Tuesday 31 March 2009
At this very moment it's at 22 pages, so it's a much leaner script than my last one - the zombie epic called "The End" - but I was always planning to make this latest script far leaner, especially as it's designed for a low budget (like I've spoken about previously) - at least, that's the intention.
I'll probably slow down for a spell though, as I've got educational DVD stuff to be getting on with, but aye - the script is going well so far.
Wednesday 25 March 2009
But last night, my third sit down with it, was quite a good session. It's now deep into page 10, and the plot is bounding along at quite a pace - something I'll seek to slow down and develop a bit more when I re-draft each act as I go along.
I'm starting to get into the swing of writing again, after having not written anything since finishing "The End" on New Years Eve. So aye - it's starting to pick up now - I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out in the end, how it all fleshes out from my two page run-down I scribbled out recently before I started.
Monday 23 March 2009
Well, I finally started it last night - again, like with "The End", starting it is always a slow process, and you find yourself not writing that much on the first session, but still - two pages done and the opening scene is there in it's first version.
It's called "From The Inside Out", and it's designed to be a low budget horror - i.e. it could be filmed on a low budget (although a budge that, to me, is high budget). Perhaps a budget in the realms of somewhere between Mum & Dad, and Hush.
Then perhaps I'll go back to my "graduate comedy" script "Generation Procrastination" and go through all the dialogue again (it's a dialogue heavy piece) to punch it all up now that it's about 18 months since I wrote it.
But first though - do "From The Inside Out".
Wednesday 18 March 2009
Now, where to start. Well - there's been a lot of 'Zack Snyder brought this to the screen' talk going on and well, sure, he's the director of the Watchmen movie - but this is a prime example of a truly collaborative work (even if the crossing from novel to movie hasn't involved a lot of input from Moore seemingly). This movie has, if what I've been told by Watchmen fans is true, been in development for quite a long time now. Twenty years or so I think, and there have been a whole host of talented filmmakers who have approached it, but retreated (such as Terry Gilliam, who proclaimed it as unfilmable before departing).
To cut to my point - this movie has been in development for a very long time - this is after the hardcore legwork that Moore and his artist put into the text originally. The adapted script, by Hayter and Tse, has clearly been crafted from blood, sweat and tears - adapting such a complex and revered text isn't a job I'd envy. The actors too, have done a wonderful job filling their roles - especially Haley and Crudup as Rorschach and Dr Manhattan respectively.
Sure, Snyder wasn't just sat around on his arse, far from it - but he's directing a script that two others (for THIS version) have slaved over, adapting a hugely rich text, written by Alan Moore in the first place. Snyder even proudly professed to using the source text as storyboards frequently - so indeed, he's using Moore and Gibbons' compositions - he's just putting them up there (with the hundreds of folk milling around behind him) 24 times a second. The point being - seeing Watchmen, what can you really figure out about Zack Snyder in terms of his job as director? Does he have a mark? Was a mark left upon the picture? For me at least, the mark on Watchmen is the source material.
It's like with Sin City (a film which I love by the way), Rodriguez and Miller directed it (the latter being the source material's originator). They essentially filmed the panels from the book and stuck it on screen - not exactly massively creative, but certainly loyal to the text (like with Watchmen). Mind you, the difference between Rodriguez and Snyder are their respective back catalogues (RR's is obviously the more creative and impressive, not least for his insistence on fulfilling many roles 'in house'). You could perhaps attach the term "auteur" to Rodriguez, but not to Snyder.
Indeed, this leads me onto something which rubbed my right up the wrong way - in the trailer, Snyder is described (by the advertisers) as "the visionary director of 300" - a statement which is wholly and technically false.
300 is a page-to-screen transfer of Frank Miller's source material, condensed through some writer's adaptation, then passed onto Snyder so he can go doo-lally with the mid-shot-slow-mo dial. Taking someone else's artwork, and then just getting your team to do that, but in motion, is factually not visionary.
Again, Yawn04 - the ghastly and abominable Dawn of the Dead remake - takes a well, and long, established seminal horror cinema classic, and turns it into a vapid and wholly void music video with as much intelligence as that of a scummy pebble residing in the Big Brother house.
A visionary is someone like Orson Welles - who created the cinematic hallmark that is Citizen Kane (at the age I am now!). Stanley Kubrick - the man who co-wrote and directed 2001 with such precision, dedication and skill, that it is again, an all-time cinematic milestone. Ridley Scott brought us both Alien and Blade Runner. The list continues for far longer than I can be bothered to go on to illustrate this point.
Zack Snyder, is factually NOT a visionary. He's a director of music video visuals and populist slam-bangery. Yawn04 may have raked in the cash, but it was complete and utter garbage. 300 was a huge hit, but it was dim-witted and pissed all over historical fact (indeed, like the source text - but there's something even less defensible about twisting history for dumb teenagers when it's on the silver screen).
Plus, in general, I'm just not a fan of Snyder. He's the sort of person that just annoys me whenever I see him in interviews or on DVDs, and - indeed - Yawn04 and 300 were either eye-rape, or just pishy-jibberish.
Also, I've heard several times people saying "only Snyder has been able to bring it to the screen" - I object again - CGI has been able to bring it to the screen. This text would have truly been unfilmable 10 to 20 years ago when CGI was relatively, or indeed brand new - and was often ropey. In the last five years, making a film such as this has become far easier thanks to the huge leaps in CGI and green screen technology.
Watchmen, however, is Snyder's best film as a director - but as I've already talked about before, he's not some one-man-band as this production has been a long-running collaborative effort. There's only so much effort involved in being doggedly faithful to the source text (which is the best thing to do really, because more often than not, vast changes to the source text just ends up in tears).
Right - with that Snyder-related rant out of the way, let's get on with the film itself. Like I said before, I've not read the source text - but I definitely will sometime soon. Instead, I've read the fevered fanboy chat online and listened intently to the views of uber-fanboy Kevin Smith (such as in the lengthy review on a recent "/Film" podcast).
Bravo to Warner Brothers for not only investing the money, time and effort in producing Watchmen - but for allowing it to go ahead as a dark and violent R/18 rated flick which runs theatrically for 161 minutes. There's far too little risk invested by the money men in Hollywood today, but now and then something sneaks through the quagmire of remake-focussed malaise and 'safety' (read "creative vacuum").
Plus, it's a film which features numerous shots of Dr Manhattan's massive blue dong - something which I'm sure a number of "middle-Americans" were perturbed by due to their rather bizarre sexual prudery. I mean, you don't see many willies on the big screen ... let alone huge ones that glow blue and are capable of appearing on screen multiple times side-by-side.
Indeed - this element provided a LOT of laughter for the lads and I, and evidently the audience couldn't help but indulge in a chuckle whenever Dr Manhattan's manhood swayed onto the screen. A little joke, but regardless, bravo for using big blue's nudity & non-nudity sensibly.
Something else which came as a bit of a shock, was the violence on offer. Apparently, the book is less violent where the movie is more violent, and vice versa. Interesting - but understandable when it's supposed to shock, and what shocked us back when the text was originally written no longer shocks us now. Let's say several moments of shockingly bloody violence left my eyebrows involuntarily raised in a stunned manner - disgusted? Not in the least bit - I've survived all five SAW's and two Hostel's, plus all the genre classics just fine - I guess it was more how it was placed within the context of what was going on, as well as being in this sort of a story.
What sort of story is that? Incredibly hard to sum up - so I won't even bother. I've tried numerous times over the last couple of weeks to sum up Watchmen for the uninitiated (I was caught-up on the basics prior to viewing, shall we say). This merely confirms the complexity of Watchmen as a text - you can understand why it was once considered unfilmable (and perhaps some still do - would it have worked better as a mini-series, will it work better in the soon-to-come extended cut?) - and it is certainly a hugely intelligent piece of work, even if I'm only understanding this from the movie version. The strength of Moore's text is evident throughout, even to those who haven't read it.
The characters are complex, sometimes weak, sometimes immoral to a shocking degree, sometimes out-right psychotic, and the ending is so rich with moral quandry that it leaves food for thought afterwards (much like The Dark Knight did with at least two issues - surveillance, and the two-boats-two-bombs issue).
There are some niggles though - certain choices of music feel too blunt, or just flat-out wrong (such as the tonally wrong, thundering end credits track, which is apparently by the emo shits known as My Chemical Romance) ... and was it just me, or did the fight sound effects really begin to irk you? Are these people made out of concrete slabs? Punches just DON'T sound like that, nor are they that bloody loud! Also - the bit when Rorschach goes nuts with that aerosol can and sets it on fire - I've seen a flaming aerosol can in real life, and it doesn't sound like a scene from Backdraft.
And while Watchmen has a fair bit of "talky stuff" (which I liked), it's when the action kicks off that Snyder tracks down that bloody mid-shot-slow-mo dial and starts farting around with it again - JUST LEAVE IT ALONE, WILL YOU?! That device was ruined in one-fell-swoop with 300. It's too obtrusive. Just shoot an entire shot in slow motion and use varying speeds for other whole shots throughout the sequence and then edit away.
It may seem like there's less mid-shot-slow-mo going on, and there probably is - compared to it's incredible over-use in 300 - but Watchmen is a pretty long movie, with a fair bit of talking, so there's only so many chances to use that slow-mo device.
But, again, due to the sheer strength of the source material (evident even to me, someone who has not yet read it), the niggles are few in number. Perhaps the Watchmen uber-fans have more complaints, I don't know, and it has apparently split some audiences down the middle.
The flick looks great - tying back to what I said before about CGI allowing this movie to finally be made - and you would expect Snyder to be able to present something that didn't look like dog shit, this being a dude who comes from the world of music videos after all. For the most part though - and again because he stuck to the source text like glue - the visuals don't stray into "the sin of vanity" territory like Yawn04 did at times.
Yawn04, as shit as I think that movie is, is one that I cannot deny is pretty ... most of the time. Occasionally that movie became too over-indulgent in music video aesthetics and scattergun-use slow-motion - but enough talk about that turd-festival. After all I've already poured over it with my "110 reasons in 110 minutes" list of grievances. Speaking of which, you can find both parts of it here: http://deadshed.blogspot.com/search/label/110
Back to Watchmen - it looks great - but when you're using the work of Dave Gibbons to guide the motion pictures, you can't really say it's especially creative from Snyder's part ... or perhaps even the DP's part. This is an intrinsic problem facing the filmmakers with Watchmen however, as Kevin Smith was kind of saying, you're fucked either way.
Deviate too far from the text and you've fucked it up, stick too closely and you've not really done much aside from giving the fans a faithful adaption of the source text (for the majority of people - perhaps Moore might think otherwise after being treated so poorly by previous on-screen adaptations though).
In terms of "most awesome superhero movie" though - The Dark Knight still wins the fight for me. That movie simply blew me away in all respects, and clinged onto my mind for months afterwards until I got the DVD which I then watched three times throughout December after it came out. I still get all hot and bothered when thinking about it - the soundtrack alone is enough to shiver my spine.
Watchmen, the movie, hasn't had the same level of impact upon me - and indeed certain scenes in the movie don't have the impact you feel they should have (just like the dudes on the /Film podcast were saying). The secret about Silk Spectre's father, and the Bond villain baiting moment towards the end, to name but two. This said, Watchmen didn't slink in and out of my brain in a flash, and is still percolating up there somewhere, and finally - it left a pleasant impression when all was said and done.
I don't see Watchmen as a Zack Snyder movie, I only remember that Snyder had anything to do with it when I see his name in the credits, and that bloody silly mid-shot-slow-mo effect turns up. No, instead I see Watchmen as a collaborative effort that spans many, many years - a production that has passed through countless skilled hands over the years after being born out of an intricate and medium-defining source text.
It may have taken you a long time to read this, but it took longer for me to write it ... okay, rant over, hazah!
However, while the titular hound is loveable and cuddly, it's again a case of the side characters creating a just-as-large, if not larger impression than the lead. Brooklyn-voiced, gangster-like pigeons who 'never forget a face' and a certain fanboy hamster caged in a plastic ball are the scene stealers here.
Just like in WALL.E (although WALL.E is still unbearably loveable - in the best sense), M.O. made a huge mark on the film when on screen - heck, even a cockroach became something cute - an epic feat unto itself. Anyway, it's funny how these side characters are so consistently great in these sort of films - just like in both Madagascars - the urbane chimps and the gangster-like penguin posse stole both of those movies.
Anyway, a rather solid effort - and while not up there both in terms of script and visuals as say WALL.E - it does what it sets out to do confidently and extracts a barrel-load of chuckles from you in the process. A good omen for Disney/Pixar's future methinks.
In fact at times, the film becomes quite funny - the stunningly creative and endless procession of casual slurs Clint's character reels off are chuckle-inducing. Not to the extent of agreement (far from it), but it's just the sheer conviction and most of all, the delivery. One particular rapid-fire slur-laden rant had the audience chortling in shock - again, nobody was agreeing with such sentiments, it was the delivery and the 'creativity' of the insults that were slung which left a large impression, and the audience wide-eyed.
But this is glossing over the gripping plot, the gripping clash of cultures, and the over all joy of seeing Clint tearing up the screen with his sheer power - like I said before, the dude's a total legend. This all said, it's certainly not an action fest (nor was it intended to be), but when Clint's aiming his M1 Garand at a gang-banger and growling at him to "get off my lawn", you can't help but grin like a child in a sweet shop. Legend. He's what, 78 now? But I'm damn sure he could kick my ass, and many other asses to boot - he just exudes sheer, raw power. A real man from a time when men were proper men ... there's not a lot of that these days, but we'll at least have his cinematic legacy as something for men the world over to idolise and even aspire to.
Ultimately, the film is a bittersweet journey (as headed-up earlier in the film when death is summed up as a bittersweet event) - and indeed, this is what you feel come the end credits. You get the bitter, but you also get the sweet - and it's a long-lasting impression.
If this is indeed Clint's last on-screen outing, he certainly went out on top.
Friday 13 March 2009
The remake starts fairly promising, with a thankfully quite faithful update of Gort - but it all quickly goes downhill once Klaatu Reeves legs it with micro-biologist woman and her snotty-little-know-it-all-gets-in-the-way-snide-bastard step-son tagging along for the ride, which is basically staggering from one place to another evading the authorities.
There doesn't feel like there's any real purpose in their farting around, it all seems to be set up to stall for time so that Klaatu Reeves can learn that mankind is worth saving by using micro-biology woman and her shitty little step-son as unintentional ambassadors for human kind.
If I was Klaatu, I'd have bitch-slapped that snotty little kid for being a gigantic, arrogant pain in the arse - why is it, that kids in movies and TV, often end up being such know-it-all shits that just fuck everybody's day up? You'd have also thought that micro-biologist woman would have explained to her snotty little WoW-playing step-brat that his KIA father was a military engineer, not some arse-kicking GI Joe knock-off ... i.e. kid, you shouldn't demand that mankind destroy an alien visitor "just in case" - a complete 180 from the original movie, which had a kid with some intelligence and faith ... even if his relationship with Klaatu was damn-near paedo-like in this day-and-age of 'paedo's are everywhere!' fear.
Bung in a toothless role for Kathy 'bust an ankle or two' Bates, and a shoe-horned-in appearance by John Cleese as "the professor" - a character who is introduced so poorly you wonder if they lopped out five minutes of "why the fuck are you, Mr Matrix, erasing all my very complicated equations from my chalk board? ... oh you're an alien? ... and this is the answer to my questions? oh okay then" - none of that, and then step-brat goes and thoroughly fucks up everyone's day ... and you've got a rather luke warm hodge-podge soup.
Strange that it's only after Klaatu senselessly slaughters two helicopters, pilots-and-all, that step-shit realises "hey, this Klaatu guy isn't bad" ... indeed, what an utter little bastard.
Then Gort is chucked out the window in favour of that crap you saw in the trailer of trucks and baseball fields getting rinsed by grey clouds, and mankind gets handed the shittiest ending of all.
We'll let you live and develop your way of life, but we're gonna royally screw up your technological advances, industry, incredibly important scientific research, and economy by somehow disabling all power - WHAT. THE. FUCK?!
Then the movie just cuts out ... seriously, what the crap was that turd-pile?!
So aye - decent start, but then it all turns into a mush of nonsense and running around (script before plot, not plot before script, unfortunately), and it ends on a completely rubbish note ... without enough Gort, nor some of the most famous words in cinematic history - Klaatu, Birata, Niktoo - WHY REMAKE A GREAT FILM AND THEN NOT USE THOSE WORDS?!
See - visually flash, utter nonsense.
Wednesday 4 March 2009
Sunday 1 March 2009
Anyway - I just noticed a bit of feedback about the DVD, which I thought I'd share here too:
"Sex and Ethics DVD is a tremendous resource that students will find educational and engaging. Each ethical theory is presented clearly with an appealing visual interpretation and is followed by well informed, wide ranging and thought provoking student discussions. This is an invaluable resource that will help teachers help students write detailed, accurate and evaluative essays. Highly recommended."
Judy Grill, Head of Religious Studies, Churcher's College, Petersfield
Many thanks for the kind words.
That said, they do pump out more politics-related shows than any other channel - although the quality and impartiality of said shows does vary, if we're all grown up and honest about it.
They're in a perilous position as a public service broadcaster - the only thing stopping them from tipping over into the abyss completely is that they actually do put out some shows that no other channel would bother with.
Planet Earth is a good example, as is Top Gear, Newsnight, Red Dwarf, Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe and others - but I was sorely disappointed when BBC3 turned down Adam Buxton's pilot...the reasons why were daft, in my view.
Now then, Margaret, all about the fall (and interspersed rise) of Margaret Thatcher (UK Conservative Party Prime Minster from 1979 to 1990, the first and only (so far) female PM as well), seemed pleasantly balanced to me ... if a bit over-the-top.
Mercifully, the politics were kept out of it almost entirely, so we could instead focus on the people - and indeed the ruthlessness of the political system (at least during the time represented on screen here). Nicknamed "The Iron Lady", she was most definitely a stern figure - and indeed a woman rising to the most powerful job in the country in a literal man's world. The UK had gotten itself into a state and needed a swift kick up the arse - a thankless job that somebody simply had to do - Mrs Thatcher was that somebody.
We see a driven, relentlessly determined woman setting out to prove her gender not only capable, but equal-to-if-not-better-than the men entrenched in the system. We see her rise to power against the odds, and then a decade later see the makings of a political execution by her own party (with a rather deviously 'quiet in the corner' John Major waiting to swoop in and take the job that Heseltine so wanted for himself) ... needless to say, it was all quite dramatic.
As a result, it's played as a drama - at times it is over-the-top, perhaps even stylised (and apparently not visually accurate enough for certain Tory bloggers, such as the entertaining Iain Dale), no doubt due to budget, production and practicality constraints - but it's quite effective when all is said and done.
Or at least, effective as far as a televised drama can be. The truest picture will never be known by the public (same goes for all political stories), and the closest Jo(e) public can get to the truest picture is via a mountain of reading of biographies and period newspapers (and so on), and piecing it all together themselves.
But who is really going to be bothered with all that, except a dedicated student of politics? Exactly - hence, dramatisation. It's just down to the viewer individually to realise it is as such however, because I severely doubt the "Iron Lady" would cry in front of her cabinet prior to her ousting - in private with her husband, quite possibly, but not in front of her cabinet ... ... at least, that's the impression I would get. Likewise Mrs T's severity and drive are overplayed, to the point of caricature at times.
So if we, the viewer, dial the central performance back a tad in our heads, we can get a good impression of how it all happened - but that's all we can ever really hope to gain, an impression. Only those involved will truly know the ins and outs. How it did happen, however, I'm sure it didn't involve massive, growing grumbly "woosh" noises everytime we skipped forward or backward in time - a device so daftly stolen from Lost, that it becomes an absolute joke towards the end - the wooshes so invasive that you wonder if you're going to find yourself trapped on a mysterious island populated by attractive television stars.
As for 24 Hour News, to wind back to earlier in the post, such as that of BBC News 24 and Sky News ... that's a whole other rant for a whole other day. Suffice to say, 24 Hour News is mostly audience-chasing, surface-skimming, multi-issue-ignoring nonsense. "All the latest news in fifteen minutes, every fifteen minutes", as well as "Who does Brown talk to first" (both Sky News slogans), are the most damning descriptions of today's 24 Hour News ... in my view. As such, Charlie Brooker's Newswipe is a spot-on look at the 24 Hour News phenomenon.
To end on a positive note, roll on series 13 of Top Gear - the best thing the BBC has on the air!
Beast With A Billion Backs wasn't quite as good, but still a good story ... Bender's Game however did show a distinct dip in "the funnies", as well as a properly good story - it was still welcome though. Again, and now with the final of the four 'movies', Into The Wild Green Yonder (despite being said by some to be up there with Bender's Big Score) shows the continued downslide of the four from absolutely fantastic, to moderate at best.
No doubt it was somewhat affected by the Writer's Strike during production, but it's still light on proper jokes and a really solid story. Despite some quality gags (mainly in the first 25 minutes, my favourite being the "Tickle Me Bender" toy), the majority of the 'movie' is either devoid of chuckles or falls back on jokes that just aren't funny - Celine Dion bashing has been going on since Titanic came out, and people who are obviously not rappers having "grills" on their teeth is again ancient history ... same goes for newsreaders not being able to switch off in real life.
This all said, the ending most definitely left me wanting more - just please, for crying out loud and for the sake of the Futurama brand, make it properly funny and properly gripping next time! More Big Scores, and less Wild Green Yonders. The Futurama team have been, and still are, capable of so much.
More, funnier, Futurama please!