Saturday, 31 July 2010

Flavours of the Month: July 2010...

July has been a generally muggy month interspersed with spells of fresh cool, and power cuts. It has also been a month of - By Any Means 2: Sydney to Tokyo - which I gave a second viewing on DVD, and which was a good step up from the slightly disappointing first By Any Means.

A few weeks back I got into the ruddy thrilling first season of Prison Break, and I've now caught up on the other three seasons. Season Two was a strong follow-up, even if it did tail off a smidge in the last episodes, Season Three was the weakest (clearly affected by the Writer's Strike at the time) and often drew out small events to fill entire episodes, and finally Season Four, was back to the usual thrilling form ... but once again it tailed off a bit in the final third once there was yet another double-cross and things took yet another detour to drag everything out again ... and while the ending is a smidge unsatisfying in more than one respect, it was still an affecting finish to a bloody good and rather enjoyable show.

I finally caught up on the latest Splinter Cell game ("Conviction"), which seemed to encourage you to not be able to sneak around and just get you into a firefight, and while I wasn't always following the plot, I always enjoy a bit of Sam Fisher shadowy goings on. At least the "Deniable Ops" portion allowed for classic stealth gameplay in "Hunter Mode".

I've also been thoroughly getting into The Walking Dead, in anticipation of the October premiere of the TV adaptation. I've done the first three "Volumes" (or "Trades") and while Volume Two was a bit hit and miss, Volumes One and especially Three have been tip top zombie fun ... but the dialogue could use some improvement at this stage to rid itself of too much exposition and on-the-nose bluntness. Good lord though, with all the snippets of info coming out regarding the TV adaptation (including a leaked trailer from Comic-Con), it's been an absolute zed-head nerdgasm!

Musically it's been a bit of everything, but a late entry would have to be the Alan Wake soundtrack - specifically the licensed tracks featured in the game (the full orchestral soundtrack comes out in August). Particular tracks would be "Young Men Dead" by The Black Angels, "Up Jumped The Devil" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, "Haunted" by Poe, "War" by Poets of the Fall" and "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison. Alan Wake is such a well crafted game and as such the music chosen to play throughout is inspired and really supports and extends the overall tone and feel of the game.

I've also been having a Blade Runner kick with a return to the 5-disc DVD. It's one of those films that you like more, and think higher of, each time you watch it.

Finally, I've been cracking on with final touches to Summer Road. I'm looking forward to getting it finished and sent off to the BBC Writersroom. I've been working on this for seemingly ages now. Actual writing has taken place over three months in spare time, and before that I was slowly piecing everything together in the form of notes.

I'm really looking forward to getting onto Allen Bridge as well, for which I've got some considerable notes mapped out including entire scenes, and being that it's a totally different vibe (and genre) to Summer Road, it will come as a welcome change of pace for my writing - that said, I'm really quite proud of Summer Road ... I've invested a lot of time and self into it, and I think that is reflected in the almost-final (at the time of writing) product.

Friday, 30 July 2010

"Deadlands 2: Trapped" coming to Blu-Ray...

And here's the extra features list:

• Audio commentary by Ugarek

• “Weapons and Tactics” featurette

• “Indie Film School” featurette

• Introduction by star Jim Krut

• Introduction by Helena, Hussy of Horror

• Soundtrack excerpts

• Trailers

The Blu-ray will include all these, plus:

I AM ZOMBIE MAN short film series with intro by UK filmmaker Nick Thomson

• DEADLANDS: THE RISING work print with alternate ending

• Additional exclusive trailers


Yes indeedy, kick arse! Gary has always been very helpful to, and supportive of, properly-indie filmmakers, and has been a fan of the I Am Zombie Man shorts since the first one in 2006. Two thumbs up to Gary!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A fascinating article on the UK Film Council's abolition...

Chris Atkins has written a fascinating article about the abolition of the UK Film Council by the Coalition Government:

I recently saw Atkins' "Starsuckers" documentary, and I'd really quite like to see the one he did before that called "Taking Liberties".

For young filmmakers like me, it's an endlessly frustrating business and there never seems to be a way in - if you've got no money, and no contacts, then you're stuffed! We need a localised body spread throughout the UK (rather than a centralised leviathon), especially in rural areas, that can directly and efficiently provide contacts, working opportunities, and help to those who come to them with big ideas so they can get those ideas to fruition. What's more - we need such a body that also accepts unsolicited scripts from each individual area of the country, and helps chosen projects from the re-writing stage all the way through to theatrical and home distribution.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Draft 3.1 of "Summer Road" is underway...

I think I'll make this the last draft of Summer Road, as I've pretty much applied every single change I wanted to apply, and I'm now at a stage where I'm just making minor tweaks and changes - mostly to dialogue - so the time to let it be is fast approaching.

To be honest, I'm glad. There comes a time when you just want to wrap a script up and get it done. Obviously you want to leave it as the best you can do, but there is a yearning to move onto a fresh new project - in this case Allen Bridge, which I had quite a creative spurt on a number of weeks ago, but it's ended up in the background not being thought about recently.

Draft 2.2 of Summer Road was completed a couple of weeks ago, and I did what I always do and take a little breather from it, and so yesterday I got going on Draft 3.1 - which, as I've said, is the "fiddle around" draft. I've added in a couple of specific things I wanted to add in, and so now I'm just going to make a final pass through the script (which is 104 pages now - Draft 1.1 was 128 pages) and get it finished.

Then I'll submit it to the BBC Writersroom and finally get my whole head into Allen Bridge.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


I was really looking forward to this flick, thanks in part to the spine-tingling trailer (which annoyingly shows too many of the awesome bits, as I was to find out), but I didn't have the same "omfg!" reaction to it whilst watching that I did with The Dark Knight.

Then again, expectation will do that, and if you add in a healthy dose of "must pay close attention" then it can prove to be a challenging watch ... but it's entirely worthwhile, and will easily be in my Top Ten of 2010. However, it is most definitely the sort of movie that you simply must watch at least twice, and possibly more. It is a bit of a tricky one on the old noggin, but it's great to see an intelligent blockbuster up there on the screen.

I do enjoy some dumb fun, don't get me wrong, but there's too much of it these days and it's just lovely to see something with a strong idea that gets you thinking pulling in the punters during the summer season. Well done indeed to Nolan & Co for continuing to create wonderfully crafted, memorable films that boast brains as well as brawn.

Finally, kudos to DiCaprio and Levitt who are really proving themselves of late (although I never understood why some people hate DiCaprio so much, the dude's a ruddy good actor). Inception is a right old thinker, and while my expectations perhaps did me a slight disservice, it was still a high quality and totally worthwhile viewing experience, and I look forward to seeing it again.


Predator is a classic, nuff said. Predator 2 is actually pretty decent, and it had an awful lot to live up to, nuff said. Aliens VS Predator (both of them) were pish ... nuff said.

And so along comes Predators, and thankfully it's pretty good. It was never going to beat the original and best, but it's easily sat there alongside Predator 2. Indeed, Predators and Predator 2 each do things better and worse than each other, so in the end they sit equally in my mind.

Adrien Brody does a surprisingly good job - I wasn't entirely sure about him being cast in the flick, but he really rose to the challenge, especially in the final punch-up, and what's more his character was actually interesting and strong. His sense of survival instinct based in the harsh realities of various war zones made for a nice twist into the mix of characters, and made the 'hunter versus prey' aspect feel more real. The realities of an injured person slowing you down to the point where you'll probably get killed came to the fore.

The previous films were of course about a Predator going on a hunt, but this film really takes the "hunt" angle and runs flat-out with it. The game preserve planet idea works better than expected (even if it still looks like earth most of the time), and the whole escalation of the Predator lore made for interesting viewing. The Predators adapt after every 'season' with new tactics and weapons, and the idea that they even hunt their own is chillingly cool.

The film does many things right. The soundtrack strikes a nice balance between reference to the original (some tracks are directly lifted with great effect) and newly recorded tracks that manage to maintain a consistency with the existing score. The homages were for the most part handled well, and I never found them to be obtrusive - it was enjoyable to catch the odd nod or wink throughout, with even a couple of quite subtle references tossed into the mix for the real franchise fanboys. Plus the action, violence and gore made for a good thrill ride.

The film isn't without fault, of course. Topher Grace doesn't stand out as well as the other actors in the ensemble (much like how he didn't leave much of a dent on Spider-Man 3), but then again I've never been fussed about him as an actor anyway. Laurence Fishburne, however, often makes a big impression, and he made a decent impression here ... it's just a shame that his appearance was almost entirely pointless. He crops up for five minutes, talks like a nutter, and sods off. It was also a shame that Danny Trejo didn't get an awful lot of screen time, and that there was a noticeable dip towards the end of the second act, but even still it was a thoroughly enjoyable time.

At last - a good movie with Predators in it!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

"Snow 2010" short video...

In January we had quite a lot of snow (for Britain at least) so I went out with my new Kodak Zi8 to try it out and get some coverage of the surrounding landscape all covered in snow. I stored the footage away and forgot about it until yesterday when I decided to cut together a little video of it all, and you can see it by following the above link.

Just a little something I put together, enjoy.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

"Signing Off" - GoDigital's false claim...

I was just organising my YouTube account, putting some playlists together, and I noticed there was a "copyright infringement claim" or somethingeruther on one of my videos - "Signing Off" ( - from some crowd called GoDigital who I'd never even heard of until just now.

After a quick search I discovered that this lot apparently use an automated system in partnership with YouTube, which naturally results in myriad false claims on videos. Clearly the music in my short film - created by Brian Wright - must sound a bit like something in their catalogue according to the 'ears' of the automated system.

Naturally I've disputed this obvious false claim (the two pieces of music were made for me, and this film, by Brian Wright who has made music for some of my other short films, and are for my use - GoDigital wouldn't even possess the original audio files anyway, which don't feature on-location audio (bird song, breeze in the trees, footsteps, gasps etc) for those two tracks - whereas I actually do possess the original audio files), so I'll see what comes of it.

At the moment the audio remains on the video itself, and hopefully it'll remain as such, and then hopefully the false claim will be confirmed to be just that - false, as a result of the automated system.

I've edited the info section on the "Signing Off" page to reflect this issue, and thought I'd make a blog post about it as well, just to hammer the point home.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Back To The 80s completed...

The epic primary school leaver's musical "Back to the 80s" was completed today, weighing in at an epic 2 hours and 19 minutes.

Similar to Hereford's Got Talent, it was a challenging project what with trying to get the sound as best as you could (e.g. fighting against the large differences in dialogue and music volume), and shooting from far away from the stage, and in addition with this project having a long running time the final render had to be compressed in order to fit on the DVD. Plus being single camera you have nothing to cut away to - so the actual filming in such a situation takes a lot of concentration to keep the frame as steady as possible, while also providing some movement and a range of shots - all without cut aways. It is tough, it can limit you, but it can also work.

Even with technical issues, and the set-up not being a filmmaker's ideal position from which to film, it came out well and I hope those involved enjoy being able to see it again and relive their onstage epic.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Back To The 80s...

The other day I got a last-minute call to do a shoot & edit job on a project called Back To The 80s - a musical put on by Year 6 students from three primary schools (Year 6 being the final year of primary school before you enter Year 7 and High School).

So I was back in the main theatre at the Hereford Courtyard Theatre, where I'd only been a few weeks prior doing a shoot & edit on Hereford's Got Talent, and I'm now off to edit the whole thing together.

Compared to my Year 6 leaver's shindig, now fifteen years ago (blimey!), it was a big old affair. Our gig was a random show that we put on (mostly left to our own devices) ... I can barely remember it, but I was reminded that I was part of a duo doing corny jokes and funny voices, and then we all got book tokens. Times change I guess, but then again I went to a quite small primary school - and our year was a mere 9 people.

Onwards to the edit!

Get Him To The Greek...

I really enjoyed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, from which this flick is a spin-off, and I enjoy Jonah Hill's comedic performances ... I'm not keen on Russell Brand though.

Still, I was able to separate him from Aldous Snow enough for my own liking with FSM, and was similarly able with Get Him To The Greek. So the major hurdle, which had left me not so keen on seeing this flick, was overcome.

Annoyingly though, the film takes seemingly ages to get going. The opening portion is just full of exposition that isn't written or performed with any sense of comedy, so the cinema was pretty darn laugh-free, so we all had to wait until the main thrust of the movie got underway - Jonah Hill's record company gopher escorting Brand's libidinous rocker from London to the Greek Theatre in L.A. - before the laughs came, and fortunately they came pretty regularly from this point on.

The movie makes no real observations about rock and roll, celebrity life, or much else in-between ... it's just out for a good time like the Aldous Snow. The movie is a shot of Absinthe rather than a considered Ale. There's not an awful lot to it, but it's fun while it lasts (well, after that deathly dull portion before we arrive in London that is).

Friday, 2 July 2010

Triple Bill Mini Musings: Beverly Hills Cop Trilogy...

Beverly Hills Cop:
Until the other day I had never seen any of these movies, but now I've seen them all. The first flick is a fun slice of 1980s action comedy - there's a sense of something big starting to it all, Murphy's career, the Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer juggernaut, and the theme tune that overloaded a million keyboards. A bit tame by today's standards both in terms of comedy and action, but even coming to it fresh so many years after it was released, it's a good fun time.

Beverly Hills Cop 2:
The same as the first, but everything's bigger. Respective careers were sky rocketing, the action is tougher and punchier, the comedy is a bit broader, and Judge Reinhold is properly used this time around. Another good fun time.

Beverly Hills Cop 3:
Good God, what the hell is this shit?! The thing with sequels is that there is an established style and approach to the franchise - a film like Die Hard 4 lives up to the established vibe, but BHC3 takes the formula and sucks all the style and intelligence out of it. The opening action sequence flips wildly from stupid 'comedy' (the two blokes dancing at the camera) to sudden-gear-change 'drama' when Foley's boss gets killed.

The park ride action sequence is pointless, the key criminals are boring and toothless, that stupid gigantic gun (with a microwave and CD player attached) is beyond inappropriately dumb, the constant call backs to the previous two movies feel tacked on at best, and halting at worst (e.g. Serj turning up for useless exposition about the art gallery and setting up the key chain flash bomb and the aforementioned huge-and-stupid gun), and generally speaking it just feels cringe worthy.

You can sense Murphy's career beginning to stall and go into self-parody and dim-witted mugging-to-camera ... the fat suits aren't far away at this point. Reinhold is relegated to pointless side character territory (a shame considering his entertaining turn in the second movie) and everything just feels like one big disaster. It's cheesy - in a bad way - it's boring, dull, unfunny and the action lacks any sense of punch.

I'd only heard bad things about BHC3, so my sights were set very low - but even that wasn't low enough. A truly awful movie. If we ever get a fourth movie I do hope they fully recognise just how piss poor the third one was.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Triple Bill Mini Musings: Two Docs and a Flick...

Anvil! The Story of Anvil:
I missed the first twenty minutes when it was on one of those extra BBC channels and I was channel flicking, but having heard of it I was intrigued to see what-was-what. I ended up really getting sucked into it - from the disastrous European tour, to the personal woes and fights and through to the ending when I was fully cheering the band on.

It ended up striking quite a chord with me - being that the career paths of musicians and filmmakers are similar in so many ways, I'm sure you can understand why it was a powerful watch. Full of gut-wrenching worry, but punctuated with glimmers of hope and then a ruddy good knock out punch. A fascinating, involving documentary.

Love The Beast:
Again, I'd heard of it a while ago - during Eric Bana's interview on Top Gear a while back - and I already knew one crucial piece of information regarding the titular Ford Falcon, but even still it was an interesting watch. The fact that you can develop a meaningful relationship with a vehicle is a fascinating thing, and it made me think about the car I currently drive - it's the only car I've ever driven (aside from a summer I worked at a VW garage and ended up driving most of the company's range), and there is indeed a relationship there.

I do wish I had that 'under-the-bonnet' knowledge of cars and could tinker away on a straight forward vehicle on the driveway, but even still I have a history with the car. It's been around since 1996 - it ferried me to-and-from school, a couple of days after my 17th birthday I began learning how to drive in it, I passed my driving test in it, I've driven to field parties in it, I drove me and my mates to our Sixth Form leaver's do in it ... I experienced my first (and so far only) tyre blow-out in it, and I experienced my first (and so far only) roadside breakdown in it (the cam belt snapped and caused plenty of havoc - it was touch-and-go whether the car would go to the scrappage scheme or not), and I remember the time a blown truck tyre lunged from the darkness and gave me the fright of my life coming back from the cinema one night when I was 18 (fortunately the damage was limited to a fog light and we didn't crash).

In short - Bana's relationship with his "Beast", while more potent and long-running than that which I have with my car (which even appeared in I Am Zombie Man 2), the whole 'relationship with your car' thing really attached me to the film.

Varsity Blues:
I take it this flick is supposed to be a comedy, or at least part-comedy. I don't get - being British - all this stuff about American football, but it was a fun-enough distraction, even if the feel of the movie would shift sometimes wildly from drama to comedy to on-the-nose nudge-nudge-winkery.