Saturday, 31 December 2011

Flavours of the Month: December 2011...

LOOKS:

Glove And Boots - a new favourite YouTube channel of mine, I discovered it via their video "The Walkie Talkie Dead". If you like puppets, you're going to love Mario, Fafa, and Gorilla. Fantastically funny stuff!

Carnivale - I finished up the second season this month on Sky Atlantic and well, they certainly cancelled it back in 2005 on a bit of a cliffhanger, didn't they? I preferred the first season, especially as the second seemed to get a bit too lost and a bit too plodding at times ... and you can't beat that first season closer.

Ross Kemp On Afghanistan - a new run of the hard-hitting documentary on Sky 1. Illuminating, fascinating, chilling.

Black Mirror - from the mind of Charlie Brooker (which says a lot already), comes this trio of darkly twisted tales. The first episode was perhaps the most caustic, bleak, and ultimately haunting dose of satire I've seen in a long old while (perhaps ever). The second episode was overlong and lacked focus, but there were impressive ideas, and a strong cast. The third episode picked things up again by taking a brilliant little sci-fi 'what if' idea and spun it against the backdrop of a classic plot about adultery.

Charlie Boorman: Extreme Frontiers Canada - for a very long time now I've had this fascination with Canada (indeed I one day hope to visit the country), and being a fan of all the sorts of journeys that Boorman has undertaken over the years, I quite enjoyed this four-part series on Channel 5 ... but it would be nice if they put an extended version out on DVD.

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 - this richly detailed, masterfully written, deeply considered series is one of the best shows on television. The second season ramped up the complex motivations, suspicions, and double-dealings of all the well drawn and perfectly performed characters, and bloody hell - don't worry, no spoilers - the season finale is not only a brave move, but one that literally dropped my jaw and made me sit bolt upright in shock. I eagerly await the third season of this utterly engrossing drama - and if you haven't checked it out, then for goodness sake get yourself in on it.

Prometheus - the teaser trailer finally appeared and oh, the intrigue of it all. This is my most anticipated movie of 2012, with The Dark Knight Rises coming in second, and The Avengers in third on the anticipation scales.

Super 8 (Blu-Ray) - I loved it when I saw it in the cinema, and a second viewing confirms my love for this wonderful film. It's got real heart, real spectacle, a great range of adult and child characters, and well, it's just so damned nifty.


SOUNDS:

M83 "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" - sometimes you need the right time to listen to an album properly, especially a double album, and I finally got a chance to return to this great record that I've not been able to listen to enough for my liking. Top stuff.

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross ft. Karen O "Immigrant Song" - a driving, pulsing, thumping cover of Led Zeppelin's track, as featured in David Fincher's version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This track provided the backdrop for the superb teaser trailer.

Saints Row The Third - numerous tracks, but particularly "Pepper" by Butthole Surfers, "Angry Elephants" by Junkie XL and "Slow Revolution" by Tugboat.

Prometheus - the music from the trailer ... ooh, it's spine-tingling. That aural call-back to the trailer for the very first Alien movie just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end in an instant.

Dick Figures "Bath Rhymes (Instrumental)" - from the excellent YouTube cartoon series "Dick Figures".

Alice Cooper "Spark In The Dark: The Best Of" - nearly two-and-a-half hours of excellence.


VIBES & FLAVOURS:

Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky - after weeks of pouring through this deep, dense, dramatic novel, I finally got it finished. It was a demanding read at times - for good reasons and bad at different times - and despite some sections around the middle where it seems to get a bit lost and lumpen in its storytelling, once we arrive at Polis the pace picks right back up again. Fascinating, extremely detailed, and very atmospheric.

The Festive Season - Christmas adverts on the telly (including that old one from Coca Cola that everyone of my age loves and considers the kick-off for the season once they've seen it), mince pies fresh from the oven, decorations, wrapping (with a nifty little tip I learned from James May's Man Lab Christmas Special on BBC2), and all the assorted festivities. 2011 has been a bit of a rough year - indeed at times it's been utterly awful - but then again there were good times and productive times, so it wasn't a total write-off ... but I do hope 2012 proves to be far better than 2011 was.

Dirt 3 - nabbed it on sale. The first non-shooty-or-sandboxy game I've bought for four ruddy years; I'm gradually getting the hang of this spiffing rally racer which features an entertaining Gymkhana section.

Ross Kemp On Afghanistan - I was given this book for Christmas two years ago, and I never got around to it until now. Fresh from the latest series on Sky1, and in search of (relatively) lighter reading after the demanding-yet-involving Metro 2033, I ploughed through this. Like the series its connected to, it proved to be a fascinating, illuminating, and at times sombre read. It really makes you better appreciate - from the comfort of your living room, admittedly - what the soldiers fighting on our behalf go through.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - one of my presents this year. I've only done the first act of the story mode, but so far it's rather enjoyable. Nothing that changes the formula, but it's good to return to this particular story arc. More on it in next month's Flavours of the Month.

Until then - I hope you've all had a spiffing holiday season, and here's to 2012!

Triple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Last of 2011...

Megamind:
Similar to Despicable Me (which was quite enjoyable), Megamind centres around a villain who has to discover the good inside him to win the day. Featuring a great cast of voices (Will Ferrel, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Jonah Hill, J.K. Simmons etc) it's a good, fun time. Naturally it doesn't have quite the same 'pull you in' factor of a Pixar movie (although I've little interest in seeing this year's Cars 2, which seemed to receive luke-warm feedback), but Dreamworks did a ruddy good job nonetheless.


The 41 Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It:
Without a doubt, this 'spoof' of Judd Apatow comedies is the worst film I've seen all year. If you thought all those mind-bendingly awful 'Date Movie/Disaster Movie/Meet The Spartans' cinematic abortions were bad, then - amazingly - this load of old shite from 2010 is even worse. The sheer lack of any skill at comedy, as well as screenwriting, pacing, and narrative cohesion, is astonishing. Actual jokes are non-existent - in their place you instead get dreadful, shoe-horned-in moments of randomness that makes Disaster Movie look like a well-structured and thought-provoking drama, and such flatly redundant dialogue that you wonder how on earth anyone convinced the money men to pay for this utter drivel. It's incredible - nay, insulting (to all filmmakers and to all film lovers) - that this laugh-free, talentless, ham-fisted, completely misjudged rip-off, was ever produced in the first place. This shamefully inept and pathetic effort should hang like a skunk-sprayed albatross around the neck of anyone involved. Before you say it though, this is absolutely not a case of 'so bad it's good' - no, it genuinely is just trash with zero value whatsoever. It's an insult to mankind that this crap exists at all.


Mission: Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol:
Brad Bird's live-action debut is a scorcher. This third sequel in the 15-year-running franchise is in no way at all the runt of the litter - it's a tip-top, nail-assaulting chair-grabber of a thrill ride.

No sooner has the Paramount logo been-and-gone than we're launched into the action at break-neck speed. From the very get-go the mission statement is clear: Ghost Protocol is here to kick arse - and kick it well. After a daring, action-crammed escape from a Russian prison, the IMF team find themselves on the receiving end of the titular protocol after the Kremlin is bombed and they're framed for it. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to catch the men responsible and clear their name in the process.

I'd have to watch the third film again to just be sure, but I think I can pretty safely say this is the best Mission Impossible since Brian DePalma's franchise-opening entry in 1996. Bird's direction is deft and works very well indeed with a script that perfectly balances nail-biting tension, adrenaline-drenched action, and sigh-of-relief-inducing smiles. Joining Cruise this time around are Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg (returning as Benji from MI:III, who is now a field agent) - and they gel together perfectly. Everyone gets their chance to kick arse, induce a few chuckles, and even generate a moment of regretful pause and introspection.

The first half is perhaps better than the second, but not by much - indeed it's such a breathless, well-balanced, breezily-paced, entertaining thrill ride that there were audible sighs of relief whenever the tension was expertly popped during some of the most tense sequences - such as a vertigo-inducing climb for Cruise's Ethan Hunt up the tallest building in the world (all-the-more impressive because it wasn't done using green screen - no, Tom Cruise really was hanging from a wire 130 storeys up) ... that sequence alone made the palms of my tightly-clasped hands sweat.

Simply a brilliant action movie spectacle - the ideal mix of brains and brawn.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead - The Definitive Return of the Living Dead Documentary (Bill Philputt, 2011)

Dan O'Bannon's 1980s horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead is a hell of a fun ride. So resilient is it, and important to the pop culture of zombies, that the standard go-to rendition of a zombie (e.g. as represented in The Simpson's) is that of lurching, half-rotted, risen-freshly-from-the-grave monsters who scream out for "braaaiiins". Featuring a punk rock soundtrack and a fresh, young cast (adorned in various counter-culture outfits), Return of the Living Dead mixed grisly practical gore effects with sly humour - but, crucially, the jokes never came at the expense of the ensuing chaos.


While the sequels haven't exactly proved to be legendary, the original has really stuck around as a fan favourite. Part 2 over-egged the comedy at the expense of the horror with a weak script (although it did do well in that it brought back Thom Matthews and James Karen, and had some pretty nifty special effects at times). Part 3 - under the direction of splatter-meister Brian Yuzna - re-upped the horror quotient and made for a fun time. Then, unfortunately, came the exceptionally ill-judged fourth and fifth instalments (Necropolis, and Rave To The Grave) ... the less said about those, the better.



 

Now more than a quarter-of-a-century old, the original Return of the Living Dead has warranted a full-on documentary from Michael Perez Entertainment - who have previously presented us with a doc on the A Nightmare On Elm Street series titled Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (although, personally, I'm yet to see that one). Make no mistake, if you're a fan of this movie, then More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead, is an absolute must-own.



Bringing in all the surviving key players from the cast and crew, the doc meticulously pours over every facet of the production from concept to production, and ultimately exhibition. The interviews are frank, honest, and at times hilarious - more of which can be garnered from a series of deleted scenes (one of which is an eyebrow-raising tale of visiting real-life crematoriums), and a credit-roll gag reel - suffice to say, everything you would want to know about the movie is here.



What's more, this is no cheap production, corners haven't been cut or anything rushed. The presentation, from Carl Ramsey's cover art to the interviews themselves (featuring lovely background set design), is done with care and a great deal of attention, making this as equally visually impressive as it is illuminating. However, it's not all talking heads - behind-the-scenes video (captured in the days long before DVD, when such footage was rarely shot or preserved) crops up throughout, as well as hundreds of photographs revealing all from between-takes moments, to concept art, and the development of the special effects.



As if the main documentary, which runs for two whole hours, wasn't enough, we fans are treated to a further two hours of extra features. 50 minutes alone is dedicated to parts two and three, pulling in various members of the cast and crew from the respective productions, before we even get to the rest. Deleted scenes, a location tour, music video, trailers, 'ROTLD in 3 Minutes', and most poignantly of all - an in-depth on-camera interview with Writer/Director Dan O'Bannon, who sadly passed away in 2009.

If you haven't been convinced already then check out the trailer - otherwise, what the hell's wrong with you? If you're into this 80s horror black comedy fan favourite then you'll simply have to buy a copy - without a shadow of a doubt, it's well worth your time and money.

For more information, please visit - www.getmorebrains.com

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Prometheus - the teaser trailer is finally here!



Ridley Scott made a legendary name for himself with not one - but two - of the greatest and most respected science fiction movies ever made. In 1979 he gave us Alien, and then in 1982 we were gifted with Blade Runner (which was finally - seemingly at least - completed to his full satisfaction in 2007's "Final Cut").

Since then he's gone on to forge an impressive career to say the least - he's even now Sir Ridley Scott (and rightly so) - however he hasn't returned to the sci-fi world ... until now that is. I've felt that his directorial efforts in recent years have been lacking that something special. After a great double-whammy at the beginning of the millennium (with Gladiator and then Black Hawk Down), his output - to me at least - felt a bit lacking. Matchstick Men was decent, but not very memorable, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood were of no interest to me personally, and American Gangster (very proficient as it was) just felt like any one of a large number of 'rise and fall of a criminal empire' movies that have come out in the last 20 to 30 years.

Now though we have Prometheus to look forward to in 2012. At first it was an Alien prequel (an exciting prospect on its own), but then the secretive project morphed into something else - something within the same universe, but something seemingly altogether different. For months, fanboys and fangirls have been giddy with excitement, and this newly released trailer (which was preceded by a three-day-long series of teasers) has certainly got me hot under the nerd collar.

They have themselves a tip-top cast, an incredible looking production, and seemingly a newly invigorated Sir Ridley Scott at the helm of the whole thing - indeed as the teaser-trailer teasers suggested, this is the happiest he's been behind the camera for a while now - and I for one can sense that already.

What's more we're apparently going to have a Blade Runner sequel to look forward to sometime in the future, also from Scott.

Anyway - enjoy the trailer and ride the fangasm!

Quadruple Bill Mini Musings: December 2011...

Little Fockers:
With some of the cast having almost all of their scenes completely away from the actors, the dynamic that worked quite well in the previous film (Meet The Fockers) is mostly lost. It's no thinker by any stretch of the imagination, with some rather basic plot progression and even dunderheaded moments of character development/comedy ... it's all a bit underwhelming. There are some chuckles to be had for those familiar with the series, but if they plan on doing a fourth flick they'd better buck up their ideas after this.


Black Swan:
Darren Aronofsky's warped ballet flick is a wonderful mix of his over-the-shoulder style with the more strained psychological moments of films like Dario Argento's career-defining Suspiria, and David Cronenberg's entries into his own sub-category of 'body horror'. It wisely doesn't become ponderous and instead gets on with following Natalie Portman doing her absolute best to bring her ballerina crashing down into a pit of paranoia and perversion.


The Horseman:
This Australian indie horror makes for assuredly grim viewing, but intriguingly many of the worst moments of violence are left off-screen. More often than not we're witnesses to the brutal beginnings and creepy closings of violent sequences - it's a nice stylistic twist in this dark tale of a father who seeks to track down every last man who was involved in the porno production that preceded his daughter's untimely death. Disturbing and tense, but also shot with confidence, it makes for good genre viewing ... mind you, you might not be rushing back to see it any time too soon.


Dark Floors:
Otherwise known as 'The Lordi Movie' (aye, the horror rockers who are most widely known among the general populace for winning Eurovision a few years back), this is a turgid load of old cobblers. Missing the 'so bad it's good' mark by a country mile, it's just bad. The script is dull, the dialogue is cliched and boring, the plot makes absolutely no sense, there's a total lack of tension or suspense, and the inclusions of members of Lordi prove to be perfunctory and uninspired. For a flick as short as this, it doesn't half drag ... a bunch of people you don't give a stuff about randomly end up in some sort of hospital-bound hell, and all they do is traipse around all-too familiar corridors, briefly meet a member of Lordi, then run down to the next level to repeat the whole tedious exercise all over again. Unless you're a hardcore Lordi fan, don't even bother.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Triple Bill Mini Musings: December 2011...

The Invisible Man Returns:
The sequel to James Whale's wonderfully dark, inventive, comedic, and sinister film doesn't share the same sense of style or horror perpetrated by Claude Rains' see-through scientist-turned-psycho. Here we find Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) wrongly convicted for murder - and about to swing for it - escaping from prison with the help of Dr. Frank Griffin (the brother of Rains' scientist), and his imperfect scientific discovery, to which the antidote must be found post-haste. There's a knowing sense of humour, and some inventive special effects (continuing what was established before, but never really topping them), and the obligatory nostalgia factor - these classic horrors of the 1930s and 1940s are the early roots (but not the starting seeds) of the horror genre we all know and love today - but I think I'll stick with the first film.


Morning Glory:
Rachel McAdams is a struggling TV exec who scores a job running Daybreak - a dead-end morning show - and it's her job to turn the ratings around lest the show be cancelled and replaced by soap opera and gameshow re-runs. It's a breezy and frothy comedy of little consequence when all is said and done - Patrick Wilson's love interest is a thankless, throwaway part (although it's interesting that the gender roles are reversed in this instance), for example - but Harrison Ford plays to his strengths as a grizzled and grumpy 'real news man' drafted in as co-anchor due to his contract. He drinks, he mumbles, he has spats with Diane Keaton's female co-anchor, and it all works out how you'd imagine from the start. Easy chuckles and the warmth of the cosily familiar replace any potential caustic satire or drama that could have been wrung out of the premise, but it's a movie that's easy-to-enjoy, un-demanding, and of the comfort food variety.


Middle Men:

Luke Wilson is a problem solver - he fixes businesses - and he finds himself caught up in the world of being a pornography middle man, helping run 24/7 Billing, the company that invented the world of paying for porn on the internet. "Inspired by a true story" goes the opening title card, although how much of this crime comedy/drama is true and how much is false, who knows - although murder, a Russian gangster, and some sloppy records keeping seem like they could easily be both. It starts off with a strange mix of world-weary comedy and depressed hindsight, and continues on a slightly uneasy path between the humorously overt (Giovanni Ribisi's wide-eyed, coke-snorting, paranoid ideas man) and the thoughtfully introvert (Wilson's marital and moral problems). It's an interesting flick - if you like stories of suddenly gained vast wealth and all that goes with it, then you'll no doubt get a kick out of this (albeit not-too long-lasting) - and it certainly kicks off with a fast-paced, info-overload bang ... if you like the sound of it, why not give it a spin?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Flavours of the Month: November 2011...

LOOKS:

The Walking Dead (Season 2, Part 1) - the best thing to happen to zombies since Romero's Day of the Dead in 1985, AMC's superb zombie drama (adapted from Robert Kirkman's deliciously dark comics series) continues apace despite the odd spell of behind-the-scenes trouble. The first half of the season has come to an end (the remaining six episodes will begin airing in February 2012), and it's been an excellent run of episodes. One thing though - bloody spoilers - some out there in the world of the interwebs have been annoyingly loose-lipped at times, and for us Brits that's been quite frustrating (we see the episodes five days after they air in America). Indeed one of the biggest shocks of the season was completely spoiled for me. Despite the minefield of spoilers though, many twists and turns were left un-spoiled, and it has been a very satisfying series of episodes. Now the desperate fanboy wait for February begins...


SOUNDS:

David Lynch - he recently released an album titled Crazy Clown Time, and while a number of the tracks weren't to my liking, several were: "Pinky's Dream", "So Glad", "Noah's Ark", "Football Game", "The Night Bell With Lightning", and "These Are My Friends".

Julee Cruise "Nightingale"

God Is An Astronaut "Forever Lost"

Alice Cooper - I've respected his music and dabbled in it for quite a while now, but after seeing his 2011 Halloween concert on Sky Arts, I've been seeking out some of his albums at long, long last.

Blink182 "Neighborhoods" - their new album takes me back to my formative years when "Take Off Your Pants And Jacket" was practically on an endless loop at the Sixth Form.

Daft Punk "Tron Legacy Reconfigured" - a number of the tracks are utter tosh (a lazy, generic, ill-fitting dance beat that occasionally halts to drop a bit of the original track to quality for the compilation), but others are terrific remixes: "Derezzed" by The Glitch Mob, "Fall" by M83 & Big Black Delta, "The Son Of Flynn" by Moby, "Encom Part 2" by Com Truise, "End Of Line" by Photek, and "End Of Line" by Tame Impala are the stand-outs for me.


VIBES & FLAVOURS:

The Walking Dead Vol. 7 & 8 - I'm forever trying to catch up with the comics, and this is as far as I've got so far. No spoilers for those who haven't got to this point, but bloody nora is volume 8 a memorable one!

Illness - this autumn/winter season I've had this bizarre muscular/nervous flu which roams around various parts of the body. Aches, pains, headaches, exhaustion, stiff joints, sharp pains - and all on a constant rotation around my body for at least a couple of weeks. Fortunately it seems to have all gone, but what a weird one.

Homefront - it's not the most polished example of an FPS out there, and the ludicrously short single player campaign (3.5 hours from start-to-ruddy-finish!) has a few stumbles and design faults, but the central conceit of a Unified Korea occupying America in a bleak near-future is still quite interesting. Hopefully Crytek will fully crack it for the apparent sequel that they're working on.

Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky - so far I'm half way through this very dense piece of horror fiction set in the unforgiving Russian subway system in a post-apocalyptic world. At times it's a little too slow paced, and the author's style isn't particularly fond of paragraph breaks, but the world of the Metro is vividly depicted with a complete overview of the socio-political situation down there in the dark, danger-infested tunnels.

Saints Row The Third - while Crib customisation has all-but been removed in favour of new features, this third entry in the once sub-GTA franchise is easily the best of the three. The sloppy coding, gameplay, and balancing of Saints Row 2 are gone (mercifully), and in their place is a very solid and very enjoyable game. I've only encountered a couple of small glitches along the way such as the odd texture issue, no max-speed sound effect for any of the vehicles, or the odd roadblock on the occasional mission - but the latter have easily been remedied by starting again from the most recent checkpoint. I'm about 3/4 of the way through at the moment and it's pretty much a vast improvement across the board - the plot is tighter and actually interesting this time (if not particularly meaningful - but that wouldn't fit in anyway), the gameplay is tight and enjoyable, the in-game cell phone is perfectly formed for handling all your upgrade, mission, map, contact, and monetary needs, and the high level of utter daftness is most welcome. Professor Ghenki's Super Ethical Reality Climax (one of the many activities you can take part in) is a particularly good example of the sort of barmy fun you can have with this game. Well worth your time and money!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Pentuple Bill Mini Musings: November 2011...

The Exterminator:
This 1980s exploitation action flick got somewhat caught up in the 'video nasties' era here in the UK, but save for a few violent moments (such as a tremendous decapitation in the action-packed, explosions-galore opening five minutes) there's not an awful lot here to get your knickers in a twist about.

A Vietnam veteran takes to the meanstreets of New York City to sweep away the scum - the gang members, the pimps, the abusers, and so forth - in revenge for the terrible fate that befalls his good friend. After an impressively realised and explosive Nam-set opener, the movie quickly falters - the pace is all over the shop, the plot has an inconsistent focus, and the side characters are loosely considered. There are numerous great ideas littered throughout this revenge flick, including a vaguely explored governmental conspiracy, that could have (and should have) added up to a much tighter and more entertaining action picture - but alas it's not to be, especially with an underwhelming denouement that fails to provide a knock-out punch (let alone utilise the impressive arsenal that two main characters are seen packing).

Great ideas and great moments are lost in a disappointing murk. If you're into this kind of movie it's worth a watch, but unless it specifically hooks you, it'll mostly fade into the ether of your memory.


Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House:
As a kid I was a big fan of the Tom Hanks comedy The Money Pit (and I still am to this day) - and it was this Cary Grant-starring comedy that provided the foundations for it. Grant plays an Ad Executive in 1948 New York who dreams of a family home in rural Conneticut and, like an episode of Grand Designs, his dream project soon takes on a life of its own. The budget spirals, problems galore arise during the build, and it all becomes a bit of a stress. Naturally I prefer The Money Pit - as it's been a part of film-viewing life for as long as I can remember - but it was good to see this. The pace might be a bit sedate, and the comedy a touch on the soft-delivery side of things, but it was good fun nonetheless.


Island of Death:
One of the lesser known (yet still notorious) 'Video Nasties', Island of Death is a Biblically immoral tale of an incestuous couple spreading their wrath throughout the Greek island of Mykonos. Goats, amorous Frenchmen, homosexuals, randy old spinsters, the most pointless policeman on the planet, and anyone else going feel the wrath of this pair of misfits whose motives are - at best - foggy. The love-it-or-hate-it soundtrack works jarringly against-the-grain of the on-screen sadism, and it lacks any real sense of propulsion or purpose, but if you're fascinated by the era of the video nasty, then it's worth a look ... mind you, I'm quite glad I saw it on the Horror Channel instead of spending any money on it. To me at least, it's a one-watch-pony.


The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou:
As I've said before, over the last year I've suddenly gotten into Wes Anderson's brand of quirky ensemble comedies. Fantastic Mr. Fox, Rushmore, The Royal Tennenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, and now this - a similarly inimitable telling of Bill Murry's titular sea explorer who discovers he has an adult son just as he's about to set off on a voyage to track down the apparent Jaguar Shark that ate his best friend and collegue. It's exactly what I'd expect from a Wes Anderson film, although out of the aforementioned movies of his that I have seen, this would be at the bottom of the list for me personally - but that said, the bottom of this list is still quite high up in general.


Identity:
A cast full of names - including John Cusack (so as I continue to maintain, it's already worth watching simply for that fact) - populate this very effective, and incredibly fast paced mystery thriller. A series of people find themselves all trapped at a Motel in the midst of a torrential storm, and they're getting picked off one-by-one by an unseen killer. The reveal becomes apparent before its time and should have been hidden better for longer, but regardless, it's a stylish, efficient and very worthwhile thriller delivered by a talented cast and crew. It's one of those flicks I meant to see when it first came out in 2003, but for whatever reason I never got around to it - well I'm glad I finally did, because it's damn well worth a watch.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

So now what?

With copies of the script and copies of treatments sent off to production companies for "Allen Bridge", I figured it was about time to head back to "Summer Road".

I learned a lot from writing Summer Road (both in terms of the actual process of writing, but also from the feedback I received from the BBC Writersroom) and then of course writing Allen Bridge (as detailed in 30 blog posts) was a great writing experience from which I was able to not only learn an awful lot more - but apply what I'd already learned from past experiences.

So, having found new avenues to submit scripts to, I'm going to head back to this comedy/drama script and do a full-on re-write. I'm still proud of the script, but having learned so much since, I can see a whole array of opportunities to improve upon it - and hopefully, being that so much of the work is done (i.e. adapting an existing script, not starting from the very beginning again) it won't take too long to complete this revamping project.

...

On the side I've also got numerous ideas flooding in for an as-yet-untitled drama/horror script that I have in mind - I'd really like to write something that comes in at a tight 90 pages, and return to the horror genre (the BBC Writersroom don't accept horror scripts, but some of the new companies accepting scripts that I've found do accept genre fare) ... so that's what I have in mind for after the Summer Road re-write.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Walkie Talkie Dead...

It's all about The Walking Dead at the moment as season two continues to kick mucho arse, so with that in mind here's a video that a fellow poster over on Homepage of the Dead linked to that I found utterly hilarious:



I've since subscribed to their channel and watched all of their videos - they're fantastic - you should check them out.

The only downsides to season two of TWD? The intrusive amount of adverts on FXUK, and the fact that us Brits have to wait until the following Friday to see each new episode - five tense spoiler-avoiding days ... but nevertheless, I'm absolutely loving the second season!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: A Double Dose of David...

Inland Empire:
As if Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive melded together and birthed a rabbit-headed Polish baby with a penchant for industrialised zones and the murky unknown. Perhaps Lynch's most cryptic outing as a director, Inland Empire is a shot-on-miniDV mixture of old and new ground - similar themes from films past, present themselves along a path that is distinctly non-linear; one that is experimental.

An actress wins a role on a cursed film - one that was already abandoned once before when titled 4-7 - and soon finds her sense of reality breaking down. She inverts on her own life, confuses her past and present, becomes more than one version of herself (and possibly so for the character she is playing in the film), and goes through a protracted and twisted nightmare ... most specifically during the middle-hour of this three-hour journey.

By comparison, Mulholland Drive is a relatively straight-forward tale told in an unusual way ... although I think that could be said of Lynch's work in general - to an extent - in that, perhaps, his work appears to be more weird because of Lynch's particularly unique outlook and approach to his art. The central mystery of Mulholland Drive was the unravelling of a dream ... meanwhile Inland Empire is an altogether different beast. Lynch's experience making the film was one of discovery as he himself has stated - it began as one thing and developed over time into a whole other thing. Disparate scenes and ideas slowly and intricately began to fuse together to form an extremely complex whole.

To understand the whole film would be to miss the point - the mystery is the journey and the journey is the mystery - indeed, quite possibly, Inland Empire might be impossible to understand in its entirety. There is most definitely a plot snaking around the non-linear pacing of the scenes, and each viewer will grasp onto certain themes and images in their own way, and as such this is quite possibly Lynch's most interpretable film to date.

Red lamps, strobe lighting, doorways, nightmares, dreams, alternate/inverted realities, multiple personalities/identities, curious and threatening figures, the dark underbellies of seemingly stable lives and situations ... all are combined throughout this curious, enchanting, haunting, disturbing, unsettling, experimental digital world.


Lynch (one):
Shot during the production of Inland Empire, this documentary follows filmmaker David Lynch around in his life. Pockets of stories are left scattered around the running time like discarded cigarette butts on Lynch's office floor; snippets of behind-the-scenes moments from the making of Lynch's most recent film are diced between photography sessions in abandoned factories, one-sided phone calls, and the bookends of various unidentified moments. For Lynch fans, it's well worth checking out - it's a window into the world of Lynch; simultaneously strange and straight-forward.

Double Bill Mini Musings: Junkies and Demons...

Half Nelson:
I remember there was a lot of talk about this movie when it came out in 2006 - much of which was focused entirely on Ryan Gosling's arresting performance. All I knew about it was that it featured a teacher who happened to be a drug addict; however I never got around to seeing it until now. Sure enough, Ryan Gosling plays a teacher/druggie who bumbles about in a distracted haze ... one minute he's teaching his inner city students about change and opposing forces, the next he's smoking crack. He strikes up a sort of friendship with one of his students - the niece of a drug dealer - and so begins a meandering, distracted, and sometimes sparse film which is at times brilliant, but is at other times either politically blunt or just downright boring. If it wasn't for Gosling's performance, I'm not sure if the film would have even half of the plaudits it was garnered with a few years back ... however, if you muddle your way through the parts of the film that feel unintentionally lost, there are numerous moments that make the journey worthwhile - moments filled with unspoken pathos and deft direction. It's just a shame it can often feel as distracted and directionless as its protagonist.


Night of the Demons (2010):
I've never seen the original movie, so I can't say anything about this remake in those terms, however what I can say is this; it's ideal bloke's night-in fodder. Never mind that the script gets increasingly weak throughout the 90 minute running time, there's a load of gore, boobs, and nice production design on-the-go ... not that the latter will particularly be on the mind of the members of a beer and pizza session, but it certainly helps raise this above cheaper fare. Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie), Monica Keena (Freddy vs. Jason), and Diora Baird (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), offer up the bloke-friendly eye candy, while Edward Furlong (yes, John Connor from Terminator 2) dishes out plenty of wry sarcasm. Add in some nifty gore moments, and you've got a decent exploitation flick - it's all about the gore and the boobs and nothing more - it's no genre classic by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly won't linger long in your memory banks, but for lad's night-in fodder it's worth a punt. Again, having not seen the original, I can't comment on how it compares to the original - but it is what it is - stylishly presented buxom babes and gushing grue.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Flavours of the Month: October 2011...

LOOKS:

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 - the return of HBO's critically and commercially successful period drama is most welcome.

An Idiot Abroad 2 - Karl Pilkington's jetting off around the world again, this time moaning his way through a bucket list. At times cringe-inducing, at others utterly hilarious.

Family Guy and American Dad on BBC Three - repeats galore, but I've often found myself switching over after eleven to catch back-to-back double bills.

The Big Bang Theory on E4 - now that Friends has moved to Comedy Central, E4 have been pushing new shows, as well as existing ones on their roster. It seems that The Big Bang Theory is their new big name, and I've found myself routinely catching the re-run double bills after midnight. I've been watching the show for a few years now, but this is the first time I'm going back over old episodes of this excellent sitcom.

The Walking Dead Season 2 - months of waiting, filled with fanboy speculation and fevered forum banter, have all led up to this point; the return of AMC's superior undead drama. Friday nights on FXUK - it's all about Rick Grimes leading his not-so-merry band of survivors through the undead apocalypse. Recently renewed for a third season, I'm very glad indeed to have this masterful show back on their air (despite a few behind-the-scenes troubles along the way).


SOUNDS:

Phoenix "Love Like A Sunset Part 1 & 2" - as heard on the soundtrack for Sophia Coppola's sparse film Somewhere.

Rob Zombie - numerous albums and remixes.

Tool - ├ćnima, Lateralus, and 10,000 Days.

STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl Soundtrack - ideal atmospheric moods for finishing off my latest script.

M83 "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" - the highly anticipated return of the 1980s-inspired nostalgia and love-tinged moods of the French shoegazer.

David Lynch - "Ghost of Love", "Polish Poem" & "Real Love" (with Chrysta Bell), and "Dark Night of the Soul" (with Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse)

Wye Oak "Civilian" - as heard during the trailer for season two of The Walking Dead.


VIBES & FLAVOURS:

Unusually warm weather - the month got off to a somewhat curious start which found me washing my car in bright sunshine and shorts. We're back on track though - the winter socks, long-sleeved shirts, and winter duvet have come out of hiding.

"Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th" by Peter M. Bracke - I finished off this excellent book. If you're a fan of the Friday the 13th franchise, then I highly recommend you treat yourself to this.

Allen Bridge - this month saw me complete my drama/mystery script (as detailed in numerous blog posts over the months), which I'm currently submitting to some companies for consideration. Hopefully this challenging and rewarding creative venture bears fruit.

Friday, 28 October 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #30...

The script is complete (Draft 2.2 - 115 pages in length) and has been submitted to the BBC Writersroom this week. Furthermore, I'm sending out synopses/treatments to some production companies who are open to screenwriters like me - namely those who are unrepresented and don't have the help of industry contacts to fall back on.

Hopefully Allen Bridge - a challenging and rewarding creative venture - will bear fruit.

Finally, in drawing this series of blog posts to a close, below is a picture of all the notes and research (as well as the first draft) that went into creating Allen Bridge. Countless pages and countless hours - but I'm very proud indeed of the final product. It was most definitely worth it.


Oh and by-the-way, this is blog post #700.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Creepy kids, and long distances...

Wake Wood:
Seemingly from the company that owns Hammer, but not directly from the famous studio themselves, this UK chiller comes from the tradition of such 'creepy folk in a creepy rural town' films as The Wicker Man. In a somewhat rushed intro, we find a young couple have moved to the titular town after the death of their daughter - however, one night they discover that all is not as it seems in Wake Wood. A ceremony in which the dead can be brought temporarily back to life is overseen by the townsfolk - and rather readily accepted by the couple.

Wake Wood is a decent chiller, however the main problem with it is that the protagonists are all-too-ready to accept quite a far-fetched ritual as actually possible. There's no "you're a nutter, what are you on about?" period of disbelief or even mockery - in fact they hop on-board with ease. Indeed the general pace of the film feels too rushed - we don't have enough time to really get to know the central couple, nor their circumstances in life, nor the town of Wake Wood itself. A creeping sense of realisation - a build up to a shocking discovery - is sorely missing.

The premise is a good one, and while it does occasionally stray unsuitably into gore-flick territory, and the score is at times intrusive or against the grain, it's an admirable effort. Despite being in too much of a rush, not exploring the other residents, and the town itself, to the extent that it should have, there is definitely something there to dig up for fans of The Wicker Man - and other such fare.


Going The Distance:
I wasn't all that interested in seeing this, but I caught a couple of minutes of it on Sky Movies when flicking around - and I quickly found myself chuckling. So over to Sky Anytime it was, and I gave this Drew Barrymore/Justin Long romcom a spin - and in short, I enjoyed it quite a bit. A pleasant surprise was the script - it was breezy, bright, and appealed effortlessly to both male and female demographics at different times, and in different ways, throughout. It even has a dirty mind at times - but not in a sleazy or gross way - and what's more the actors all fit together well ... indeed, Barrymore & Long's real-life relationship shines through to afford their characters a sense of truth that you don't often find in romcoms.

Although there are romcoms, and then there's this which - as I've already said - effortlessly appeals to men and women simultaneously, but also appeals to the different sides within each gender. Relationship drama, career woes, gross-out male banter, frank sex talk, and some genuinely hilarious (and well performed) moments (see the impromptu moment of passion on the dinner table) - it's all catered for. Going The Distance is surprisingly rather well crafted, and properly entertaining to boot.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Quadruple Bill Mini Musings: Cute CGI, Intriguing Cusack, Tense Clooney, and Superfluous Remake...

Despicable Me:
Animated fun that's not from Pixar, but still pretty darn good. Pixar are more capable of mining emotional depths (see the tenth minute of Up, or the entire third act of Toy Story 3), but Despicable Me proves successful at all things cute and sweet with some nice moments of comedy thrown in. An evil genius, who isn't especially successful, sets out to steal the moon but finds himself learning there's more to life than shrink rays and getting a loan from the Bank of Evil. Not as consistently hilarious as some other non-Pixar fare (such as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs), but it's easily on-par with (if not a little ahead of) Monsters vs Aliens.


Pushing Tin:
As I've said before, if it's got John Cusack in it then it's worth seeing - and the rule continues unbroken. Cusack plays an air traffic controller, the best in fact, who finds himself getting into a deep battle of egos with Billy Bob Thornton's rogue hotshot, and managing to screw up his entire life in the process - not helped by Angelina Jolie's temptress. The middle portion loses some of the heat of the early part of the flick (where air traffic control scenes are paced like an action movie), but it's an intriguing light-hearted drama.


The American:
From the director of Control comes a meticulous, slow-paced tension-builder. George Clooney plays an assassin and master craftsmen (of sniper rifles) on the run from those who want him dead. Holed up in a remote Italian town, he finds himself falling for a local red-light girl - but will he manage to outrun the hounds that seek to hunt him down? The trailer made it look more like an action film, but it's not - what it actually is, is a tense waiting game. While it doesn't particularly tread any unique ground, it's an interesting effort.


Let Me In:
Remakes are dime-a-dozen at the moment (and have been since 2003's re-tread of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and if they're not remakes they're reboots, prequels, or English-language makeovers. Sometimes it's a worthwhile endeavour, but more often than not you come away with something that was at best benign, and at worst so bad that it actually spits in the face of the superior original. Let The Right One In was a fantastic little gem - and certainly helped by not being an Americanised exercise in seen-it-all-before sameness - it had a strong character all its own.

The English-language re-do however, is practically a shot-for-shot copy at times, and certainly doesn't stray at all far from the established path. I found myself watching it thinking "oh yeah, it's this bit; next it'll be that part", and while it's sensitively directed and stays true to the pacing and atmosphere of the original (thank god it wasn't all nu-metal, tween emos, product placement, and Michael Bay-style dunderheadedness), it just doesn't feel like there's much point in it existing. Why watch this when the superior original is right there, and if you've seen the original, you'll find this to be a copy with softer edges. It's faithful, but it feels scared to explore alternate territory - although the scenes of a bin-bag-headed killer hiding in the back seats of cars does make for genuinely tense and well-directed moments. If this was an original, it'd be very good indeed, but the problem is that it's not - Let The Right One In exists, and if you're going to watch a version of this story, watch the original.

The original; with it's sparse dialogue, reliance on meaningful looks, pregnant silences, and explosions of brief-but-spectacularly-memorable moments of violence, is very worthwhile seeing. This Americanised version - which admirably brought Hammer back to the scene - feels sadly pointless. Talented individuals made a good film - but an unavoidable problem looms large - in the shadow of Let The Right One In, Let Me In is simply superfluous.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #29...

As I near the end of the writing process (I'm ostensibly on the final go-through, on page 87 of 116) I thought it would be interesting to list some of the music that has provided some of the consistent backdrop to the writing process of Allen Bridge - so, without further ado:

Angelo Badalamenti, David Lynch, Julee Cruise, and Blue Bob - various soundtracks and collaborations

The Black Angels "Passover" and "Directions To See A Ghost" (albums)

Daft Punk "Tron Legacy" (album)

Donovan "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (track)

Godspeed You Black Emperor "Moya" (track)

Hans Zimmer "Journey To The Line" (track)

Ingram Marshall "Fog Tropes" (track)

Krzysztof Penderecki "Symphony No.3 Passacaglia - Allegro Moderato" (track)

Max Richter "On The Nature Of Daylight" (track)

Michael Giacchino "Life And Death" (track)

MoozE/Frey Vladimir "STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl" (album)

Petri Alanko "Alan Wake" (album)

Roy Orbison "In Dreams" (track)

Rob Zombie - various, but particularly "Educated Horses", and "Hellbilly Deluxe 2" (albums)

Tool - "├ćenema", "Lateralus", and "10,000 Days" (albums)

Some of these are more recent entries, while others have been frequently played for months, and naturally there will be some other albums and songs that have filled in here and there along the way. Some of the music - such as Rob Zombie or Tool - is suited to powering through the re-drafting process at times, while other stuff - such as Daft Punk's soundtrack to Tron Legacy - can fulfil that requirement, but also act as a good atmospheric inspiration ... and then there are other examples - such as the Badalamenti/Lynch/Cruise stuff, or Petri Alanko's Alan Wake soundtrack, or MoozE's soundtrack to STALKER - that are excellent inspirations for a particular mood.

I found that writing Draft 1.1 and 1.2 were more suited to the music that provided me with a particular atmosphere or mood (sometimes I would play particular tracks at particular points in the script - to write/read along to a specific track). Then when it came to Draft 2.1 and 2.2 it was more about powering through changes and tweaks, but also adding new content, and as such there was a fluid mix between atmospheric stuff and hard rock/metal.

In terms of inspiration for Allen Bridge in general, it was always - from my very first thought - more about capturing a particular type of mood, rather than anything else (well, apart from telling a good mystery that had the potential to chill as well as enthrall). Therefore, music was the perfect inspiration for the script, and while there were certain films that inspired me - it was always from the standpoint of a particular mood that it successfully protrayed, and not the content it offered - and even then all the inspiration was just to get me into a particular head space. Quite quickly I found myself never consciously thinking about any particular film, television show, book, campfire tale, or whatever you fancy.

I was fortunate to find that Allen Bridge itself ended up inspiring Allen Bridge, by which I mean, the established parts of the story (initially scenes from a half-remembered dream) would lead to a new scene, then a new character, then a new backstory, and then new scenes and characters and yet more backstories from there. It was like deciphering a film - or a dream of a film - inside my head, and down on paper, from a jumbled order so that I could discover an organised and complete entity at the end of it all.

Progress wise, as I said, it's tantalisingly close to completion - I've reached the stage where I'm feeling confident that it is ready to be submitted, the point where the story and the plot feel strong like stone ... a point where it flows satisfyingly from one scene to the next and can inspire surprise, chills, and further questions. At this stage I can so vividly see the script inside my head as a film - and even if I do say so myself - I think it'd make a good one.

Monday, 17 October 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #28...

It's back to page 1 again as I make another tour through the script - this time with an eye to trimming as many unnecessary words as possible. I particularly want to trim Act I, as for a while now it's culminated on page 34 - although on the very first draft, it did so on page 44, so cutting out 10 pages worth was quite good in itself. However, Act I should end on page 30 - and right now I've got it ending part way into page 33, so it is crawling back somewhat. If I can't get it any further than page 31 or part way into page 32, so-be-it, I'm not going to cut stuff just for a page number - but it would be quite nice if I was able to manage this little feat of editing.

As for the rest of the script, particular focus will be on the newly added content, and especially the dialogue-heavy sequences found in Act II and the denouement. They might be heavy with dialogue, but they're also heavy with information and thematic imagery, it's not just empty words. However, if there are lines that aren't needed, they'll come out.

It's also interesting to go through my bullet points for this re-drafting process. The vast majority have been met, but there's the odd one that's much more obscure to include. For example, thinking of having the character of Jeanie - the owner and operator of the town's cafe - to be somewhat flirtatious with D.C.I. Ryman ... and while I've added a little detail here and there to suggest the possibility of an attraction, in this particular case it's not something you can really write in - if anything it'd be a piece of between-the-lines performance/motivation for the actors.

Furthermore, in all my notes on the script dating back to the very first ideas, little thoughts of things like Ryman having a broad vocabulary haven't quite fed in as much as I'd initially thought. He certainly speaks in a way that sits apart from other characters, but due to some of the stuff he has to talk about, Harland Mumper has become the character whose dialogue has a very individual ring to it. Ryman has become verbally more direct, while Harland has become verbally more inventive. Small things, almost infinitesimal things, can shift when it actually comes the time to put fingers-to-keyboard ... it's all a part of the evolution of the script.

Finally, after having spent so much time (when I'm not busy with other things) over so many months now, I'm really ready to see this script finished. Around this time in a project there is a sense of fatigue that you have to battle against - you don't want to say "ah screw it, that'll do", but you also don't want to needlessly and ridiculously nitpick over every single shred until it becomes a muddled mess - at some point you have to say "no, it's finished now" and release it so that it can be looked at by the necessary people.

As I often say "it'll be what it'll be" - the key is to do everything you can reasonably do, within the skill set and knowledge you possess at the time, to make it the best product you can, under the circumstances within which you're working. A dedicated approach, but also a practical one.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #27...

I've been through the script from start-to-finish, word-for-word, applying as many tweaks as possible along the way. That was Draft 2.1, so now we're onto Draft 2.2 - this is where I can hop around all over the script applying anything that I missed on the list of changes, or didn't quite nail down as required.

I can now focus on a specific issue at a time, applying all the necessary tweaks here and there as I need them - for example, it could be a single sentence of dialogue added to close a minor plot hole, or it could be adapting a piece of action or discovered information in Act II after having added some clarification (or done some more exploration of a theme) in Act III.

Right now there's a lot of effort going into the Act III denouement - there's a lot of loose ends to tie up in a way that makes enough sense to the reader (as opposed to me - who knows all of the back story and detail found in my notes, but which are not necessarily fully in the script's pages), while at the same time not just spelling every damned thing out like it's nursery school.

This is a mystery after all, and with plenty of characters (all of whom have back stories) and the expansive history of the eponymous town on offer, it's best to leave enough things open to allow numerous smaller/side mysteries to linger in the mind of the reader. The main bases have to be covered, but beyond that it's best to suggest further avenues in the story as opposed to the plot - the latter covers everything between the first and last pages of the script, while the former concerns that and everything that is off-screen before, during, and after what is written on the page.

So at the moment it's a case of layering on further levels of intricacies to the plot and the story - things get a little more detailed and sewn-together with every session of writing - and it's a satisfying thing to jump back and forth to pick out small subtleties that need a little polish, which link to other parts of the script, which then in-turn link to other thematic elements. It's like a million-piece jigsaw puzzle that's almost complete save for a patch of blue sky.

Looking forward though, I'm hoping to get Allen Bridge finished this month and sent off to the BBC Writersroom ASAP - after which I'll also see about submitting it to some of the companies that I recently discovered who accept scripts from writers such as myself.

Progress is good - it's going well - and it's tantalisingly close to completion with each passing day.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Pretentious and Exploitative?

Somewhere:
From Sofia Coppola (who gave us the excellent Lost In Translation) comes something a bit familiar, albeit with a script that must have been as thin as a postage stamp, and lots of not much happening within a structure that has little care for the intricacies of the three acts, or inciting incidents, or what have you.

That said, if you are able to get into a sort of semi-drowsy state and just let the lack of much of anything happening wash over you, then you can kind of get into it. A directionless actor bums around at the Chateau Marmont in L.A. watching pole dancers until he falls asleep, and then his daughter turns up ... cue a series of roughly scripted scenes where suddenly this actor who lacks meaning, has a purpose in life ... then it sort of ends (in a way that could easily be seen as pretentious, rather than evocative - evocative like the how far superior Lost In Translation did with that haunting soundtrack and unheard whisper). Nothing amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but fans of sparse atmospheric filmmaking and shoegaze/indie music should be able to find something on offer here. However, many might very well find it all a bit scant and pretentious ... it's all in the eye of the beholder ultimately.


Savage Streets:
Directed by Danny Steinmann (who went on shortly after to call the shots on Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning), this lurid exploitationer concerns a girl gang who manage to piss off the wrong group of troublesome young men. Seeking revenge, the male gang rapes (and puts into a coma) the deaf/mute sister of Linda Blair's fiery high school senior (played by genre icon Linnea Quigley) ... big mistake ... that is after the flick goes a little bit off-the-boil, but once Blair straps on the leather and has a crossbow clenched in her mits, it picks up again. Stylish, sleazy (see the extensive, soapy, shower sequence early on that tosses in a soaking wet, semi-clad girl fight for good measure), and decidedly eighties (in a good way), it's actually a pretty solid revenge pic. Worth seeing for fans of such fare, or indeed followers of Linda Blair.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

What Have They Done To Your Daughters? (Massimo Dallamano, 1974): DVD Review...

Find more Shameless Screen Entertainment DVD reviews here.

This early 1970s poliziotteschi-cum-giallo has a bigger bark than bite - it appears to be more lurid, judging by the cover art (in Shameless' signature gaudy yellow), than it actually is. While Strip Nude For Your Killer (1975) was as sleazy as you'd expect, Daughters takes a different route and focuses much more on the police investigation aspect - that is oftentimes overshadowed by the easier to market themes of sex and violence.


A rich school girl is discovered hanged in a loft apartment - a girl who is evidently no stranger to carnal activities - and so begins an investigation that leads to the discovery of a secretive, high-end prostitution ring that specialises for those seeking underage exploitation. There are times when the film appears to have quite serious pretensions of addressing a horrific fact of life, albeit in the vein of an occasionally gruesome murder mystery. Indeed, by the end of the film, the underlying cynicism of Ettore Sanzo and Massimo Dallamano's script really comes to the fore to point a finger at the grim realities of political corruption - how thousands of missing teenagers are simply ignored by the system.


So while it might disappoint some of those seeking more exploitative fare, it does compensate in spades with a pretty strong police procedural story (relatively speaking, at least) mixed with elements of murder mystery and even action. A notable high point in the film is an impressive chase sequence that appears to throw caution to the wind in a somewhat guerrilla filmmaking style. The police chase a leather-clad, cleaver-wielding motorcyclist at high speed through the streets and - seemingly at least - genuinely catch unaware bystanders by surprise, which only adds to the thrilling riskiness of the chase.


Compared to Strip Nude For Your Killer, the direction and photography aren't quite as tight or quite as beautiful, but nevertheless Franco Delli Colli's cinematography provides a constant stream of impressive compositions, while Dallamano keeps the spotlight shining directly on the police investigation - indeed, considering some aspects of the plot, it makes an awful lot of sense to take the higher road. One stand-out contribution above them all, however, is Stelvio Cipriani's score - particularly "La Polizia Sta A Guardare" (as heard during the climactic chase sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof) - which adds a sense of propulsion that nicely compliments the procedural aspects of the plot.


Shameless Screen Entertainment's DVD makes for a solid presentation. The film looks about as good as you can hope for - this not being a 'big name giallo' like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage - yet the clean-but-still-grainy 2.35:1 print (in anamorphic widescreen) actually helps compound the grittier elements of the plot. A series of trailers for other releases, and a reversible sleeve round out the package.


For those with a penchant for 1970s giallo, this is definitely a worthy and intriguing entry in the genre. A mixture of mystery, horror, action, and thriller with a healthy dose of cynicism that makes for a strong and enjoyable viewing experience.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #26...

I'm ploughing through the script - now up to page 73 (of 114) - which puts me just before the triple-whammy finish of Act II. The first Act remains in need of a little trim-down, but Act II and Act III can both easily afford a few extra pages of exploration - which is nice.

The biggest change at the moment is concerning Miller's back story - a certain piece of his past and how it connects with the town itself. It's a bit of a jigsaw puzzle at the moment. You have to find the right points in which to put the right pieces of additional information.

Another thing I'm keeping an eye on throughout this re-drafting is removing/softening anything that could give away anything a bit too soon, be it a plot point, or someone's motivations. It's all a balancing act at the moment, where you are simultaneously viewing the script from afar as one 'finished' piece, and from very close up as you place small bits of this-and-that here-and-there.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #25...

Draft 2.1 is underway - but getting into gear was a tad tricky. When you've been out of the way of writing for a little while it can be hard to get into that mode again - so I decided to ease into it slowly, applying a few cursory changes throughout the entire script to 'get my hand in' again.

However, as I've said before, oftentimes it's just a case of double-clicking that icon - that simple task is surprisingly a hurdle in itself - but once you're into the software, your brain suddenly thinks "well, seeing as I'm here" ... and off you go.

I'm currently at the end of Act I in the re-drafting process and the page count for the entire script has jumped a couple of pages (mostly due to a handful of extra lines that pushed everything beyond it down a notch or two) and it's going well so far. Although I do still aim to trim down Act I as it's still a little bit on the long side - but I think that'll have to wait for Draft 2.2 for now.

There haven't been any major changes thus far, and there's unlikely to be - it's more clarifying smaller elements, enhancing certain aspects of certain back stories, tweaking dialogue, and seeking the perfect balance of how the mystery itself plays out (walking a fine line in search of a perfect balance between giving away enough to suggest various possibilities, but not so much that you allow someone to figure out something important ahead of time).

That said, some small changes can require plenty of time and thought to go into what is relatively speaking only a few lines of dialogue, or the tone of someone's action at a specific moment in a scene. One of the larger changes though is to do with part of Miller's back story, which will provide a tighter additional reason for him being in Allen Bridge in the first place and why he's so inexplicably drawn to the place. This change is really a further exploration of an element that was already present in the first draft, but one which kind of ended up in the background - but when you're piecing together an entire script with multiple characters, back stories, and histories, it's bound to happen ... that's what re-drafting is for, anyway.

So far so good, and I have to say I'm very proud of this script. Without a doubt in my mind, it's the strongest thing I've written, and is easily one of the most satisfying writing experiences I've ever had.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Flavours of the Month: September 2011...

LOOKS:

The A-Team (Blu-Ray) - still rather good fun. After a year or more of thinking the movie would suck, when I actually got to see it in the cinema last year I had a really good time, and it still is a good time. I'm not sure whether they will or not, but I would welcome a sequel.

Fast Five (Blu-Ray) - I never bothered with the second or third movie in the franchise (I saw clips and didn't like what I saw), and I found the fourth movie to be a bit underwhelming, but this fourth sequel was a bloody great time at the movies, and it continues to be so on home video (although goodness knows what the additional one minute of content is). Blisteringly enjoyable big-scale mainstream action.

Dangerous Roads (BBC2) - three episodes, three pairings of household British names (comedians and adventurers), and three distinctly treacherous journeys. In the absence of a new Boorman/McGregor adventure, this satiates the appetite a bit.

Carnivale - I missed this curious-and-rather-good show the first time around, but thanks to Sky Atlantic I've been catching up, and this month saw the first season draw to a close ... and what a closer it was! Cliffhanger central, so it was, with shocking twists galore edited together incredibly effectively to Hans Zimmer's "Journey to the Line".

Fresh Meat - a new comedy created by the blokes who gave us Peep Show, detailing the off-campus lifestyle of a bunch of first year uni students. I'm quite enjoying it, and not just because it's giving me flashbacks of my own time living off campus - mind you, our gaff was far smaller and decidedly more of a health hazard (bed bugs, persistent mold, and a bathroom that was cleaned so few times in two years that you could count them on one hand ... at the time we didn't seem to mind, yet the further from it I get, the more disgusting it appears). Although, the second episode was a step-down - some plots have been dived into all-too-quickly, and some characters are feeling a tad one-note - but hopefully it's just an early wobble from which the show will recover.


SOUNDS:

AL-P "The A-Team Theme (AL-P MSTRKRFT Remix)" - as heard on the Blu-Ray menu for 2010 The A-Team movie.

M83 "Midnight City (Big Black Delta Remix)" - October will see the long-awaited release of M83's new double-album, and in advance there's a few remixes of the first single doing the rounds.

Stelvio Cipriani "La Politzia Sta A Guardare" - as featured (briefly) in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, I re-discovered it playing during the trailer for the Italian giallo flick What Have They Done To Your Daughters?

HIM "Deep Shadows & Brilliant Highlights" - this is the band's third album, and it takes me right back to the wintry beginnings of 2003, listening to this and their second album (Razorblade Romance) after getting back from late afternoon screenings when it was pitch black and raining outside. Some albums transport you back to very specific times in your life, and this is one such album.

Hans Zimmer "Journey To The Line" - as mentioned above regarding the season one finale of Carnivale, this haunting piece of music was created for Terrence Malick's poetic The Thin Red Line.


VIBES & FLAVOURS:

The 10th Anniversary of 9/11 - what is there to say? The event that defined the decade (and no doubt will define the century) was a shocking assault on all of mankind whether witnessing it first hand, or through the chilling footage streaming live around the world. When the event itself was unfolding I was in the final year of the Sixth Form and one of the girls from our year said, somewhat curiously, that "a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center" - naturally we all thought of the time a small plane crashed into the Empire State Building, but by the time we all got home and saw the endlessly repeating footage we realised this was something totally and horrifically different. With each passing year - and with more and more fascinating (yet terrifying) documentaries about that day - it becomes a little easier to process, while at the same time continuing to be an inconceivable horror.

GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony - returning to the second DLC for Rockstar's smash hit sandboxer, and having got used to the tweaked controls featured in Red Dead Redemption, I found the controls and cover system to be at best fiddly and at worst utterly incapable (driving is something to merely get the hang of, but the cover system is awfully clunky here - however, thankfully, it was mostly improved in Red Dead Redemption). That said, I've had a ridiculous number of hours out of GTA IV (despite its faults) and I am very much looking forward to the next entry.

"Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th" by Peter M. Bracke - I was given this last year but only got around to reading about the first two movies in the franchise before I found myself with a stack of books (as Christmas gifts) to wade through - however I returned to Bracke's vastly informative tome and it has been a stonking good read. At the time of writing I'm up to Jason X.

Allen Bridge - after a bit of a hiatus, in which I sought feedback from a select few readers, I have returned to my drama/mystery script. I've plotted a list of additions and tweaks that I want to make, but I can see that where I am currently at - heading into Draft 2.1 - is the point at which I would have arrived at last year by Draft 3.2, so I feel quite confident in that I'm learning an awful lot. Indeed I've been putting as much care and attention into this script as I possibly can. Like I've said before, I am determined to make this one count!

Homefront - there's a shed load of games coming out over the next few months that will go onto my 'to do' list, not that I'll get to many of them anytime soon if at all, but this B-Grade shooter (from the writer of Red Dawn and Apocalypse Now) isn't too bad. It's definitely not in the same league as a Call of Duty, for instance, but it presents an intriguing and scarily almost-possible bleak future where America becomes a nation occupied by a united Korea. At times it is hauntingly dark (mass graves at baseball fields, a child's parents gunned down in front of them, white phosphorous melting enemies alive, etc) and despite a number of flaws (such as a stupidly short campaign, weak protagonists, and an occasionally rough finish) it's worth a play.

Dick Figures, and ASDFmovie - these two online animated series are well worth checking out. The former has so far racked up 19 mini episodes (from the same company that gave us Happy Tree Friends), and the latter is a wonderfully silly and inventive series of mini-sketches that have - for one thing - birthed a ridiculously catchy song called "I LIKE TRAINS".

Gears of War 2 - in preparation for the third entry in the monstrously successful Xbox360 exclusive franchise, I've returned for another bash through this first sequel which was without a doubt decidedly superior to the solid first game.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Hextuple Bill Mini Musings: Money, Men, and Evil...

Winter's Bone:
Set amidst the harsh mid-winter woodlands of Alabama, Jennifer Lawrence plays a 17 year old charged with raising her two young siblings, looking after her ill mother, maintaining a roof over their head, and ultimately tracking down her deadbeat meth-cooking father who has skipped bail and left the family home on the line. Meandering, slowly paced, sparsely plotted, and extremely atmospheric, it might take a while to pull you in but once it does its Oscar-nominated harsh realism will keep you intrigued ... although it's not quite all you might think it's trumped up to be. Intriguing.


The Invisible Man:
I was into the likes of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and The Bridge of Frankenstein long ago (they're all wonderful and everlasting pieces of early horror cinema), but it was only relatively recently that I got around to Dracula (which I was a bit half-and-half about, to be honest) - and likewise it has taken me a while to get around to James Whale's fantastically inventive and mischievous The Invisible Man. Naturally it's quaint by today's standards, but in 1933 the practical trickery and rudimentary visual effects must have been astounding - indeed they're wonderful to behold in 2011.

The opening is chilling (and not just literally) as Claude Rains' scientist pitches up at a remote tavern seeking peace and privacy in order to discover how to reverse the effects of his own creation - a chemical that has turned him invisible and violently unstable. Packed with humour, great character actors, splendid special effects, a strong visual approach that strained against the early confines of 'sound cinema', and a surprising dark streak at times, it is no wonder that Whale's classical horror picture has become a beloved and respected genre milestone.


Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps:
Gordon Gekko is back - the devil that accidentally become the poster boy and inspirational figure for a generation of Investment Bankers - but not quite as much, and in not quite the same way, as you might expect. Although he's still a dangerously charming bastard, so some things never change. Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan (an investment banker with a penchant for green fusion energy, and a lefty blogger, respectively) are the main focus of the plot that is set amongst the events leading up to and beyond the 2008 financial disaster.

Some of the money-speak gets a bit confusing (or maybe that's the point), the use of metaphors couldn't be more blunt (children blowing bubbles, for example), and certain Gekko character beats in the final act don't quite settle, but especially when compared to Stone's recent efforts (the comical but generally pointless W. and his somewhat spiritual World Trade Center) it's pretty good. It's definitely not in the same league as his iconic original - although the brash visual pace has returned with vigour - but there is a purpose behind this outing. An intriguing follow-up that fans of the 1980s original should definitely seek out.


World's Greatest Dad:
From Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, the guy from the Police Academy movies) comes this unique black comedy, featuring Robin Williams as a failed writer/teacher, who is wrapped up in a whirlwind after a tragic event occurs in his life (a moment that is delivered with chilling realism by Williams). Seeking to disguise the reason behind it, he inadvertently writes a book that gains national attention. Quirky, unique, and with a dark wit that combines the ordinary with the extraordinary, it's well worth checking out. Bonus points also for the reverence afforded to proper zombie films featuring the shambling undead.


Tucker & Dale vs Evil:
It feels like a very long time since I first heard about this flick - a horror comedy in which the grim-looking hillbillies are the bumbling good guys, not the machete wielding psychopaths, and the gaggle of fresh-faced 'teens' are deadly in their ineptitude. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play the titular hillbillies who venture into the Appalachian mountains to renovate their new holiday home, only to get mixed up in a gore-ific and hilarious comedy-of-errors. One thing though - whoever cut the trailer should be slapped - they spoiled so many great moments from the flick (especially in the Red Band Trailer). So if you like the idea of the flick, avoid the trailers and just see it - I enjoyed it a lot, but I'm sure I would have enjoyed it even more if so many of the good bits hadn't been blown by the ever-so-revealing trailer.


Frankenhooker:
From the creator of Basket Case (which explains a lot) comes this utterly barmy rejigging of the Frankenstein story. A Jersey boy called Jeffrey (who spends his spare time performing self-administered brain surgery with a drill, and looking after his experiment/pet brain-with-an-eyeball-in-it creation) creates a remote controlled lawnmower that promptly hacks his girlfriend to pieces. Fortunately he's working on piecing her back together, but seeing as he's missing all but a foot, hand, and her head, he ventures across the bridge into the red light district of New York to gather just the right parts from prostitutes. Initially his plan goes explosively off-course, but he succeeds in bringing his girlfriend back to life - except she's now a monstrous Frankenhooker! It's utterly, utterly mental - perhaps almost too silly straight-off-the-bat, but after I stuck with it for a little bit it all came together and proved to be quite an enjoyable load of gory nonsense.