Monday, 15 August 2011

More info and clips for Abortion: Ancient & Modern...

Saunter over this way - to the official Ethics Online website - to see three new clips from Abortion: Ancient & Modern, as well as further information about the films that comprise the DVD. You can also purchase a copy of any of the DVD sets featured on the website.

The first response is in too:
“I congratulate you warmly on this production, well balanced and full of interesting history. Well worth screening outside classrooms too.” - Lord David Steel, Architect of the 1967 Abortion Act

Hextuple Bill Mini/Cine Musings: August 2011...

Rise of the Planet of the Apes:
I've never seen any of the original movies (nor Tim Burton's roundly derided decade-old remake), but I am familiar with certain iconic images, names, and quotes from the original film starring Charlton Heston - and one day I'll get around to seeing that. Right now though, the franchise is undergoing a rebirth for the modern age, when issues surrounding Civil Rights and the place of the individual and the masses within society, continue to rumble underneath our feet on a daily basis.

In the same summer that has seen the brain dead and overlong Transformers 3 lummox about the place, the intelligence behind Rise's script provides a welcome human (and indeed primate) connection. It's not about apes going ... ape shit ... and smashing up the place, it's about a subjugated community discovering themselves, rallying against their oppressors, and seeking freedom and peace. In the wake of the England riots I wondered if this would prove a touch uncomfortable, but whereas the rioters had no reason for their vicious disregard for their own communities beyond the pursuit of a pair of trainers, the primates in this franchise refresher are gifted (via experimentation, as man seeks to cure it's own mental diseases and ailments) with superior brain functions, and events conspire to bring a collection of them together (chimps, gorillas, orangutans et al) in San Francisco (appropriately enough).

Much like the original films, this 2011 update has rich allegory seas from which to fish - be it the Suffragettes, the Civil Rights Movement, or whatever form of movement to erode barriers that have bred contempt, fear, violence and ignorance - it can be seen as a canvas on which to paint your own personal struggles. Fortunately, the rise of the apes themselves isn't one of unwarranted violence (only the occasional instance of, frankly justified, revenge) - which allows the audience to continue to sympathise with the apes (captured quite convincingly via CGI and performance capture techniques) - and indeed a number of the humans. Mind you, the two main villains of the piece are a bit one-dimensional.

It's an enjoyable sci-fi actioner with a good head on its shoulders with something to say, and what's more it's a touching film at times - anyone who has experienced Alzheimer's (for which the fictional ALZ-112 and ALZ-113 are deemed to be the cure) will understand what has driven James Franco's Will Rodman to create something for good, that ends up causing disaster.

This western (from Ed Harris) is no True Grit, Unforgiven, or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - but it's still an entertaining watch, mostly due to the central duo of travelling law men Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, played by Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen respectively. Their chemistry keeps the pace moving, with a nicely played vein of good humour sewn in, even if the plot does feel a little scattered and doesn't always command your attention.

Rain Man:
Tom Cruise's specialist car importer (Charlie Babbitt) starts out as a complete and utter arsehole, and remains so (for the most part) for a considerable portion of the movie. I'm not sure if that would necessarily happen in a movie these days, but it's Dustin Hoffman's involving portrayal of a highly functioning autistic man (who, as Charlie's brother, inherits $3 million) that keeps the film interesting. Certain morals along the way are now somewhat dated, but for the most part it remains a good watch.

Grindhouse Trailer Classics Vol. 1:
A load of old scratchy, grimy, grotty, and sleazy trailers cut together back-to-back for a couple of hours. Simple really. Many of the trailed movies are well worth seeing in their entirety (Shivers, Zombi, The Last House on the Left, Coffy etc), but a number are fine enough as trailers and no more (all the best bits, none of the direlogue and inept production). Ideal for connoisseurs of grindhouse cinema.

A short film that's set in a world constructed from, and populated by, corporate logos. It's a nifty little piece - in which a gun-toting Ronald McDonald attempts to evade the police - with a sarcastic, but generally hands-off tone. The plot is secondary, the whole point is seeing the extent to which our lives are decorated by corporate logos and brands (it's amazing how many you know in an instant), and it does make me wonder how on earth they got the permission to use all these logos ... or perhaps it falls into some sort of grey area that allows it.

Exit Through The Gift Shop:
The so-called "Banksy Documentary" is really more about Thierry Guetta, a French filmmaker (who incessantly documented his entire life, and then his dealings with the emerging street art scene) who then became a street artist himself (Mister Brainwash). It's a fascinating portrait of the birth of a whole new approach to art, from it's back alley beginnings, to it's current status as incredibly valued alternative art adored by celebrities and mere mortals alike. Definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Bodies and Tunes...

I Sell The Dead:
Like a combination of the tale of Burke & Hare (19th Century body snatchers in Edinburgh who brought increasingly fresh bodies to Doctor Knox for dissection), The Evil Dead Trilogy (one particular sequence in the first half is obviously directly influenced by Raimi's gory saga), and various snippets of Ye Olde British folklore. Two grave diggers face the hangman's noose and one - Dominic Monaghan - tells his back story and their encounters with some of their more lively spoils. The pace and plotting are somewhat uneasy, but the visual flair of the movie manages to maintain your attention, even if the first 20 minutes-or-so can test your patience.

Empire Records:
No doubt it was a case of 'you had to be there, man' - because coming to this flick 16 years later, and being a member of Generation Y (the younger-sibling of Generation X, as depicted in this movie), means that I just don't quite get it - or rather, it doesn't make for a strong connection. I can understand why some of a certain age would take this to heart (especially if you happened to be working in a music store during the mid 1990s), but unlike Clerks - which has a more down-to-earth and broader-church approach to slacker celebration - it feels dated. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but Clerks has a more universal tone (indeed, we're always going to need convenience stores aka corner shops, but the world of music purchasing has vastly changed since 1995). However, the central conceit of an independent music store - staffed by a range of fresh-faced late-teen/early-twenty-somethings - fighting against the prospect of being bought-up by corporate entity "Music Town" is charming, if somewhat fairytale in its wishful approach to the ever-changing face of music store commerce.

It's a period piece, directed at a very specific audience, which is a problem for those outside of the loop looking in the best part of 20 years later. George Lucas' American Graffiti (where were you in '62?), or Richard Linklater's 1970s-set Dazed & Confused, or Gregg Mottola's 1980s-set Adventureland, have more focused approaches (and yet they remain relatively relaxed narratives), and concern a cast of characters that are easier to identify with, even if you're decades removed from the depicted time itself. That all said, Empire Records is like a time capsule to look back on a certain group at a certain time in certain circumstances. What it lacks in broader appeal, it makes up for with fanciful innocence in the dying days of the Grunge scene.

I'm trying to think of a present-day equivalent of movies like American Graffiti, Dazed & Confused, and Clerks - that speaks to a particular audience of a particular time, of this time, of the post-millennium media-drenched Generation Y - and I can really only think of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which when I actually think about it, is a very good example. It's a very different movie in comparison (Adventureland may be from 2009, like Skateland, but they are both nostalgic movies for 1980s youth), but yeah ... Scott Pilgrim is the Empire Records for the 2000s. Its appeal is generally broader, but still not as universal as Clerks (which itself had a 2000s-set sequel which spoke once again to Generation X, now that they were all apparently grown up) - however, it's a much stronger movie than Empire Records in all respects.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun (Jason Eisener, 2011)

In 2007 Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino brought us Planet Terror and Death Proof respectively, in the form of Grindhouse - a modern-day exploitation double bill (featuring fake trailers, one of which - Machete - has since become a feature), that flopped at the American box office, but which caught much more attention on home video. Grindhouse might not have set the world alight when it came to dollars exchanged at the ticket booth, but it has inspired a resurgence within the horror genre of pseudo-exploitationers inspired by the gritty and lurid fare that was synonymous with drive-ins across America and flea pit theatres on New York's 42nd street. Flicks such as Run! Bitch Run! (Joseph Guzman, 2009), and Nude Nuns With Big Guns (Joseph Guzman, 2010), hark back to infamous rape/revenge movies such as Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972) and I Spit On Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978), while more tongue-in-cheek outings such as Black Dynamite (Scott Sanders, 2009) are half-homage, half-parody (in the latter instance, of the blaxploitation cycle). Some of these post-Grindhouse movies spoof the era of sleaze-filled low budget titilating shockers, while others embrace it with true affection.

Hobo With A Shotgun is one of the latter. There is a streak of black humour that runs deep throughout Eisener's brash, brazen, and downright ballsy feature length debut, but it's set within a world - the hellish setting of 'Scum Town' - that expects you to take it, for the most part, deadly seriously.

Originating as a fake trailer - completed over two weeks for $120 - that won a competition in connection with the release of QT & RR's Grindhouse, Eisener's memorable trailer (that does exactly what it says in the title), became an instant must-see for the fans (much the same reaction was afforded to the faux trailer for Machete). A few years down the line, and after a typically hardcore short film called Treevenge, Eisener got the money - and the star - for his grot-tastic debut.

Rutger Hauer, in his first centre-stage role for a good while, brings the heart of the movie to the foreground by playing the titular Hobo - a man who just wants to start afresh, to buy a lawnmower and build his own business. However, upon his arrival in the so-called Scum Town, he discovers that it is full of abused citizens, dirty cops, addicts, pushers, pimps and prostitutes - a hell hole orchestrated by The Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). The Hobo witnesses the grime, horror, and corruption that consumes the town first hand, and despite trying to stay out of it, he's drawn inevitably into taking action - in a blisteringly entertaining, fist-in-the-air-inspiring, take-down of three armed robbers with - you guessed it - a shotgun. From this point forth he stops begging, and demands change, much to the anger of The Drake and his heirs, who rage all-out war against the Hobo, his new-found sidekick Abby (Molly Dunsworth), and the town at large.

Content wise, Hobo is chock-full with jaw-dropping moments of violence that are drowned in torrents of blood (The Plague being a particular highlight), moments that are illuminated by Karim Hussain's striking colour palette and gor(e)geous 2.35:1 presentation. The visuals are as arresting as the content, and indeed the same can be said of the soundtrack, which features (among others) the John Carpenter-esque stylings of Powerglove. Furthermore, cutting in sharply after a barrage of pounding gunfire and tortured screaming, is the inclusion of "Run With Us" by Lisa Lougheed - a track that those of a certain age will recognise as the closing themetune to The Racoons (a cartoon from the 1980s).

Hobo is a stand-out debut, and one that has a real sense of audience inclusion - it's a film made by fans, for fans, of a particular type of filmmaking. Indeed, this sense of closeness to its target audience, was mirrored by a similar faux trailer competition that was run recently to find a new trailer to be included on the home video presentation (the winner was Van Gore, a clash of slasher schlock and the art scene). What's more, it's an inspiring film to watch (and learn about) as an aspiring filmmaker. While some will no doubt hate Hobo With A Shotgun (no doubt some of the same people who didn't dig on Machete, or Grindhouse), if it happens to be your cup of tea, get ready to experience your favourite film of 2011 - I know I have.

Impressively the Blu-Ray presentation doesn't let the film down, complimenting it with a solid audio/visual presentation, and a jam-packed host of in-depth extras. Here in the UK, Momentum Pictures have done themselves proud by porting over the American "Collector's Edition" Blu-Ray release to our shores (despite what the press release claimed in advance). If you're mad for Hobo (e.g. you devoured every video blog and teaser trailer during its online grassroots advertising campaign), then the Blu-Ray is a must-buy (and at a very reasonable price to boot). Two friendly and informative audio commentaries, an involving Making Of, 106 minutes of behind the scenes clips (viewable individually, collectively, or in the interactive 'Shotgun Mode' during the movie), Deleted Scenes, an Alternate Ending, in-depth Fangoria Interviews, a series of video blogs, the original Hobo trailer, Red Band Trailers, a HD-Net EPK, and the faux trailer contest winner Van Gore. To put it simply, the disc is chock-full of blood-soaked, shotgun-toting kick-assery.

Jason Eisener's direction displays a confident showmanship that mixes well with John Davies' gleefully excessive script (full-to-the-brim with instantly quotable dialogue), Karim Hussein's bold style, and Rutger Hauer's stand-out performance that is one part grizzled arse-kicker, one part reluctant and damaged outcast. Top marks for a first class slice of modern-day exploitation with real heart (both in front of and behind the camera), and maximum bonus points for a tip-top Blu-Ray presentation.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Hobo With A Shotgun is my number one flick of 2011.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Abortion: Ancient & Modern clips...

The new educational DVD - Abortion: Ancient & Modern - is now complete, and below you can view a clip from each of the three films that make up the disc.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Double Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: August 2011...

Captain America:
Aside from the annoyingly ill-behaved and vocal child at the screening we attended (the kid must have been four years old, which is decidedly too young for a 12A in the cinema, in my view, especially if they won't shut up and, rather disturbingly, cheer when someone gets killed - in a film that was a touch more violent than I was expecting) ... I rather enjoyed this flick. It was a step below Iron Man for me, but I dug it much more than Thor. They spend a generous amount of time establishing Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as a believable and sympathetic character - the kid from Brooklyn - which carries the film throughout and stops it from being some flag-waving parody. If they hadn't have put in that effort, I'm sure the movie wouldn't have been as enjoyable, but fortunately they did.

Hugo Weaving plays The Red Skull, the main bad guy, and while he's not quite as all-out evil as you'd expect from a guy with a name and a look like that, he's nevertheless an enjoyable enough villain - indeed Weaving seemed to be channeling an evil version of Werner Herzog, which made his performance quite entertaining. The action is solid, the design of the stylised World War II is convincing, and supporting turns from the likes of Hailee Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, and Stanley Tucci provide more substance to keep things moving along at a good pace. The flick, at an efficient 125 minutes, manages to find the right position between providing enough depth to get you emotionally involved, and tackling the story without unnecessary baggage.

A ruddy good time indeed, with a convincing emotional core and brisk action, Captain America is well worth seeing, and it provides a great stepping stone towards next year's The Avengers (as trailed at the end of the credits).

The Two Jakes:
I'd heard the name a long time ago, but I had no idea that it was in fact a sequel to Roman Polanski's film noir classic Chinatown. Set a decade or two down the track from the original film, we again join Jake Gittes as he gets wrapped up in a curious murder that manages to link a soured business partnership, the L.A. oil industry, and a blast from the past. It's not as good as Chinatown (was it ever going to be?), but it's a good follow-up and worth a watch.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

DeadShed Showreel 2011...

I've been meaning to do this for a little while now, but I finally got around to it - a new showreel for the year 2011 (the last one I did was in 2009). Check it out on my YouTube Channel.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Flavours of the Month: July 2011...


Futurama - season 6 is underway and it's great to have this hilarious and intelligent show back!

Carnivale - missed it entirely the first time around, but thanks to Sky Atlantic, I've just gotten into this show. I'm only a few episodes in to it, but it's slowly pulling me in. It's a very, very, very slow-paced show, but it's also surprisingly good at luring you into it's mysterious web.

Last Man Standing - I haven't seen this Bruce Willis actioner in well over a decade, so it was a bit of a nostalgia trip to see it again (and, at last, in the correct aspect ratio).

The League of Gentlemen - I missed the boat almost entirely when it was originally airing (I had only ever seen the Christmas Special before), but I'm glad I finally hopped on board (albeit more-than-fashionably-late).

Uncle Buck - this John Hughes comedy from 1989 is a beloved flick from my early years. When I was a kid I loved the mayhem that John Candy's titular uncle caused, and especially loved his bombed-out old car. While I still love those things, being much older I appreciate it in a whole new way - and it's a surprisingly sweet and touching movie.


Ringo Deathstarr "Colour Trip" - shoegaze music from a band I've been waiting for what seems like ages to release an album (admittedly I totally forgot I was waiting for their album, as it was taking a while, so it was a nice surprise to discover that it was already out so I could hop right into it). "Do It Everytime" and "Two Girls" would have to be my favourite tracks.

Foo Fighters - live performances on the telly and their brilliant new album "Wasting Light".

M83 "Echoes" (sample), "Midnight City", and "Saturdays=Youth", "Digital Shades Vol.1" - with news that a double-album is coming soon from M83 (with a sample track that debuted on YouTube), I figured it was a good time to get the French shoegazer back into my CD auto changer.

New Order "Age Of Consent" - I can thank the end credits of Skateland for this. What a spiffing track.

Mohr Stories Podcast - a new podcast on the SModcast Network from comedian Jay Mohr, and it's bloody good fun. Episode Four was especially hilarious.

This Mortal Coil "Song To The Siren" - as heard at a haunting moment in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - it's a stupidly brief game (4 to 5 hours for a play through of the single player campaign), but nevertheless it's a wonderful action game experience, so it's not surprising therefore that this was my sixth play through.

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood - Assassin's Creed II kicked arse, but it wasn't without it's flaws, and it's follow-up - Brotherhood - is much the same. One thing to note - it feels overlong with padding, and the structure of a number of missions leaves a lot to be desired. Indeed there are many annoying little nuisances either within certain missions, or the game in general, that really (much like in ACII) start to spoil the whole experience. That said, you do get more of what you loved about ACII. Let's hope that they get rid of all the silly nuisances, that have so far been endemic in the franchise, in this year's Assassin's Creed Revelations.

Mark Kermode "It's Only A Movie" - my film critic of choice. I got this for Christmas, but with a stack of other books to get through, I've only just given this a look-see, and despite a couple of chunks that aren't hugely involving, the majority of the book plays well to a fellow film fanatic. Most specifically, the chapters on Kermode's event-filled trip to Russia, and his time interviewing Werner Herzog, make for fascinating reads.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 Teasers - as a huge fan of the zombie genre, The Walking Dead has been the best thing to happen to zombies since Day of the Dead, and with season two fast-approaching (it debuts in mid-October), the preview trailers have made for fervent excitement amongst us zed heads.

Hobo With A Shotgun is finally here!

It's August 1st - and that means Hobo With A Shotgun is finally available to buy in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray!

I highly suggest you get yourself a copy, and if you're a whore for special features like I am, get it on Blu-Ray as it seems that the press release had incorrect info (it had suggested that the extras were distinctly lacking when compared to the American HD release, but according to the box itself there's a lot more on there than early info stated - which must have been only referring to the DVD release).*

I've not been paid to say any of this - I've just been obsessed with this flick since I saw the original trailer a few years back during the release of Grindhouse, and if you dig exploitation cinema, you absolutely have to get your mits on this flick - it's utterly mental in the best way possible.

Full review coming soon.

* Update: I've had the Blu-Ray in today and yep - it's all the extra features from the American "Collector's Edition" Blu-Ray. Shotgun Mode, the Fangoria Interviews, the Van Gore trailer, the lot - awesome. Very well done to Momentum, and Magnet, for giving us Hobo fans in 'Region B' the full beans!