen through the eyes of James himself mostly) is all working towards a vengeance & paranoia tainted second hour, at which point the eponymous scene smacks you about the face with it's mournful, moving attitude. It is loaded with weighted emotion, with conflict, with acceptance of fate ... it's spell-binding quite simply.

Then, a rather brisk final half hour links back to earlier in the film (vibe wise anyway), with the low after the high (for the characters I mean, not us viewers who have been gorging on a treat throughout). Bob, the assassin, and his co-hort in the act descend into a pit of misery, despair, anguish and regret before the final, heart-grabbing, spine-tingling scene ... then after a good ten seconds of pause, the bold and proud title presents itself alongside the wonderfully haunting sound of Nick Cave's score.

Those who might say it's crap and is dull and boring, quite simply do not "get" it ... and I confidently stand beside that assertion, because the film truly has something to "get" in the first place. If you do "get it", you are rewarded ten fold ... if not, it's clearly not the film for you.

I don't "get" Bollywood, but I don't deny it, or discourage it, or dampen the spirit of those who enjoy it, so likewise, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, should be afforded the same open-mindedness ... because, quite frankly, it is filmmaking genius.

Truly awe inspiring.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Don't Go In The Woods ... Alone!

How did I come by it? Well, I think the main draw interest wise was that the DVD features a "bonus commentary", which features (among others) Deron Miller of CKY, who (as well as being a super fan of Sleepaway Camp) is a huge fan of this flick.

So I ended up on IMDb and Wikipedia to check out stuff about this movie, then shoved it onto my "wish list", as-it-were, to eventually get around to purchasing.

So, when I needed to get some more miniDV tapes I ended up getting the DVD to go along with it as it was a mere £3.97 ... quite possibly £3.97 too much, but still.

Thankfully ... those involved are fully aware it's an awful film, it really is ... it's ... bad. Also, it IS intended to be funny and silly ... mind you, it's not exactly all that explicit about that intent until the whole escapade involving the bloke in a wheel chair.

Now - for some reason - the DVD release is a complete and utter arse up. The cover gets the date wrong by a whole two years, but more importantly, has a blurb which barely resembles the film at all! For instance - nobody is on a hunting trip, the two leads aren't called Alex or Wayne, there is no burial site, no weird skull which inspires people to kill, and no mention of them being firefighters ... and yes, this skull even has a screen shot on the back of the box - and it's not even in the flick! I really am shocked how a cover can be ballsed up so poorly ... surely it wasn't intentional? If it is, surely it's a bit too close for comfort to various Trading & Advertising laws?

As for the DVD itself, WHERE THE FUCK IS THE MUSIC?! The entire movie is without music, until the end credits ... and there's supposed to be music throughout, as seen in the extra features ... which are ... rough ... to say the least.

Mind you, you do have to admit it truly is an independent production - not only the film but the DVD. A bunch of people out there getting involved in something, which I'm all for ... it was all a bit of a bugger up though, you have to say.

There are good bits though (perhaps shockingly so) - many of the deaths are entertaining, or even somewhat inspired (I'm thinking of the bloke in the wheel chair again, who beat Friday 13th Part 2 to the punch) and you do find yourself laughing out loud at the silliness of it all - especially the dialogue (when there is some to be had, that is) - I remember one was along the lines "we'll get some warm food, into a warm bed, and find a doctor for your cut" ... so says the male lead to the female lead, who's been slashed up pretty good, yet he's painting a picture of a quack sticking on a little plaster over a grazed knee.

Where does this movie fit? Well, it's definitely indie - although there are certainly far better and far more competent indie productions out there - but I think it works best when viewed with friends ... with booze ... and all there to have a laugh at it.

Just like when I got the Sleepaway Camp box set on DVD and watched all three with one of my housemates - who is the sort of person who'd never watch such a film - so not only was it a shock to get him watching them, he fair got into them and we both had an absolute lark about just guffawing and enjoying that particular trilogy. This reminds me though, what's happened with Sleepaway Camp 4? Deron Miller and CKY are actually in that one, tying it neatly back to the beginning of this long-winded musing.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Signing Off - filming done!

Indeed, remember that short script I wrote a while back called Signing Off, the one that was a prequel to another script I wrote called The End?

Well, I finally filmed it today with Sean "the zombie from Trapped who took a throat-load of fake blood" Connell.

Also, it was in fact my first return to the woods - where Trapped and my NIGHTMARE were both filmed - since the summer of 2005.

After navigating through a field full of cows (and cow shite), we found ourselves in familiar territory and then headed off to get back to the main area where both of those two other films were shot (in the summers of 2004 and 2005). Since then, it's a lot more overgrown, and the pathway towards a small reservoir (which led to the area where Knox got his throat 'slashed' by Emma's nut case murderer, in my NIGHTMARE), has seemingly been eroded by rain and time into a slippery slope that I didn't fancy traversing.

But never fear, there was plenty of space to shoot the bulk of the film (a few shots were gathered on the outskirts of the wooded area afterwards). The idea again was to shoot something fairly simple in structure, and indeed the majority of the filming came down to Sean's central performance as Mason Wood, Medical Orderly at the West Midlands Refugee Camp #3.

During the filming, being that we were in a wooded area where few seem to tread, and it's summer and generally damp in the air (we fortunately shot before rain which came a couple of hours after finishing, although I missed it as I was too busy editing for the Sex Education DVD at the time) - there were midges and flies everywhere.

I was damn near covered in them, particularly midges, and being fair skinned they absolutely love attacking me - not sure why fair skin is better than the skin of someone with, say, black hair ... but, whatever.

Anyway, after getting back from filming I glanced at my hand and arm, and discovered an absolute myriad of red blotches - bites - from those bastard flying ... bastards. I've counted damn near 40 of them ... fortunately they're not itching ... but I did manage to accidentally flick my fingers through a thistle and got stung (which hasn't happened to me in donkey's years).

Then my hay fever started acting up a bit, but otherwise it all went well.

Sean did a bloody good job, not only of memorising my script well, but of packing his performance with various emotions and moments of drama. I'll certainly look forward for editing it together.

Not sure of the length yet, quite possibly 10 minutes. It'll be in 2.35:1 (just like VHS: Long Play a couple of months back), and I'll of course be dribbling Magic Bullet all over it like the glutton I am for it's sexy colouring abilities.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Nixon (and a rant about politics)...

Like Stone's earlier political epic JFK, Nixon is a long, considered film that's certainly in no rush to go about it's business - despite the constant swapping of film medium (be it 35mm, 16mm, colour, black & white, television cameras, 8mm etc) that almost suggests a disorder with attention.

Certainly a brilliant and consuming performance by Anthony Hopkins, but I'll be buggered if I can fully understand who everybody was and what everything was about ... but then again, with such films I do tend to struggle with identifying who many people are ... specifically in a film such as this, which is all about American politics - and not being American, it can be a bit of a struggle to fully 'get' everything that's going on.

Likewise, I'm sure many Americans do, and will, struggle with understanding the complexities of the British socio-political quagmire of information, opinions, misinformation, struggle, strife, protest, anger, joy and the general feeling of our nation.

That is a key problem with these political epics, but regardless, they're still powerful. Just as long as they're done right, and portrayed fairly - one man's wrong is another man's right after all.

Well, as long as a political epic on the Thatcher years isn't made by that bleeding heart busy body "Belinda-Belinda-Belinda!" who's on Big Brother at the moment (the UK's ninth series), then I think we'll be fine...why the grump about her? She was banging on about "left is right and right is wrong" work she's been involved with (she's a theater director), which I just find to be an exceptionally, and preposterously, arrogant mindset. The left is no more correct than the right, and the right is no more incorrect than the left.

In the end it comes down to which party suits you best - and indeed your own brain (according to certain research) - but beyond that, no one party is ultimately holier than the others ... indeed, Labour can get off their high horse after the shit they've done to Britain, and likewise all the Bible-thumping fervor about Thatcher and other Tories by some of Labour's more rabid followers can piss off ... my point being - neither side is any more right or wrong than the other.

What is a definite though, is that once a party has ran it's course and proven to the country they are no longer capable (which Labour have been doing for a few years now, with increasing drama and turmoil), it's time to step aside, and let the other team in to play and to see about fixing things up again - the main challenge however, is to keep that positive momentum going ... sadly this never seems to happen ... which means, politics is cyclical.

And due to that cyclical nature, it's time for political change in the UK - as well as in America - where I suspect, even if McCain gets in, change is guaranteed on both sides of the pond.

Where was I? Oh yeah - Nixon, the movie ... well, this ended up being a rant on politics ... but then again, just saying stuff about movies does get boring for a blog, I think I'll continue to find little nooks and crannies in each film I watch (and write about on here), in order to splurge out some socio-political/media-based thought-sharing.

Life on Mars...

Well, over the past month I've been absolutely Life on Mars mad, and by mad I mean my usual obsessive nature when I find something I really dig. I get completely into it, hard and fast and in a big, bad way. The music gets into my head, quotes keep popping up, the theories (when applicable) get whirring around the old noggin ... so aye, obsessed would be a good way to put it.

I never got into it when it first showed on BBC One, so I've been watching them on the box sets (which is a great way to watch something, if you're as obsessively minded as I am, it really lends to that way of viewing).

Bloody great it most certainly is ... all of it, bloody brilliant - especially the episode 2x05 Camberwick Green 'skit' (if you will). Absolutely hilarious, really well observed (and yet loving too), but most importantly bloody entertaining. Everybody involved did a superb job. It's got great acting, great directing, great writing, great cinematography, great editing - the whole shebang is bloody great.

Next up - obsessing over Ashes to Ashes - the LoM follow up, oh yes indeedy.

...

Since writing this post, I've started in on Ashes to Ashes, two episodes in so far, and I'm really enjoying it too. Jolly good show!

The Dark Half & new Futurama!

The Dark Half:

I'd seen this once, many years ago, when it was shown on ITV ... needless to say I'd basically forgotten all of it. I'll be quick on this one, it's standard King story telling, but it's not standard Romero filmmaking. Needless to say, it's not one of Romero's best and indeed preceded a long stint in movie development hell for the zombie genre legend.

That said, it's still worthwhile seeing for King and/or Romero fans. It's just a shame it feels under-done, if I dare use the cooking analogy again so soon. It could have been more, most certainly, but it could have been a total cock up which it most certainly wasn't.

...

Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs:

Not quite as good as Bender's Big Score, but still consistently entertaining and of great interest while viewing. The same Futurama humour and charm remains, even if the B-Movie riffing plot doesn't quite blast off into outer space, but it gets pretty damn close.

The Simpson's nineteenth season this most certainly is not ... the consistent belly laughs and clever, inventive writing keep it fresh.

That's pretty much it though, I can't think of much more to really say. The DVD's decent, with a similarly chucklesome cast & crew commentary. Bring on the next installment - Bender's Game.

LA Takedown...

Indeed, the TV movie practice session for Mann's 1995 triumph Heat. What's it like then? Pretty crap to be fair, the plot feels undercooked (as does the script), heck it outright takes massive leaps and bounds in the overall story arc. It feels cheap, it's lacking coverage, the performances are mostly over-the-top or even wooden ... it just feels relentlessly cheap and half-done pretty much.

But then again, maybe it was a totally necessary practice in order to achieve the sheer brilliance of Heat, the proper full-on film version (not made for TV at all, of course) which continues to blow socks off to this day - indeed, Kane & Lynch as well as GTA IV have both recently riffed on Heat's famous bank heist sequence.

At times, yes, you can see Mann's talent seeping through in some of the shots and some of the dialogue, but like I've said, it smacks of lacking, mainly in the resource department.

When you've already seen Heat, it's damn hard to sit through LA Takedown without glancing at the clock a few times. Perhaps my thoughts are overly harsh, and yeah there are some redeeming qualities to it ... but to be honest, it is pretty naff now.

The African Queen...

Several years ago, back in my first year at University, we were shown The Maltese Falcon (on a restored print, fact fans) during the first semester's foundation unit, which covered the essentials of cinema. It was at this screening that I immediately became a Bogart fan, and therefore set about gathering up as many Bogart films as I could find - indeed, you might say I was Bogarting the Bogart, to coin the popular phrase that derives from his name.

Back when Virgin Megastore was still around (it's now Zavvi, after a take-over of the franchise), there was a 4 DVDs for £30 offer on, and one of the discs I picked up was The African Queen, Bogart's 1951 double-act with Katherine Hepburn, which one the former a long-awaited Oscar.

For some reason, however, I never got around to watching it. So for years (count five and a bit) the DVD has sat on my shelf, watched only once - by two of my uni mates when they'd ran out of stuff to watch in bed. But as previously blogged about, I'm in a major "gotta watch a bunch of films I've got but haven't seen yet" mindset, so I nabbed The African Queen off the shelf and shoved it into my computer and barged through it like a knife through butter.

I've no idea why it's taken me so long - partial laziness, partial waiting for the right mood to kick in, partial too busy to do so mentality - but spiffing it certainly is. It might not be Bogart's best performance, but it's strong and engaging nonetheless and rides completely over the somewhat oddball plot (take the boat down river through rapids and leech infested reed beds in order to ram into a German boat to blow it up ... with hand-made torpedoes).

Indeed, it's easy to chuckle at the story at times, but that's all forgettable as the two central performances are so engaging that it's just all about Charlie and Rosie's journey through Africa. A definite must-see for Bogart followers.

Wanted...

Another film and another trip to the cinema, this time to see Bekmambetov's latest (he's the Russian that did Night Watch and Day Watch) - so indeed, it's all about insanely OTT action sequences and slow motion. Based on a comic book, and with a plot revolving around a squad of hitmen who get their next targets via lapsed stitches in material woven through a giant loom, it's all rather daft for the most part.

But daft in a good way. Cars fly over other cars in barrel rolls, bullets are curved by flinging the gun a bit, people are sniped from miles away, and so forth - it's all insanely stylish and action packed. Not many action movies look like this, it has to be said. This is not your average actioner.

No, this is not a movie designed for tweenagers - the 18 rating in the UK shut that observation up quick smart - and nor is it an excuse to leer at Angelina Jolie, who only gets her kit off once for about three seconds for a quick arse shot, which is properly contextualised. This film is all about the action and the assassination story.

I personally wasn't especially gripped throughout the proceedings, there were few edge of your seat moments. While I was still entertained by it all, I wasn't sat there glued to the spot. Ultimately I feel this comes down to the film's general lack of 'that special something', which ties you into the proceedings completely. You're almost fully sucked in, but there's something that's keeping you somewhat at a bit of a distance. It seems like a lack of heart or emotion, but then again this moderate to minor flaw most likely can be traced back to the source material.

Why? Because comic books/graphic novels and movies are two different beasts. What goes in one doesn't go in the other all the time, and indeed, going from one to the other you might have to adapt certain things - hence the apparent lack of heartening 'x factor' to Wanted's proceedings.

Otherwise it's all rather entertaining and oftentimes grin-inducing. Over all, it's a solid outing - and mercifully avoids the head-up-arse exposition of Bekmambetov's previous flicks - a sequel would be most welcome, but as long as it properly grips next time around.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Where have I been?

Editing - that's where.

Been beavering away on that sex education DVD I've previously mentioned, today for example I was editing a public domain documentary down into a 2 and a half minute 'precursor' to our modern day examination of whatever is at hand - in this particular case - the porn industry itself.

I actually rather enjoyed editing this public domain footage, it's gotta be about 50 years old by now, and was a public information film for American audiences, but it's rather funny (to me anyway) to see porn demonised so whole-heartedly in such a fashion that it's damn near painted as if 'if you dig porn, you're a Commie!' - I mean, it's near that.

Also - the thought that kids would go gay just for "kicks" still has me chuckling. I watched a movie from decades ago, it was on a double-bill DVD of old school drive-in exploitation film, and there was a guy in that who kept going on about "for kicks! for kicks!" when justifying kidnapping a good looking young lady with his chum, it was all ludicrously laughable. So yeah, that "kicks" thing stuck with me and hearing it again today just had me choking on my own laughter, deary me.

I do have to say, it's good to see and hear the views of 'young folk today' during the filming of this DVD, because they're all so enlightened and liberal about sexuality, or indeed simply forgiving about the subject - a kind of "to each their own as long as it's consenting" vibe, which is what I think too.

In other words, with each new year's worth of students, sexism, ageism and racism die a little more, a little more, and a little more - which is great I say. At least that's something going in the right direction these days anyway!

So yeah, I've been busy editing away, otherwise I've been continuing with watching films I never got around to viewing - Murder Inc was finished off t'other day, and L.A. Takedown was dispatched with yesterday. Next up, methinks The Dark Half (which I did see once, years ago).

Right-right, oh - and Life on Mars is bloody brilliant, I'm half way through the second series and it just keeps getting better!

Finally - I'll hopefully be filming Signing Off, another DeadShed short, with Sean sometime soon before he runs off to London to pursue his career in acting, more news on that as and when - and yes, I Am Zombie Man 3 hasn't been forgotten about, it's just been in a holding pattern for a while.