Thursday, 30 June 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #19...

Act III is now well underway - current page count is 98 - and one-of-five 'chunks' that comprise the final Act is done (to, you guessed it, Draft 1.1 standard).

So far it's going great and I'm really enjoying being able to bring together all the narrative threads and loose ends with a real sense of propulsion towards the planned coda to the script (which should have a nice chilling feel to it for the script to go out on - but, let's be clear, this isn't a horror script, it's a drama mystery) A horror script is what my next screenwriting project will be.

"The next script?!" you might possibly be crying out ... or merely silently pondering ... well yes, the other night I had a rather vivid dream. It was like being half-in and half-out of a horror movie, and certain things that happened throughout the scattered dream were played out from the perspective of a camera - and the jolts even made me, as a viewer in my dream, reel from the 'screen'. When I woke up in the morning I spent half an hour feverishly scribbling down any and all notes relating to what I could still remember from the dream. From these hurried notes, I was already starting to piece together plot threads, thematic elements, and central ideas. Indeed I've got two horror scripts in-mind at the moment, but I think this one (which I don't have a title for yet) will be the next one I do after I've gotten Allen Bridge put to bed. The other horror script I have in-mind also came from a dream, or a pre-sleep-day-dream even, and I've been referring to it as "Dug Deep".

These two scripts, but particularly the former, I'm planning to be punchier efforts in terms of producing them - to focus my attention on just the necessary elements (less extraneous research and lines of thinking) as much as possible ... and the target page count will be around 80 pages.

But before all that, it's the time of Allen Bridge - another script which came to me in a mixture of 'wouldn't it be great if' day-dreaming, pre-sleep-day-dreaming, and flat-out dreaming, with moments of fevered note-writing that established key scenes, characters, and thematic elements.

Flavours of the Month: June 2011...


Tron and Tron Legacy (Blu-Ray) - the original was a huge artistic and technical leap at the time (as illustrated plentifully on the disc), but in terms of the script it was a bit lacking. I feel that the sequel is definitely superior in this regard, and while it's not the technical cinematic landmark that Tron was, I still really, really dig it. A solid and focused plot married with superb visuals and a fantastic aural experience courtesy of Daft Punk.

Hatchet - sifting through the DVD extras, it certainly looks like it was a fun time making the movie, but it's a real shame that the passion didn't translate into anything remotely original. The movie itself is a grab-bag of moments from the Friday 13th franchise, and while modern horror debuts such as Eli Roth's Cabin Fever are oftentimes chock-full of references, the best ones use these references are a genre-fan aside. Cabin Fever referenced everything from Last House on the Left to Dawn of the Dead, The Evil Dead, and beyond, but the spark that lit the fire under Roth to make the movie was from personal experience of a flesh eating virus. Adam Green's Hatchet, however, has flawed goals from the off. You can't set out to deliberately make a loveable anti-hero horror rogue. None of the horror icons were intended to be icons, they just happened to become that over time ... this demonstrates the disappointing and misguided purpose behind Hatchet. At least they had a fun time making it.

Psychoville 2 - about as jet black as black humour can get, this series from two-thirds of The League of Gentlemen has been a very memorable viewing experience. I don't think I'll ever think of Tina Turner's "Simply The Best" in any other way but that of Maureen Sourbutts' horrifically comical rendition.

Paul Merton's Birth of Hollywood - as a student of film, this proved to be a fascinating three-part documentary series detailing the, well, birth of Hollywood. Scouring the arrival and increasing drawing power of silent cinema, the truth behind Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's fall from grace, and the arrival of sound, Merton's series told this fascinating story with expertly balanced passion and humour.

Paul (Blu-Ray) - the disc is, compared to that of Scott Pilgrim (also from Universal), is somewhat lacking in the extras department (indeed it's curious that some of the production video blogs are missing - most notably the other half of the Frisbee blog, the first-half of which was featured on the Pilgrim Blu-Ray). However, a handful of silly asides, an enjoyably friendly commentary, and a solid making-of keep the end up. As for the film itself, it's still thoroughly entertaining.

Top Gear: The Great Adventures Vol. 1-3 - while Volume 1 is a bit of a mixed bag outside of an extended Polar Special (thanks to a rather disappointing treatment of the U.S. Special), the second and third volumes decidedly pick up the slack. Commentaries give a jovial insight into the production of Top Gear (and just how un-set-up it actually is, despite the protestations of its curiously always-vocal detractors), and the extended footage provides more meat for folk like me - huge fans of the world's number one motoring show.

L.A. Confidential (Blu-Ray) - inspired by L.A. Noire, I picked up the Blu-Ray on the cheap. It's a five-star film all the way, and one which just gets better with age and repeated viewings. You can clearly see where many influences came from with Team Bondi's game.

Raising Hope - I've really come to love this follow-up to the cancelled-too-soon My Name Is Earl. I do hope a second season is given to this show as, much like Earl, it elicits audible guffaws from me even when I'm watching it by myself.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World - what with finishing the graphic novels, the natural next step was another viewing of Edgar Wright's superb adaptation. I've seen it six times now, and even still I'm finding new things to appreciate. This time around it was the sound design - particularly the real world everyday sounds that are used to punctuate the dialogue and humorous moments. When I first saw it, it somewhat stumped me - yet I still enjoyed it - but I recognised that it was a somewhat niche 'thing' to get into. Something that would decidedly benefit from reading the source material - and I was proved right in that regard - as reading the books has given me a richer appreciation of the SP world and the film itself (and plenty of entertainment in-so-doing).


Nine Inch Nails "Year Zero" - it's taken me quite some time to get around to getting into this album, but I'm definitely into it now.

Anamanaguchi "Mermaid" - I found this via Edgar Wright's blog and I absolutely loved it. Stylistically it's like a modern twist on the music you used to hear on 8bit and 16bit videogames.

Tame Impala "Lucidity" - it's got a bit of a 1960s vibe to it. Heard it on a Top Gear episode from Christmas. Digging it; might have to look into getting their album.

UNKLE "Caged Bird" and "Follow Me Down" (Instrumentals)

Beck "Ramona" - there's been a distinctly Scott Pilgrim-shaped vibe to this month, and this wonderful track features on the movie's end credits.

Trent Reznor ft. Karen O "Immigrant Song" - as heard on the pounding trailer for David Fincher's version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Hopefully they release a full version of this arse-kicking cover soon!


The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life (Vol. 6) - the dialogue still has a propensity for exposition, but in terms of the artwork, and the situations that Robert Kirkman establishes for the characters to deal with, are jaw-dropping. The last few volumes have been increasingly shocking (in a good way), and this volume certainly had some particularly stunning moments.

L.A. Noire - well I've wrapped up Team Bondi's detective sandboxer and as I said last month, while it's flawed, it's a bold and involving step in a fresh direction.

Scott Pilgrim - "and the Infinite Sadness (Vol. 3)", "Gets It Together (Vol. 4)", "vs The Universe (Vol. 5)", "Finest Hour (Vol. 6)" - it's been since January that I last read the first two volumes of Brian Lee O'Malley's superbly entertaining and visually arresting graphic novels, so it was about time I resumed the series, and what do you know, I ended up barging the remaining four volumes. I consumed them voraciously and frequently laughed out loud at the dialogue and the artwork (in a good way). If you dug the movie, but haven't read the books yet - check out the books.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare - Rockstar San Diego's wild west sandboxer was my gaming highlight of 2010. It was a beautifully crafted (aside from a few minor bugs and glitches) game with an involving script, and it featured a new gaming icon - John Marston - a character that I genuinely cared for. Last year the DLC was released - basically Red Dead Redemption with zombies. It's relatively brief, but certainly not skimpy. New missions, side quests, strangers, random events, weapons and locations - plus it's crammed full of flesh-hungry undead and mythical beasts. I really enjoyed it, and while the original game is naturally better, it's a must-play for RDR fans. I even, for the first time with a sandboxer, got it to 100% completion. Let's hope that the fifth GTA is just as involving as RDR was.

Mark Kermode "It's Only A Movie" - Kermode was a figure of film criticism that I identified with strongly during my formative years. He appeared in numerous documentaries and film seasons on television (often regarding my beloved horror genre), and to this day I routinely watch/listen to his movie reviews. While the book so far has a tendency to meander and ramble in equal measure - like the man himself on BBC Radio 5 Live - that's also what makes it a personal journey through a life spent watching films for Kermode. I've particularly identified with his fascination with horror movies and other 'forbidden fruits' during his formative years.

As I've written about before, my formative years sat on both sides of the 1999 liberalisation of the BBFC. So on one hand there was the slack-jawed magnetic pull of the horror section of the video rental shop (remember those?), and the heavily cut version of The Evil Dead ... and on the other there was a whole list of genre milestones, freshly unleashed uncut (for most of them) onto the British public during my mid-teens ... the perfect timing, really. It's a time in my movie-watching history that I'll cherish forever - and it's that sort of love of film that this book exemplifies.

Allen Bridge - after a month-long break, it was time to head back to my drama/mystery screenplay. A tidying up of Act II first, and then proceeding onto Act III which is where, at the time of writing this, I currently reside.

Monday, 27 June 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #18...

The re-drafting (Draft 1.2) of Act II is complete, and I'm pleased that there wasn't an awful lot to change - mainly just little tweaks here and there to dialogue, trimming action description down a smidge, and so all-in-all the page count has only changed by one - it's running at 87 pages now (I trimmed out a single page's worth from Act II, which was already a few pages under the target - thus giving me some breathing room when I come to add some stuff in with Draft 2.1) - so I think I'll make a start on Act III (Draft 1.1) tomorrow when hopefully it won't be so bloody humid.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Hextuple Bill Mini Musings: June 2011...

His Girl Friday:
I've wanted to see this Howard Hawks screwball comedy for quite sometime. Indeed I'm surprised it wasn't shown during my film course (although we did watch another screwball comedy - Bringing Up Baby), and I'm pleased to report that the dialogue was as machine-gun-fast and whip-smart as I'd hoped. It's a marvel unto itself, the dialogue and the delivery. Cary Grant's newspaper editor is still fascinated by his now ex-wife Rosalind Russell (who's about to head off and marry another man and leave her sharp journalistic wits behind), and over the course of the film he pulls out every dirty trick he can to keep her in town and lure her back into her passion for the newspaper game. A mighty fine example of the screwball comedy.

99 Women:
Prior to this point, I believe the only Jess Franco movie I'd ever seen was Oasis of the Zombies (a movie so bad it's kind of good) ... although I have also seen the superior Zombie Lake (which Franco co-wrote). This is an earlier example of the 'Women In Prison' genre, and it boasts an aggressively lurid synopsis that has you believe it's a grot-filled sleaze epic ... when in fact it's anything but. Positively tame for the most part, the back-of-a-fag-packet plot consists of 99 women stuck in an island jail run by a sadistic Warden. Not an awful lot happens, there's an escape, then everything goes back to normal. Best reserved for die-hard Franco-fans.

The Card Player:
After the rather disappointing The Stendhal Syndrome, and the solid Sleepless, I was quite pleased to find that this Argento giallo flick from 2004 was pretty decent. A maniac is on the loose, challenging the police to win at games of poker to save the lives of his potential victims. While the climax is curiously void of tension (it's a touch wacky, to boot), and the plotting is typically light when it comes to characterisation and motivation, it moves along at a decent pace and manages to involve you for the most part. Naturally its far from Argento's heyday, and while Sleepless was better, it's not an atrocity by any means.

A Town Called Panic:
Fellow Brits might be familiar with those Cravendale milk adverts featuring a jumble of plastic toy figures (all stop motion animation) ranting at the top of their lungs about how mad-for-milk they are. Well this is that - but an entire feature film (in French), featuring Horse, Cowboy, and Indian. It's gleefully childish (in the best possible way) in its almost bedtime story-like narrative - Cowboy and Indian seek to build Horse a BBQ for his birthday, requiring 50 bricks, but they accidentally order millions of them, which leads onto a bizarre journey (which at one point involves a giant snowball-flinging Mech-like metal penguin piloted by scientists). Beautifully shot, the animation is simple - but joyously so - indeed it reminds you very much of your own playtime when you were a child (minus the barmy French characters shouting feverishly). It's a film for all the family and it's highly recommended you check it out.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010:
Wes Craven's franchise-starting 1984 original had an inventive idea driving the properly crafted narrative, and it introduced us to a pitch-perfect new face of terror (well, until he turned into a cartoon character marketted - bizarrely, even perversely - to children as a cuddly rogue at the height of his popularity). Samual Beyer directs his film debut like a music video (he's best known for the video to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Green Day's "American Idiot" videos). Like a music video it's impatient to get going (the movie begins at minute zero with us already in a nightmare), and due to the rush you care little (if at all) for the protagonists.

On the one hand it wants to rip-off the famous moments from Craven's decidedly far superior original, and on the other it wants to branch out ... but whenever it does, it hints at an idea that could have (in the hands of a talented screenwriter who cared about motivation, characterisation, tension building, and pacing) created a really interesting new take on a well-worn genre legend. Then it goes and blows it, time and again, and just cobbles together a bunch of vaguely connected dream sequences (none of which are scary, let alone chilling, nor mildly cool). Half of the cast feel totally disconnected (more like celebrity wannabes, than anyone interested in acting), and the other half that have any talent are totally wasted (I'll be interested to see Roony Mara take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo under the superior direction of David Fincher, and Kyle Gallner in Kevin Smith's much-talked-about chiller Red State).

Only one sequence - a flash back to how-and-why Freddy got fried - holds any intrigue (indeed, a talented screenwriter could have crafted a deeply dark origin story), but that doesn't save the movie from being a heartless, witless, and completely-and-utterly pale immitation of Craven's iconic original. Presentationally it feels like an imitation of the Friday 13th remake, which in-turn was an imitation of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, and The Amityville Horror remake (all produced by Platinum Dunes ... or 'The Remake Assembly Line' as it should be known). These Platinum Dunes movies have dropped in quality consistently with each new product that's foisted upon the horror community (notorious gluttons for punishment, whose curiosity inevitably kills the cat) from good-but-still-inferior-to-the-original, to downright woeful.

Jackie Earle Hayley is also wasted here - under a supposedly 'more realistic' (yet entirely unconvincing, nor frightening) mask - with a dud script and a director who blows his load almost immediately revealing too much of Freddy early on (several times). This could have been a golden opportunity to make a dark origin story that avoided the content of the original almost entirely, but instead this is just another cash-hungry, churned-out, load of old bullshit. Avoid it like the plague, and let's hope they don't make a sequel to it!

Angelina Jolie, a CIA agent, discovers she is an undercover Russian sleeper agent and goes on the run in this far-fetched, but briskly entertaining actioner. It does a relatively decent job of keeping you guessing (enough at least) throughout most of the movie, the action is entertaining, and the punchy running time stops it from outstaying its welcome. It's no classic, but it's a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Abortion: Ancient & Modern screenshots...

Film Two is now at the 'Beta Edit' stage - as I like to call it - the penultimate stage where the only thing left to do is make any final tweaks, stick on the credits, and render the final file.

As promised a couple of weeks back, here are some screenshots to get an idea of the visual style of these films that I've been working on recently.

Film One:

Film Two:

It's certainly proving to be an interesting and enjoyable creative challenge. With each new educational DVD project, I get to try out new visual ideas that help produce a visually arresting series of films that have proven popular with students and teachers alike nationwide.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #17...

After a couple of days away from it again (due to editing for the Abortion: Ancient & Modern educational DVD - for which film 2 of 3 is practically finished), I headed back into the script to continue bringing Act II up to Draft 1.2 standard. Current re-draft page count, 65 of 88.

So far so good. There isn't an awful lot to change at the moment - most changes are pretty much tightening the description and tweaking the dialogue - because the more noticeable changes are all being saved for Draft 2.1, the point at which I'll have a complete Draft 1.2 and have therefore gone back to the very beginning to run through the entire script ... but that's a little ways off yet.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Demons and Dragons...

The Exorcist:
It's been 12 years since the BBFC unbanned William Friedkin's landmark film - 1999 was a watershed time in my formative years, when a torrent of previously banned or cut movies were unleashed onto the market uncut (for the most part). For a teenage horror-aficionado-in-progress it was a magical time, and naturally The Exorcist still had a certain cache attached to its name. However, for whatever reason, I never got around to seeing it until just now - although having seen practically every money shot from the flick in numerous documentaries and film-related list shows, I was already decidedly familiar with the film, which unfortunately dampened the effect that the movie no doubt has when seeing it with virgin eyes.

However, I could still appreciate - and imagine - what sort of a shock it must have been to audiences around the world upon its initial release. Indeed, the roller coaster trajectory where moments of quiet contemplation are brutally interrupted by sideswipes of chilling disturbance, still manages to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. It's an intelligent film, with a deliberately gradual pace, and a fascination with the clashing worlds of science, psychology, and religion. From monstrous looking-and-sounding machines of medical science dancing like demons over Regan's possessed form, to haunting call-backs to momentary personal experiences of Father Karras, the film rewards a patient viewer with a creeping sense of unease that builds to a chilling finale. It's just a shame that they don't stick to Mike Oldfield's creepily beautiful "Tubular Bells" throughout the credits (whoever thought it'd be a good idea to ham-fistedly chop-and-change the score after that final haunting image could use a slap).

So after all this time I've finally viewed the film itself, despite already being decidedly familiar with the enchanting sound of Tubular Bells, and the numerous famous moments (referenced in such movies as The 'Burbs), and I'm pleased that - despite that crushing familiarity-by-proxy - that it proved to be a worthwhile, intelligent, and haunting experience.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:
I've never read Stieg Larrson's best-selling trilogy of books, and I'm unlikely to ever do so, so I'm purely going on the original Swedish film (now remade in English by David Fincher). Long story short (aptly enough), I found it thoroughly involving. For a two-and-a-half-hour long film, it didn't drag once. Every minute felt loaded with information and subtext, and it was all wrapped together in a beautiful-looking package (which is, amazingly, never at-odds with some of the brutally grim content). As a side note I watched it in the English Language Dub ... now, some cinephiles howl with indignation at the very thought of such a thing for numerous reasons, but I'm much more open to the idea if it's done well (and it was done well here). Think about it, countless countries around the world dub practically every piece of English-speaking film and television on a routine basis ... so why is it such an offence to view a quality English dub? It never felt distracting, and the voices felt suited to the physical presence of the actors.

Anyway, moving away from that issue, the tale of a shamed journalist and shadowy computer hacker investigating the case of a missing girl - which leads onto a series of connected murders - is a dark and deeply involving one. I'm looking forward to checking out the two follow-ups, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest ... and come December, I'll be quite intrigued to see if the English language remake will stand confidently on its own two feet (David Fincher is, after all, directing). If you haven't already checked it out - do so sharpish.

Friday, 17 June 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #16...

It's been a month since I last did any writing on the script because, as I said in the last entry in this series, a new editing project had come around and I had to make a start on that - I wanted to get a push on with it to get it established, before transitioning to working on both things at the same time.

Anyway - with one of the three films essentially complete, and with the second well underway, and being that it was a nice round figure of a month since I'd last done any writing (May 17th) - I figured it was about time to head back to Allen Bridge.

When I paused I was at a convenient point - I'd just completed Act II (to Draft 1.1 standard) - and so I knew that when I'd resume I'd be able to go-over Act II (to bring it up to Draft 1.2 standard), which would be helpful to get my head back into that world. Indeed, I'd somewhat underestimated how easy it would be to - once stopped - stay stopped. So the time spent re-drafting the second act will be most valuable. However, already - just a few pages into that process (today was more about just establishing a new starting point - getting the ball rolling again - not shredding through a ton of pages) - I can see that Act II (Draft 1.1) is in ruder health, so-to-speak, than Act I (Draft 1.1) was ... which is nice.

Now, while I've not done any writing on the script for a month, that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it - indeed I've got a variety of ideas and notes and bullet-points, that'll need implementing, but only when I come to do Draft 2.1 ... most of the ideas require starting fresh from the very beginning (of a completed version of the script) and filtering the necessary tweaks throughout the entire screenplay ... elements of subtler nuance, if you will.

So the idea now is to alternate between the editing (which is coming along nicely) and the script. An ideal situation would have been to have gotten an earlier start on the script (by 2 or 3 weeks), so that when the editing project came around I could have paused with a complete version of the script, rather than a two-thirds-done version. Although, once I've re-drafted Act II, I'll be onto the third act, and that's - naturally - nowhere near as long as Act II, and considering what I have in mind to write, there should be a good thrust of momentum when I come to put fingertips-to-keys.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Pentuple Bill Mini Musings: Chicks, Demons, Idiots, Bugs and Clint...

Thelma & Louise:
The final image - with which I'm sure you'll be very familiar with already - is one of those lasting cinematic moments that you'll probably see before you watch the movie. I've seen that moment countless times, and numerous parodies of it (such as on Robot Chicken), but I've only just gotten to the actual movie - and it's good. No wonder it has stood the test of time, it's ideal film school text, it's an essay in-itself about oft-termed girl power, and feminist empowerment, plus it's just a solid story. The eponymous ladies head off for a weekend away fishing, but a fateful stop at a bar leads to them going on-the-run from the law in a world run by men who are almost always idiots or bastards ... or charming bastards. It's quality popcorn sexual politics.

[REC] 2:
The original quickly got a name for itself - the first-person tale of a camera crew attending a routine emergency call with firemen, only to be dunked head first into a horrific battle against blood thirsty monsters in an apartment building. It was well crafted and frequently nerve shredding. The sequel on the other hand picks up immediately after the events of the first movie - from the perspective of a SWAT team charged with escorting a mysterious man inside so that he can carry out a, seemingly simple, task of getting a blood sample.

While the characterisation is a bit brief, and a bit blunt and simplistic (yet another panicky, shouty guy - Larra), yet the broad strokes approach gets you into the action swiftly (the entire reason to watch the movie). There's less tension this time around (but it's by no means missing), and a middle portion featuring the most annoying movie teenagers I've seen in years is nothing but pointless, aggravating filler ... but beyond that there's a nice twist to the monsters themselves, and a thrilling/creepy race to the finish line. If only they'd hacked out those beyond-stupid, totally-annoying, utterly-pointless, desperately-in-need-of-multiple-slaps, can't-wait-to-get-shot-of-them teenagers from the script in the first place!

Jackass 3.5:
It's off-cuts from Jackass 3D polished up to essentially double-dip on the fan base, but then again with that amount of extra content, you can't blame them for putting together a 'best of the rest' disc (which also features yet more out-takes and additional scenes). Fortunately it's decidedly better than the brief and mostly passable Jackass 2.5 (less talking, less rubbish, more entertainment), and it features some inventive nut-shots ... and who doesn't chuckle at a creative nut shot?!

The last time there was a Dario Argento season on The Horror Channel, I missed this particular slice of bug-baiting curiousness (featuring a rather young Jennifer Connelly). The movie can't decide what sort of flick it wants to be, with a plot that lurches from one territory to the next, without fully realising any of them. A young girl (the daughter of an actor) is shipped off to a private girl's school in Switzerland, where she befriends an entomologist (Donald Pleasance, with a Scotch brogue on his tongue) who is cared for by a chimp ... oh, and she has a curious telepathic link with insects ... and there's a random murderer running around offing girls. It's not as visually exuberant as the likes of Suspiria, or as crisp as The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, but it's decidedly better than the dull The Stendhal Syndrome (nice idea, poor execution). However, the sloppy plotting, lack of exploration of some ideas that are set-up well (only to be practically abandoned), and a third act reveal that makes little (if any) sense makes it a bit of a damp squib. Okay - not crap - but not particularly good either.

Clint Eastwood is a New Orleans cop, and single father-of-two, who's tracking a vicious sex killer through the seedy streets of sin across the city. The psychological motivation is explored as much as a cop thriller from the 1980s with a big-name-star ever could - but by today's standards, it's a relative skimming of the surface. Not one of Eastwood's best, but certainly not his worst.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Quadruple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: June 2011...

X-Men: First Class:
The first two movies were good-and-great respectively, but the third (Last Stand) was cobbled together style over substance, and then Wolverine was decent fodder but it curiously lacked the depth of X1 and X2 ... and, odder still, it lacked the x-factor (if you'll excuse the pun). Now with this sort-of-reboot for the franchise, we're transported back to the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the birth of the X-Men themselves.

The script bounds along quite nicely, although at times it does feel a tad overloaded with characters - which results in the weaker side characters (Salvadore, Banshee, Darwin, Havok) falling into "don't care" territory as our primary focus (and that of the filmmakers) is the main cast of characters, at the heart of which are the young Professor X (Charles) and the young Magneto (Erik). The latter is played thoughtfully by Michael Fassbender, who is fast carving out a career as a quality mix between character actor and leading man. Indeed, it is the central duo (the other half charmingly played by James McAvoy) that provides the main thrust for the script with a growing schism between the two men and how the mutant/human relationship should be carried out.

The movie is most impressive when it is busy delving into the motivating experiences of the leads, and once again the best work in the movie in this respect comes from Fassbender, who really sinks his teeth into the seething want for vengeance possessed by his concentration camp survivor who, as we all know, goes on to become the revenge-fuelled Magneto. It's this superhero-version of the civil rights movement (or indeed any discrimination felt by many in our society) that makes the X-Men franchise stand out, and such deep concerns are key to this prequel.

I initially groaned at the idea of First Class, but down the line here (with smart direction from Matthew "Kick Ass" Vaughn), it makes a lot of sense. While X1 and X2 were probably just a bit better, First Class entirely blows Last Stand out of the stratosphere with ease, and easily beats the not-as-good-as-it-should-have-been Wolverine. In fact, you could go so far as to say it's up there with X1 - although X2 remains the pinnacle of the lot.

Foo Fighters: Back and Forth:
This revealing delve through the backstory and history of one of the most successful bands out there right now is a must-see for any Foo fan. The establishment, and early trials, of the band are of particular interest, in this involving and nicely put-together documentary.

Death At A Funeral:
Surprisingly, and yet curiously unsurprisingly, this apparent black comedy farce from Neil LaBute isn't remotely funny. A drugged-out James Marsden steals the movie, but that evidently wasn't much of a challenge in the first place. I found it dull and didn't connect with it one iota.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon:
One of the classic monster movies from the 1950s - a period filled with so-called B-Movies that were obsessed with science and abominations of nature. This must have been quite a treat when it originally came out in cinemas, and the Creature itself pleasingly remains a creepy vision to behold - not least because of that dead-eyed look as it breathes deep, creeping ever closer to its next victim. I really quite enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

What have I been up to lately?

Editing - that's what. A new educational DVD, this time on the topic of Abortion. It'll be three films, and the first is pretty much done - what I'd call a 'penultimate draft' (so there's just a tiny bit of tinkering left to do, whack on the credits, and do the final render).

And it looks a bit like this ... on the edit timeline anyway.

I'll post some screenshots in due course, but suffice to say I'm quite chuffed with the first film, and what's more it doesn't drag - it moves along at a nice swift pace, and it's never boring to look at - something I'd always aimed to achieve with these educational films we've done, because I remember watching such films when I was in school and they were always so dry, dull and ever-so-earnest in their presentation. What we do, on the other hand, is much more interesting - and we've been told just that by the students themselves (and indeed their teachers).

Friday, 3 June 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: A Scarlet Duo...

Easy A:
Inspired by The Scarlett Letter, and the beloved teenage movies of John Hughes, this high-school-set comedy is a very pleasant surprise. The script, about a girl called Olive (Emma Stone) adopting an image as the school floozy (yet never committing any of the acts she is wildly rumoured to have done), has a fresh feel about it. It's self-aware, but never in a way that beats you over the head. The side characters are written with wit and memorably punctuate the focused plot, and Stone makes for a captivating lead, combining smarts, charm and sexual allure with aplomb. Smart, funny, and kind-at-heart, it's highly recommended you check it out.

Continuing The Horror Channel's brief season of modern Argento movies, this 2000 murder mystery sees the oft-termed Master of Horror return to his giallo roots (giallo meaning "yellow", which was the colour of the book covers for pulp murder mystery novels). Dario Argento's films have always been a case of a relatively twisty plot, told simply, with a unique visual flourish. The reason to watch an Argento movie is his particular vision - a vision that was sorely lacking in the interesting, but lacklustre, The Stendhal Syndrome ... and to a lesser extent here too.

That said, the first portion of the movie exhibits much of Argento's famous skill at crafting a tense chase sequence (the train murder is particularly impressive, and harks right back to his heyday), but beyond that the wheels slowly begin to wobble in between the crimson-drenched set pieces. However, the presence of the experienced and gentlemanly Max von Sydow is consistently welcome throughout, and his teaming with the young male lead has a particular charm to it. It's a welcome return to Argento's roots, but an uneven visual impression (the camera work lacks the classic confidence and intricacy of earlier work) and a pace that could have used more judicious editing leaves it lacking in comparison to the likes of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Tenebrae, and Terror At The Opera.


Oh and by the way, this is blog post #650.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Pentuple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Antics, Heroes, Trains, Nutters and Robots...

The Hangover: Part II:
The trailer for the first movie was pretty crap, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing it. However, the movie itself was damn good fun, and seeing as it made a shedload of cash a sequel was inevitable. Moving from the 'safe seediness' of Vegas to the 'serious seediness' of Bangkok, the tone is decidedly darker. Vegas is a bit of fun, but if you're lost in Thailand's capital too long it's a case of "Bangkok has you now", never to return. It's grubbier, sweatier and crazier - everything is dialed up to 11 and beyond. The gross stuff gets grosser, the panic gets more palpable, and the sleaze keeps on slithering around you.

Despite the darker tone once the movie gets going, there's plenty of fun to be had - although the movie sticks so closely to the formula, and indeed structure, of the original movie, that it can feel a bit too familiar. No doubt a third will be coming after this sequel blitzed the box office, and hopefully they'll explore new territory (e.g. at least showing us part of the chaotic evening, before segwaying into the chaotic morning after, and bring Justin Bartha's character along for the ride rather than leaving him curiously absent for the most part like in this sequel). So it's very familiar, it's more dangerous, not as good as the original (naturally), but if you dug the original you'll dig this ... and likewise, as has clearly been the case from some critics, if you hated the original, you'll hate this sequel with gusto. Meanwhile the rest of us will be enjoying ourselves.

I was quite looking forward to seeing this after Harrelson's turn in Zombieland, but in the end it's only an okay movie. Harrelson plays a simple man with some problems who masquerades by night as the eponymous hero seeking to bring down Captain Industry, whom he believes killed his mother when he was a child. The pace is a bit too slow, and it never really comes close to hitting a homerun. It's neither funny enough, nor dark enough, considering the subject matter ... although, it's still an interesting little flick, but not quite what I was expecting either unfortunately.

A movie about a runaway train full of explosive chemicals directed by Tony Scott - not much to it then, right? Well, sure it's straight forward stuff, but the pace is perfect and most importantly the drama and action is handled with total skill, making this runaway train movie genuinely gripping at all the right moments.

I'd heard so many good things about this 1980s throwback horror from Adam Green, but clearly those who dug it were seeing something I wasn't. Whipping out a couple of horror icons and relying on cliches as much as you deride them isn't enough to make a decent horror flick. The moments of gore are enjoyable genre fare, but that's only a fraction of the movie. While the main character's buddy Marcus is enjoyably witty throughout, there's little else to keep your attention (even with the brief running time). Bar a handful of decent moments, it was dull and predictable. It neither truly paid homage to the 1980s, or unleashed the self-aware schtick, and the use of Marilyn Manson on the soundtrack is trendy, but totally out-of-place. I really don't get why some apparently enjoyed this so much, but I have heard that the sequel was met with a derisory "meh" during it's brief theatrical stint.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence:
It's been a few years since I watched the first one, so this belated sequel was a little hard to get into when coming to it cold, however the impressive visual style afforded to a very Blade Runner-inspired world where the line between human, cyborg and robot is blurred beyond recognition involves you nonetheless. The cyberpunk stylings are taken to lush and impressive lengths, utilising a mixture of CGI and traditional animation, and while the plot becomes a touch convoluted later on, the noir-like murder investigation that provides the backbone to the plot keeps things together nicely. An efficient 90 minute running time also keeps the flick from descending into ponciness (unlike the latter two Matrix movies, a franchise that was inspired in-part by the original Ghost in the Shell). As an aside, I watched it with the English Dub, which tried to cram too much exposition-filled dialogue into spaces that were too short, and what's more the delivery was robotic and too fast. Quality cyberpunk sci-fi anime.