Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Flavours of the Month: February 2012...


Seinfeld - known of it for quite some time, but only just got around to it on Sky Atlantic. The first season (a mere five episodes) was fairly ropey - let's be honest - but now a few episodes into the second season, you can see they really addressed the problems that were initially there and something good-that-became-great is growing.

Top Gear - series 18 to be specific.

Vietnam: Lost Films - discovered this pretty darn good documentary series via Sky Anytime. It's good to get a bit of actual history on the Vietnam war ... everything I really knew of it was from war movies beforehand.

The Walking Dead - the second half of season two is underway and it's continuing to kick all kinds of arse. We Brits are five days behind the Americans though, so there's always that tense period of waiting where you do everything you can to avoid any spoilers.

Married With Children - I used to watch this show religiously in my teenage years when they were repeating it on the Paramount Comedy Channel (as it was then known), but they stopped airing them during season 6. Then several years ago I got into the box sets, but got distracted after season 4 - so I've finally gone back to the trials and tribulations of Al Bundy with season 5 ... just six more seasons to go, then!

The Oscars 2012 - decidedly better than last year's cringey outing by bringing Billy Crystal back (a touch of class, professionalism, and a few cheeky sideswipes at the assembled rich & famous giving each other prizes). No real surprises (aside from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo getting Best Editing, the team from which won last year for The Social Network), but The Oscars has been rather predictable for years now once you've spotted the 'big film for that year'. Perhaps they should breathe a bit of life into the panel - which is apparently mostly made up of white men aged over 60.


Michael Giacchino "Letting Go" - as heard in J.J. Abram's excellent Super 8.

The Nerdist - been catching up on some of their back catalogue of podcasts.

Anamanaguchi "Jetpack Blues/Sunset Hues" - as used as the theme tune for The Nerdist podcast.

Alabama 3 "Woke Up This Morning" - moving into season 5 of The Sopranos, this track has become a bit more popular on my play list this month.


Bulletstorm - bought for a few quid, and lasting longer than I'd expected it to, this first person shooter that makes you 'kill with skill' isn't amazing, but it's a good bit of fun nonetheless. From the folks behind Painkiller, it's no surprise that there's an old school feel to this shooter, but in a world where every other shooter is trying to be Modern Warfare, it's a refreshing harking back to the old days.

The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex by Mark Kermode - typically acerbic and entertaining, Kermode rants and raves his way through "What's wrong with modern movies" (including the likes of unstaffed projection booths, factory-like multiplexes, and yet another stab at convincing a cynical audience that 3D is the future).

Prometheus - the promotional teaser fest has begun!

Directed by Ridley Scott's son Luke, this short features Guy Pierce as Peter Weyland in 2023 (yes, of Weyland-Yutani, pre-merger) delivering a speech at some kind of expo. It's an interesting video (which isn't part of the movie itself), and certainly gets the teaser tingles tingling, and it speaks to the 'DNA of Alien' type approach that Scott & Co have talked about Prometheus being. The central idea here being where mankind is going, and how fast we got there, which ties in with the central idea of the movie itself being where did mankind come from? If you're so inclined, you can follow the rabbit hole and hit up the web addresses linked to in the video for even more teaser goodness.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Prometheus is my number one most anticipated movie of 2012. I absolutely cannot wait to see it!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

YouTube finds - G.I. Joe meets The Thing...

From time-to-time, from now on, when I come across a YouTube video that really impresses me - I'll share it here. First up, a music video for the French duo Zombie Zombie (and their track : while I've only just discovered it (via Lee Hardcastle's blog), this video was made in 2008 for a G.I. Joe filmmaking competition.

Superbly directed by Simon Gesrel and Xavier Ehretsmann, the production design is tip-top, and the animation is amazing - for fans of the eponymous action figures, or John Carpenter's unbeatable sci-fi/horror film from 1982, this is a must-watch!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Fright (Peter Collinson, 1971) - movie review...

Having not heard of it before, I chanced upon this classic slice of British scares on The Horror Channel last week, and was immediately drawn to it as it starred Susan George (most widely known as Amy Sumner in Sam Peckinpah's superb Straw Dogs - which was also produced in 1971).

Susan George plays Amanda, a babysitter hired by Helen and Jim Lloyd (Honor "Pussy Galore" Blackman, and George "Minder" Cole respectively) to look after their son Tara (played by the director's own son) as they go out for the night to celebrate an 'anniversary of sorts'. Cue lots of nicely composed, almost voyeuristic, shots of Amanda making herself at home - a rustic old building of dark wood and haunted memories - all-the-while being stalked from outside by an unknown figure. Already a bit jumpy, she's none-too-pleased when her suitor Chris (Dennis "The Sweeney" Waterman) turns up and starts telling her a tale of how Jim isn't Helen's actual husband ... as it turns out, the real husband went barmy and tried to kill Helen and her son - and he's just gone and broken out of the mental institution he was locked up in!

So far, so famliar right? Well to be fair this film pre-dates the slasher boom (that really kicked off in 1974 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Black Christmas, but which can be traced back to the likes of 1971's Bay of Blood and 1960's Psycho) and even forms an early template for many of the common structural elements for many horror flicks to come. Sexy babysitter who's adverse to keeping her top done up? Check. Creepy old house? Check. Escaped lunatic hellbent on murder? Check. Nutjob's Doctor who tries the stop the madness? Check. Indeed, you wonder if Ty West was familiar with this film before he made his excellent 1980s homage The House of the Devil in 2009 (which admittedly goes for satanism rather than an escaped nutjob), but even more acutely you could ask the same question of John Carpenter and Bob Clark in that respect, but no matter.

Watching this film 41 years later it's easy to consider it old hat and predictable retrospectively - but if you ignore that and enjoy it as an old school dose of British horror, then it still works very well indeed. There are far scarier movies from the period (for example the downright chilling The Wicker Man), but fans of creepy old houses, the stiff upper lip of the British middle class on film, and the gorgeous and attention-grabbing Susan George, will be well catered for here.

However it's not just a simple fright film - Tudor Gates' script has some nice touches of thematic depth - Amanda is a student of theoretical child psychology and the like, so naturally her night of terror sees her thrown into the deep end of real world mental anguish. Indeed - not to spoil it, mind - there's a nice little moment to tie this plot thread up at the end of the flick which illustrates some deeper thought at play in the script; and even in 1971 the police were being painted as drowning in bureaucratic incompetence. Speaking of which, fans of the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses will spot a young Roger Lloyd-Pack (Trigger) as one of the policemen in the climactic sequence.

So in summary, Fright is an atmospheric old school slice of British Lion/Fantale Films horror that will appeal to fans of an era defined by Hammer Horror, Susan George, and babysitters terrorised in creepy old houses. 41 years on it's not the nerve-shredder that it once might have been, but it is well served by a healthy dose of nostalgia, a solid script, tight direction, and a great sense of visual flair (both in Ian Wilson's cinematography and Raymond Poulton's editing - which pleasingly seems to take a little inspiration from 1969's Easy Rider). If this sounds like your kind of flick, then I recommend you check it out.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Triple Bill Mini Musings: Going Old School...

I used to see the cover for this on video in the horror section of my local video shop back in the day - it formed part of a wall that stood like a mural of alluringly graphic cinema, and now all these years later I finally got around to giving it a spin on The Horror Channel. I think it would have made more of an impact if I'd seen it all those years ago during my formative years, because as it stands now in my late twenties it's a decent flick but nothing that particularly grabs me. The kids getting picked off one-by-one are cannon fodder at best, but the main reason to watch is for the creepy atmosphere (the flick gets off to a great start) and the titular beastie itself - a glorious testament to practical effects wizardry (suitable then that this flick directed by Stan Winston). What's more, fans of Lance Henriksen will be well served here.

Red Scorpion:
Joseph Zito (who directed Friday the 13th Part IV) rocks up with this 1988 guns-and-explosions fest. Dolph Lundgren plays a KGB agent sent to Africa to take out an anti-Communist rebel leader, but ends up taking the side of the massacred villagers when he sees the horrors perpetrated by his own side. It's overlong with some really dull, drawn-out portions of under-heated character work that doesn't contain enough emotional payoff, or isn't efficient enough, to suit this kind of a flick. However, whenever there are explosions and guns going off it's great 1980s action fun ... it's just a shame the talky and introspective bits don't work here. Appropriately enough I saw this on Movies4Men - the sort of flick you'd watch with mates and a few cans.

Like an old school 1970s action revenge picture, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in this surprisingly good muscle-bound shooter, which wisely never outstays its welcome, gets right into the meat from the-off, relies on big guns, big cars, and bigger muscles, and interestingly leaves you unsure of where certain characters are going to go and where they'll end up. Imagine a high-end B-Movie which delivers on genre thrills, but also has the sense to change things up a bit with a cast of characters who are all varying shades of grey, and who all don't have to go to the ends of the earth to round out their character arc as you'd otherwise predict.

"Summer Road" getting re-drafted...

In 2010 I wrote a screenplay called "Summer Road", which was submitted to the BBC Writersroom and got a full read-through. It's important to note that getting a full read-through at the Writersroom is a tough ask in itself. They get 10,000 scripts a year and kick back the vast majority after a mere 10 pages - regardless of whether you agree with their system and approach to vetting unsolicited screenplays or not, those are the breaks when it comes to the Writersroom - so, point being, getting a full read-through is not exactly a common occurrence there.

Anyway - I've returned to this comedy drama to give it a bit of a bashing around to bring it up to my current screenwriting standard - and then put it out to a couple more places and bank it before advancing onto the next screenplay project I have in mind (which won't be feature length, by the by) ... after which I'm planning on seeking out an agent.

So that's future plans, but right now I've just started the re-writing process on Summer Road (Draft 4.1) - I'm at page 20 (of 107, currently) and so far the biggest changes have come to a handful of flashback sequences. In the previous incarnation of the script I was telling more than I was showing, so I'm reversing that situation and re-writing it according to my current standard.

It has been a good 18 months since I touched this screenplay and I'm able to weed out bits that no longer work, or which feel too 'on-the-nose', while adding a few more flourishes here and there. A key aim will be to re-work the entire second act - re-aiming the focus of the plot - and hopefully bring the page count down. 90 pages would be lovely, but I don't think I can tell this story quite that tightly (you don't want to hack and slash at the expense of your script after all) - but I'll be looking to try and get closer to that figure, even if the page count has - for the moment - packed on a couple of pages up front.

I think it will take a good couple of deep passes to do everything to it that I want to do, but it's kind of nice to head back to this script after spending so long on Allen Bridge, which I'm immensely proud of, but it's a good change of pace. That said, I'm also really looking forward to what I have planned for my next new screenplay and what will come after that - as I've aluded to above.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Get In There: Alan Wake - now available for PC via Steam...

Remedy Games' "psychological action thriller" Alan Wake - which was released for the Xbox360 in 2010 - is now available to play on the PC via Steam download. I absolutely adored this game on the 360, so for the PC gaming crowd out there, I'd highly recommend you check out this excellent slice of atmospheric action. Typically for Remedy (a relatively small outfit in Finland who previously brought us Max Payne) there is a strong focus on storytelling - with key inspirations being Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone, and The X-Files. There are a couple of rough edges here and there, but it's the sort of game that I get really wrapped up in and become quite obsessive about, seeking out as much background information as I can. Back in 2010 I bought the Collector's Edition (replete with soundtrack sampler, book, and making of documentaries) and then also picked up the spiffing soundtrack album by Petri Alanko.

Annoyingly, the release of Alan Wake (after a lengthy production) coincided with that of Rockstar's superb western sandboxer Red Dead Redemption, so it kind of suffered as a result and become somewhat of a buried cult gem - however now that it's released for the PC, hopefully it will gain the wider audience that it always deserved. What's more the PC edition includes the two DLC packs released on the 360 - and for the 360 fans there's an entirely new DLC pack coming titled Alan Wake's American Nightmare (which looks great, if you ask me). Remedy Games are the sort of developer that really invest their heart and soul into their projects - they're auteurs of the videogame world - and I wish them the very best of luck with Alan Wake's continued adventures.

UPDATE: There's also a retail boxed version of the game, for those who prefer physical media, coming in early March thanks to Nordic Games.

UPDATE II: Alan Wake's American Nightmare is out for Xbox Live Arcade, and it's been getting good reviews.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Get In There: Cyanide & Happiness...

If you're not already up on the excellent web comic Cyanide & Happiness, then where have you been? Waste no more time and dive into the deliciously twisted humour of this daily web comic that I've been following for years now. Presented primarily by Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, Matt Melvin, and Dave McElfatrick, the comics range from the deeply dark, to the painfully acerbic, to the out-and-out silly, to beautiful send-ups of conventions and expectations. Such as...

What's more, the guys at Explosm have also ventured into animated shorts for the Cyanide & Happiness stable, with utterly superb results - for example, "The Man Who Could Sit Anywhere" and "Barbershop Quartet Hits On Girl From Taxi".

View more of their kick arse shorts at the Explosm YouTube Channel and be sure to check out the Cyanide & Happiness website for their daily dose of stand-out cartoon comedy!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Horror movie memory lane...

During my formative years I became the massive horror fan that I am today, and as I've written about before, this period of my life struck right in my early-teens just when the British Board of Film Classification was undergoing a change of leadership and policy direction - the year was 1999 and all of a sudden a whole host of previously cut and/or banned horror movies were being unleashed onto the British public for the first time in years (in some cases decades). I came to see many of the big name classics of the genre via our local video rental store, or through fudgy dubbed copies on VHS from friends who had in-turn dubbed them from the same video rental store.

During this time - February 1999 to be exact - I devoured with wide-eyed fervour Channel 4's "Censored" weekend, when I got to see Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters here in the UK) and Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant for the very first time. The former was at the time still cut (by 23 seconds - 4 seconds from the eye gouging, and 19 seconds from the devouring of the same victim's body by a gathering of flesh-hungry zombies) and the latter was in a strange situation ... it was passed uncut theatrically, but on home video suffered from trims to one scene of drug taking.

Anyway, I happened to stumble upon some of the introductions for that Censored weekend by UK film critic Mark Kermode (my personal film critic of choice) on YouTube - check them out below (that theme music has been firmly and fondly lodged in my head for 13 years now).

Around about this time there was also a Film Four "Extreme Cinema" channel, so here's a couple of bonus introductions from there...

Braindead (aka Dead Alive) and A Clockwork Orange.

Ethics Online's 2012 Promo Reel...

Check out the new promo reel that I cut together for the educational DVDs of Ethics Online - this video covers the range of topics currently on offer: War & Peace, Gaia & Genesis, Sex & Ethics, and Abortion: Ancient & Modern.

Blog tweaks...

I'm making a few little tweaks to the blog at the moment - one of which is updating the link list ... it's now two lists, the newest being "Stuff I Like" - it's down there on the right hand side, just scroll down and you'll find it. You'll notice some links in there to stuff I've talked about in recent months, and this is part of some posts I'll be doing over the next few weeks called "Get In There" about some of things out there on the interwebtubes that I like and think you'll like too.

Stay tuned.

The "Allen Bridge" blog series in-full...

In 2011 I did a series of blog posts that concerned the writing process of one of my screenplays - Allen Bridge - a feature length mystery drama. Below is every single entry by date, gathered together for easier access. I hope you enjoy them.

Entry #1 - 13th April 2011

Entry #2 - 14th April 2011

Entry #3 - 15th April 2011

Entry #4 - 19th April 2011

Entry #5 - 23rd April 2011

Entry #6 - 25th April 2011

Entry #7 - 26th April 2011

Entry #8 - 2nd May 2011

Entry #9 - 4th May 2011

Entry #10 - 6th May 2011

Entry #11 - 9th May 2011

Entry #12 - 10th May 2011

Entry #13 - 11th May 2011

Entry #14 - 14th May 2011

Entry #15 - 17th May 2011

Entry #16 - 17th June 2011

Entry #17 - 23rd June 2011

Entry #18 - 27th June 2011

Entry #19 - 30th June 2011

Entry #20 - 2nd July 2011

Entry #21 - 5th July 2011

Entry #22 - 17th July 2011

Entry #23 - 18th July 2011

Entry #24 - 19th September 2011

Entry #25 - 4th October 2011

Entry #26 - 6th October 2011

Entry #27 - 12th October 2011

Entry #28 - 17th October 2011

Entry #29 - 19th October 2011

Entry #30 - 28th October 2011

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Get In There: Marvin E. Quasniki for 2012...

Do you like puppets? Do you like political satire? Would you like to smush those two hands together in a delicious dose of puppet politics? Then step over here and watch the hilariously good videos of Marvin E. Quasniki!

Over the last couple of months - as the long-winded process of America deciding on who's going to run for the next election (just before they begin to focus on figuring out who'll run for the one after that) crawls forth - the Nerdist have been uploading some hilarious campaign spoof videos with Marvin E. Quasniki ... who just so happens to be a puppet.

View Marvin E. Quasniki's videos here.

View his first video below:

He proclaims that there should "be no more bullshit" and uses "How Much Worse Can It Get?" as his campaign slogan. Among his policies are agreeing with everyone no matter what they say, wherever they are - retrieving stuff from the Moon to sell on eBay - and using puppies as aids in settling international disputes.

I'm enjoying the hell out of these videos from the Nerdist channel and The Miskreant Puppets (part of Henson Alternative), and I hope you do too.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Double Bill Mini Musings: February 2012...

The Ghost:
Roman Polanski's thriller is about a ghost writer (played by Ewan McGregor) who is hired to re-write the memoirs of a British Prime Minister (loosely based on Tony Blair, with added cinematic appeal and backstory) who is in a spot of bother over extradition to the USA - sending terrorist suspects overseas to be tortured by the CIA. McGregor engages the viewer as a half-crumpled writer with a witty sense of humour, while the plot manages to duck and weave enough to second guess your suspicions of how the story will unfold. It kept me hooked throughout - it's worth checking out. A bonus for fans of The Walking Dead too - Jon Bernthal plays the agent of McGregor's ghost writer.

One Crazy Summer:
As I always say - if it's got John Cusack in it, then it's worth seeing - and here we are with him re-teaming with Savage Steve Holland, the director of Better Off Dead, which was only half-as-barmy as this decidedly 1980s 'romantic farce'. It's a good kind of barmy though, with a rather loose sense of plotting (at times it's nearing sketch comedy in style), and Demi Moore as a rock singer trying to pay off the mortgage on the house of her recently departed grandfather ... the same house that is stopping the local rich folks from turning the entire island community into a resort specialising in Lobster dining. What's more - in a way that was seemingly quite popular for 1980s comedies - it all culminates in a sailing competition (also see the John Candy-starring Summer Rental - a family film I'm rather fond of from my childhood years), replete with boat-fixing montage. Oh, and Bobcat Goldthwait's in it - in full-on madcap shouty form.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Get In There: Gary Ugarek's films...

I'm going to start a new series of posts called "Get In There" where I share things that I'm into around the interwebtubes and think you might like - first port of call...

Gary Ugarek is a buddy of mine who has produced indie zombie flicks Deadlands: The Rising and Deadlands 2: Trapped, and most recently the gangster pic All In The Game (which features members of the cast of The Wire). You'll perhaps have already read me talking about him as he's very much a champion of other indie filmmakers - indeed he very kindly supported the I Am Zombie Man short films I made a while back by showing them as supporting features during the theatrical exhibitions of the two Deadlands flicks, and included them on some of the home video releases. Furthermore Gary even helped produce some of the music for the second two IAZM shorts with Brian Wright (a fellow musician, and co-star from the first Deadlands movie).

You can purchase All In The Game through his website - - and his other flicks elsewhere on the web (including Amazon), but Gary has also uploaded all three films (workprint versions of the two Deadlands movies) to YouTube. So if you're into indie cinema, then you'll do well to check out his YouTube Channel.