Saturday 30 May 2009

Quarter Century...

Yep, I've turned 25 ... no more early-twenties for me, right now I'm smack-bang in my mid-twenties, and next year I'll have started my late-twenties and the descent/ascent (depending on your outlook) towards 30.

I guess now's the time you start looking forward to your birthdays less and less, or that birthdays become less important ... that's quite true I think ... I still like getting the presents and cards, but now - particularly turning a quarter of a century old - it starts becoming a case of (like many adults) "ah geez, another year older, where did the time go?" and so on.

That said, I'm still in my twenties, so it's not all bad by any stretch of the imagination - but my point is that this is probably where it all starts to get increasingly depressing and grown up as the years tick by (gradually, of course).

But then again, the 20s are the new teens, and the 30s are the new 20s, and the 40s are the new 30s ... so there's always an excuse to enjoy fart jokes, and in the end, that's all that really matters isn't it? ... ... well ... ... hmmm.


It's a weird movie, in more than one way ... but really the only truly interesting parts of the movie are those set in Meanwhile City (which becomes a bit of a jip later in the movie, as you'll see once (if) you watch Franklyn).

It's a nifty idea - a dystopian future (not especially new) where you MUST have a religion, even if it's simply the instructions to a washing machine (interesting). The costumes are cool, the architecture is cool, the ideas set in and around Meanwhile City are cool.

However, Franklyn (the titular character) does feel like a Rorschach rip-off - he sounds similar and he looks remarkably similar - and he's the best thing about the movie (well, until he de-masks and reveals himself to be Ryan Phillipe ... which is a bit disappointing because you just want to see him hustling about the city with his mask on, to be honest).

The main - and pervasive - fault with this flick is, however, the sheer lack of depth and colour to all the loosely connected characters and ideas. There's a wealth of characterisation left unfilled, and a host of ideas left mentioned but soon forgotten.

Another annoyance is the assumption from the beginning that either - you're supposed to be completely lost and have no idea what's happening, (let alone why we keep jumping from the super-cool-looking Meanwhile City, to the rather drab present day London), or you're supposed to be already clued up before you see the movie. I half-thought there was a graphic novel prequel I was supposed to have read beforehand, but nope, it's just the way the movie presents itself.

As for the characters, in addition to not being fleshed out, they're either not very interesting, or flat-out annoying. Misery guts who is pining throughout for a lost love who we've never even seen in the first place is just a mopey bastard making London even greyer around him. Bernard Hill is convincingly nice, and easy to pity - but that's about it. Ror...I mean Franklyn, while pretty cool, never seems to have a lot going on that supports the gravitas he conveys ... and Eva Green's 'tortured artist' is just an upper-middle-class pain in the arse whose 'art' is a cringe worthy load of bollocks vaguely connected (maybe) to her tortured-when-convenient relationship with her mother ... her character-introducing therapy session just comes off as another spoiled rich girl being a decidedly cliched tourist of emotional disruption.

Then you finally find out what the fuck is going on, and why we keep ending up back in miserable old shitty London all the time instead of just staying in Meanwhile City, and a wave of "meh" washes over you.

There's signs of promise throughout this movie, and it's mighty impressive on a pokey British budget, but the lack of fleshed-out ideas, focus and decisive direction fails it.

Saturday 23 May 2009

The Prowler, and shite, one meh...

A couple of recent viewings here, and indeed a couple which I've been meaning to see for quite a while.

The Prowler...

A while ago I posted about how I was into a whole slasher movie bonanza lately. It's kind of run out of steam now, but I finally got around to watching The Prowler - one of Savini's lesser known works.

And that's about as good as it gets - this flick features some of Savini's best work from the beginning of the 1980s, with the moments of gore really standing out head and shoulders above the rest of the film.

The film itself, aside from Savini's work however, is pish. Boring characters, dud script, poor coverage, ropey editing, pointless direction and so on. Cash-in says it all really, and if it wasn't for Tom Savini's splatter, it'd be completely without purpose.


I've been meaning to see this for quite some time, and having enjoyed various Stephen King adaptations over the years, I figured I'd at least like it - and sure enough, it's a decent movie. Is it great? No. Is it shite? No. It's serviceable, but it really only kicks off after the mid-way point ... and even then you do find yourself yelling at the screen for the characters to stop farting around. Still though, in the home stretch it's in full swing, which makes up for the dawdling start.

I was thinking about it in today's context too - it would pretty much be solved with a phone call on the old mobile - the only way you could not have that would be the contrived "oh I left it at home" or "damn, battery is dead" ... the sort of thing scatterbrains do, you know the sort.

I'm not a scatterbrain - I keep my phone charged - and at the very least I'd have enough juice for a text message (with proper words and everything). So therefore, I don't think I'll be finding myself trapped in a car with a the rabid precursor to Beethoven (remember that movie? It's got David Duchovny falling over in it!)

What Beethoven also had was really annoying kids crying ... perhaps it's because I don't have kids, but those snivelling little ones in Beethoven - and that non-stop-screamer in Cujo - just wound me right up, ha! You know what I'd say? I'd say "shut up, I'm on my mobile sorting this shit out!" - problem solved.

Then we'd have ice cream.

Seriously though, Cujo's an alright flick ... worth a watch, but it's not the best King adaptation out there.

Friday 22 May 2009

Top 50 Favourite Movies Ever - Part 6...

Read Part One here:
Read Part Two here:
Read Part Three here:
Read Part Four here:
Read Part Five here:

The final 'ten block', in alphabetical "I'm incapable of assigning any decisive numerical order to each film" style.

Top 50: #1-10

* Aliens (1986):
One of the best sequels ever made, and what used to be my all-time favourite movie. When I was a kid - before I'd even seen the movie - I still knew it was grade A cool, and indeed my friends and I would all fight over who got to role-play as Hicks (played brilliantly and admirably by Michael Biehn - who deserves bigger roles in my view). I'd seen Alien when I was 9 (the first horror movie - well, it's part horror movie - I ever saw), then I think I saw Alien 3, and then finally Aliens. Cameron's film is a rock-solid all-round box ticker on the list of awesomeness. An entire nest of aliens (before CGI), space marines, perfect editing, pacing and direction ... and then James Horner's blood-rushing score. The first battle with the aliens, and then the operations room siege are the two key highlights in the entire movie for me - they both leave me clutching the edge of my seat - every single time. Thrilling doesn't even describe the feeling adequately. Great action, great dialogue, great effects, great goddamned everything quite frankly.

* The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007):
Chopper is a decent movie - it's Director Andrew Dominik's first - it got a lot of attention and applause. I liked it, but I wasn't especially fussed about it...a gritty movie about a tweaked-as-all-hell violent criminal essentially. So to see the same guy direct a meandering, wistful, hypnotically poetic western comes as a bit of a shock. It divided viewers, and I firmly lie on the side of "love it". Roger Deakin's cinematography is absolutely breath taking, the central performances are astounding (particularly Casey Affleck), the score is spot-on and, well ... it's just awe inspiring. I was so dumbstruck after my first viewing that I obsessed over it for weeks and months, deliberately starving myself of it just in case the effect had been a fluke. Then I got a copy after getting a letter printed in Total Film (I've had four printed to date - ergo, four free DVDs) and then waited some more until I saw it again. I watched it this time with someone else, but they didn't like it much at all ... so perhaps that dampened my love of the movie a bit at the time, but quite quickly my sheer love for this film returned. I got the soundtrack and I poured over the final forty minutes another couple of times just to cement my adoration - it's an absolutely spell-binding film.

* Back to the Future (1985):
It's quite literally a perfectly written movie, and what's more it utterly captivated me as a kid, and indeed one of my first memories of going to the cinema was to see Back to the Future III. To this day it just makes me feel warm inside. If you're watching Back to the Future, then all is right in the world. Mind-bending time travel technicalities, memorable quotes, fantastically fun set pieces ... man alive, it's hard to describe how great this movie is and how much I love it.

* The Dark Knight (2008):
It took me a while to get around to seeing Batman Begins (I saw it on DVD), but when I finally did, it was quite impressive. Then I didn't watch it for quite a while until The Dark Knight was about to come out - then I realised how super-awesome Batman Begins is - and then the following day I went to see The Dark Knight, the hype around which was immeasurable. I've ranted and raved before on this blog about why I loved the movie, so be sure to track that down ... some people complained about the length ... I don't know what they're on about. When the movie ended I wanted at least another half hour, and 3/4 of the way through I was gutted that we weren't only 1/3 in. I was gripped - ludovico style - to my seat throughout. It's smart, it's tense, there's always something going on, and it's just bloody good filmmaking. I'll cap this off by saying this - a kid (about 8-10 years old I guess) towards the back of the theatre yelled out "WOOOOWWWWEEEEEE!!!" when the truck flipped head-over-heels ... yep ... that about sums up what I think of the whole film.

* Dawn of the Dead (1978):
One of the reasons I wanted to become a filmmaker, was Dawn of the Dead - the original and best. It was another formative film viewing experience from my formative film viewing years in my mid-teens. I remember reading an article in a 1997 issue of SFX Magazine all about the release of the "Director's Cut" (Extended Cannes Cut) of the film in the UK (which was cut by 6 seconds at the time). I re-read the article numerous times, and marvelled at the pictures from Romero's (at that time) Dead Trilogy. I'd already seen Day of the Dead at this stage, which blew me away ... but nothing like Dawn of the Dead. I remember sitting down in the evening to watch it ... then I remember sitting still in the same position utterly, 100% dumb-struck 2 hours and 20 minutes later. In between these two points I had been so utterly drawn into this superb horror classic that time disappeared. I've since watched it about 30 times, and oddly, after 20-something viewings I found myself suddenly exhausted by the sheer power of the opening 15 minutes of the film ... not sure why, but I was - and it just illustrates how much continued power this movie contains for me. So powerful was it, that it usurped Aliens from my number one slot at the time.

* Fight Club (1999):
As I said in the previous entry, which included Zodiac, I am a huge David Fincher fan. Fight Club introduced me to the excellent work of Chuck Palahniuk (I've read all his books), and as a film it floored me in all respects. As a Palahniuk adaptation it's perfect. As a film in its own right it's perfect. I've seen it numerous times and it's still fascinating, visually arresting, technically impressive and just really well crafted. Add in an examination of modern man's sense of pointlessness ("we have no Great War..." etc), and you've got the ideal male movie.

* Ghostbusters (1984):
Here we are again, back to my childhood classics - and this is my all-time childhood favourite. I loved The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, I had a ton of the toys, and I watched the two movies a hell of a lot ... and at the time of writing I have the videogame for Xbox360 on pre-order. Then I went for quite a number of years without seeing it until I bought the DVD (as part of a nostalgia trip I took while at university) and it all came flooding back. Similar to my rediscovery of Short Circuit, I found myself miming along to the dialogue and predicting the music cues, sound effects and editing. Not only that, but I was suddenly - aged 20 - finally able to get all the adult jokes throughout (I was surprised there were so many). I love both GB movies, but as is almost always the case, the original is the best ... and it's bloody fantastic.

* The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966):
During my, yep you guessed it - formative mid-teens - I first got into westerns. Channel 4 showed the Dollars Trilogy, which was also pretty much my introduction to the career of Clint Eastwood. The slow, creeping sense of tension during the stand offs (helped in no small amount by the spot-on editing and pitch-perfect score), dotted throughout the meandering grandeur of the rest of the movie has only impressed me more and more over the years. Properly epic and seriously cool, and while it's not exactly a realistic western, it's a great western movie - and indeed, it's my favourite western movie (regardless of it being a "spaghetti western"). It's just so good.

* The Maltese Falcon (1941):
I first saw this astounding noir classic during the first semester of my first year at university during the "Key Issues" course, which gave a general grounding in cinema history. Not only that, but we got to see a real, restored print of the film - something which I don't think I appreciated enough at the time, but which I have since really appreciated in retrospect. It was my introduction to Bogart, and my introduction to a whole host of classic Hollywood cinema. For me it was the point at which my cinematic tastes were blown wide open, and my appreciation for cinema took a large step up. It was even the subject of one of my first essays at university (and I got a 1st on it).

* Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991):
I first saw it on BBC1 (with all the fuck-words deleted) in the mid-90s. I then, for some daft reason, recorded over my videotaped copy and then it was never on TV again for sodding years. I got so desperate to see T2 again that I made it my New Year's Resolution one year ... and then, about 2 weeks later, I got it on video in WHSmith for £5.99. After thinking "wow, they cut out a lot of fucks ... and some violence ... from this flick", I was royally chuffed that I'd gotten my mits on T2 once again - and at that point it became my number one film (it was then overtaken by Aliens). Like Aliens, T2 is one of those rare beasts - a sequel which is precisely-as-good-as, if not better than, the original - and the pioneering CGI effects were, and still are, insanely impressive. Cameron proved himself as perhaps the greatest action director living with T2, a film which is consistently awesome from start to finish. To this day, T2 still knocks me over with a feather ... it's simply that great.

So there you have it. After six exhaustive days of blogging to celebrate my 300th blogpost (which was part one), I've laid out my Top 50 films of all-time ... with a further 10 honourable mentions ... and none of them properly numerically ordered within each 'ten block' ... although the 'ten blocks' are ordered in themselves, but well, it's the best I can do. Right now though, I need a breather!

Thursday 21 May 2009

Top 50 Favourite Movies Ever - Part 5...

Read Part One here:
Read Part Two here:
Read Part Three here:
Read Part Four here:

Yep, you guessed it, this 'ten block' is listed in alphabetical order.

Top 50: #11-20

* Casablanca (1942):
During my time at university, my eyes were opened to a whole series of different movies (Asian cinema, musicals, Canadian film, and the old classics for example). One of the movies which I discovered (although I'd known of it for many years) was Casablanca. It was included as background study for a course on Classic Hollywood, and I was in awe of it. Plus I was finally able to really get the references to it in the videogame Grim Fandango (an excellent game, by the way). Humphrey Bogart (my classical star of choice) moping around in a pool of heart ache, cigarette smoke and alcohol was something I found very compelling as a main character. It's beautifully written, acted, shot and directed, and quite frankly I don't need to explain to you why it's such a good should know already.

* A Clockwork Orange (1971):
In the UK this film was self-banned by Kubrick after some high-profile acts of violence were blamed on it, and after Kubrick died A Clockwork Orange was soon released to UK audiences for the first time since the early 1970s. It was also at this time that the BBFC had a change of leadership, and I - in my formative mid-teens - found myself in a great position. I was at the age when film fans should be discovering controversial gems, horror flicks and the like, and the BBFC were finally un-banning a variety of titles (many fully uncut). 2000 was the year that I really went mad for this film - I read the book, I got the soundtrack, and I got the video - it inspired me so much (not in terms of ultraviolence though!) that I based my entire GCSE 2-D Art final exam on the film - a piece inspired by the movie, and the artwork surrounding it. I guess I overdosed on it, because I then spent many years away from it, and only recently did I re-discover it all over again, and I was immediately as familiar with it as I had been all those years ago when I was in my mid-teens. Also, as you should all know, it's a bloody masterpiece to boot!

* The Evil Dead (1981):
Again, my formative mid-teens factor in here, and it was at this time that my local post office was selling a run of cheap videos for £5 each. The Evil Dead was, if memory serves, the first one of many that I bought there (well, my Mum did technically). In the couple of weeks prior I had heard friends at school talking about it (some of the lads I now go on frequent cinema jaunts with) and all I got from them in terms of a review was "green mashed potato, and a pencil in the ankle" ... not glowing, and a bit mocking ... but I knew how their taste measured up against my own taste, and I figured this was most likely going to be right down my alley. Needless to say, it most certainly was, and it has since become one of my all-time favourite horror movies. The Evil Dead is of constant inspiration to me as an aspiring filmmaker - sometime soon I would love to be making my first real movie, and if it could be something with as much invention and adventure as this one, then I'd be a-okay with that alright!

* Grindhouse (2007):
Annoyingly it was never released as Grindhouse in the UK - only as the separate releases - but regardless, I got to see the original cut - and I loved it. I have since seen the two films separately several times, and I have to consider them together rather than apart, even when they're in stand-alone mode. I had grown up watching these kind of movies, as well as those of Rodriguez and Tarantino - so, obviously, it was a match made in heaven. Planet Terror is an absolute riot (especially with the lads over for a few cans), and Death Proof is just so super cool - heck, I've written at length about Death Proof on this very blog (have a look down the Blog Tags on the right to find my musings on the flick). Am I looking forward to more Grindhouse entries? You bet your ass I am.

* Heat (1995):
Again, when I first saw it, it was a little before my time. Then I re-discovered it years later on a double-disc DVD and all the pieces fell into place. The beautiful camerawork, the relentlessly gripping performances, the epic feel, the soundtrack and so on - it's all stunning. Throw in one of the best cinematic bank robberies ever (brilliantly referenced in the best mission of GTA IV, as well) and you've got one of those films which just makes me exhale in a stunned, awe-inspired fashion ... nuff said.

* Rocky (1976):
I enjoyed the series when I first saw them as a teenager, but it was only until a few years later that I really fell in love with the franchise, and it all began with the original and best. A great little underdog story, and a source of immediate inspiration whenever you watch it, happen across it, or listen to the soundtrack. Who doesn't love Rocky?

* Scarface (1983):
Epic - that says it all really - but to elaborate further, it's also one of my favourite rise-and-fall tales. Pacino rides high, as do DePalma and Stone. It's such an involving film from the get-go for a myriad of reasons, and I'm sure you know them all. Not even the cheesy and misguided adoration that dime-a-dozen American footballers and rappers lavish on it on MTV Cribs can damage this cinematic classic. It meanders when it needs to, it's sweet when it wants to be, it's epic throughout, and ultimately it's a brash tragedy ... then the superb GTA: Vice City came along and made me love Scarface even more.

* The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974):
Again, cut to me in my formative mid-teens ... it's winter, I'm eating my dinner, and I'm watching - for the first time - the original (and best) Texas Chainsaw Massacre on a fudgy 3rd generation videotaped copy. That's how these movies should be viewed, they're too crisp and safe on DVD, but on a no-labels videotape - a generation of a generation of a generation - bleeding colours on screen, simple and slightly muffled mono audio ... oh yes, this is really how these movies should be watched by first-timers. It's feels a little bit dangerous, a little bit illicit, and it's almost like your own little secret - but one that all your friends know about - and indeed, that's how you get to see it. For years beforehand I had seen clips on horror movie documentaries (such as Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror), read about it and seen lurid stills in books, and then finally - with a background of the BBFC liberalising itself and finally unleashing Leatherface upon the UK - I got to see it. As a side note, on my bedroom wall, I have my own autographed photo - Gunner Hansen as Leatherface.

* The Thing (1982):
There are very few movies which are capable of not only scaring the bejesus out of me, but capable of doing so time after time after time. The fifties version is enjoyable, nostalgic and a little bit quaint, but Carpenter's version of the source material is astounding (and it remains so to this day). The profound sense of isolation, claustrophobia and paranoia-soaked cabin fever are damn-near tangible. The gore effects of Rob Bottin are shocking (again, still to this day). Kurt Russell kicks fucking ass, and Morricone's score could even make a teddy bear's picnic sound terrifying (it was used on the Top Gear Polar Special to excellent effect). Even the videogame was terrifying ... and you know what, I'm still a little bit scared - even after seeing it countless times - to go back into the blizzard. Horror perfected.

* Zodiac (2007):
I'm a major fan of David Fincher, and his methodical examination of what happened to those who tried to solve the crime of 1970s America, never releases its grip upon me in all respects across the entire production. The script shows an astoundingly hardcore amount of attention to detail, as does Fincher's never-more precise directing. Truly, 100%, flabbergasting.

Well, only one more part to go, what will be in my Top Ten of All Time? Find out very soon!

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Top 50 Favourite Movies Ever - Part 4...

Read Part One here:
Read Part Two here:
Read Part Three here:

Like in the previous parts, I will be covering this 'ten block' in alphabetical order, due to my continued lack of ability to number these films any tighter than five ordered 'ten blocks' with an additional "Honourable Mentions" category (which was in Part One of this series).

Top 50: #21-30

* Blade Runner (1982):
I've only seen two versions - the 1992 Director's Cut, and the 2007 Final Cut - so, for me, the 1992 Director's Cut is the version for me (although the replaced shot towards the end showing an elaborate building facade is way better than the buggered-out old side of a warehouse like it was originally). When I first saw it, I think (again) it was a bit before my time - but a couple of years later I bought it on video (in widescreen too) and have since viewed it a few times. "Visionary" gets bandied around too much these days (just see the quite simply technically incorrect labelling of Zack Snyder as one, by the advertisers, for the Watchmen promos) ... but Ridley Scott is a true visionary, and Blade Runner is (with Alien coming a close second) Scott's most incredible visual treat. It's Sam Spade versus those who are 'more human than human', it's perhaps the greatest interpretation of a dystopian future in cinematic history, and while being drowned in darkness and ever-lasting rain, smog, and artificial light, this film is beautiful.

* Clerks (1994):
In recent years this has been more to me than just a foul-mouthed indie comedy - it has become one of my key inspirations for my own writing. I don't mean in a rip-off way, rather I'm currently aiming to be on course to (hopefully) someday soon be able to make my own Clerks - as in, my first real movie - and Clerks is one of the films which has inspired me on my continued search for success in my goals. On the other hand sometimes it's just good fun to watch a couple of slackers play street hockey on the roof and talk about Star Wars all day - I have to say, I'm one of those people who take movies and dissect them with others to microscopic lengths ... only I'm talking about zombies, not collateral damage on the Death Star.

* Day of the Dead (1985):
This was my introduction to George A. Romero - well, in terms of the first GAR flick I saw - my first introduction was actually a couple of years prior (1997 to be precise) when I read an article in an issue of SFX magazine all about the release of the 'Director's Cut' (Cannes Extended Cut) to the UK. Fast forward to my mid-teens and I finally got my hands on my first Romero movie on videotape - bought for £5.99 in a local Woolworth's (a store chain that finally bit the dust in the current recession here in the UK). I remember watching it just after lunch time on a Saturday afternoon, as my Dad was cutting the grass outside, and being dumb-struck by the gore effects (Savini's career best, in my view). Not only that, but the soundtrack, Joe Pilato's Captain Rhodes, and the best zombie ever committed to the screen - Bub to name but three things which make Day of the Dead so good.

* Die Hard (1988):
Otherwise known as my all-time favourite Christmas movie - this is how real Die Hard should be. Tough, sweary, violent and flat-out action packed. Die Hard has been in my life for many, many years now - indeed it was one of the first 18 rated movies I ever saw - and I've loved it ever since. Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, in a high-rise, taking names ... what's not to love?

* Goodfellas (1990):
My favourite Scorsese film, and my favourite gangster movie at the same time. A wonderful soundtrack, a great script, great cinematography, memorable and powerful performances all add up to make this an enthralling watch. There are many 'rise and fall' movies like it that owe a debt to it (Casino, Blow, American Gangster - to name three), but this is really where it's at.

* Pulp Fiction (1994):
Great script, great performances, immensely quote-worthy, dripping with cool, and it wound up the moral 'majority' when it was released. It has a power to draw you in, and while there's not a lot of boom-or-bang going on, it never lets go of your attention. While I'm a continued fan of Tarantino's work, Pulp Fiction is probably his best work - it just has 'it'.

* Rabid (1977):
I first saw it during my teenage years on a videotape bought from my local Post Office for a fiver, and it's my favourite Cronenberg film - so much so that I was delighted to be able to write an essay all about it, and Canada in the 1970s, during the Canadian & Quebecois Cinema course that I took during my time at university. Rabid is part of my long-standing fascination with, and love of, Canada (some day I hope to go there, perhaps even get a chance to work there). It's dark, it's indie, it's got a porn star in the leading role doing a bloody good job, and those final moments are nothing short of memorable. Indeed, it has recently (at the time of writing) inspired me while writing a new script.

* Shaun of the Dead (2004):
The peak of the Wright/Pegg/Frost era (thus far anyway). I may have worn myself out on it a bit now, but the zombie-fan references littered throughout are enough to make any zed-head go dizzy with delight. It's British, it's actually hilarious, and it's provided me with countless hours of entertainment ... and it was even connected to a memorable trip to the cinema - after leaving the cinema we (I was driving) got thoroughly lost in Newport for over an hour.

* Short Circuit (1986):
Yep, another one of my childhood favourites - Johnny 5 is definitely still alive, and still has the power (with the added help of a good dose of nostalgia) to utterly grasp me and never let go. During my time at university I bought the DVD and promptly sat down to give it my first viewing in many years - myself, along with a housemate, had an epic trip down memory lane. The film was (and is) so seared into my memory through repeat viewings, that I remembered practically the whole script, and could predict (and recall) the various sound effects, music cues, camera moves and so on. No wonder I loved WALL-E so much.

* Tremors (1990):
This is a favourite from my later childhood, first discovered when it was shown on BBC1 (cut at the time, though, when the Beeb were really sensitive to swearing and gore, even after the watershed). I was young enough at the time to want to emulate it - I built my own replica of the duo's battered blue truck in Lego, and while wearing my own jeans (knees ripped-through - it was the 90s), white t-shirt and burgundy shirt, I would pretend I was Kevin Bacon - or rather, his character of Val. From an older view, it has nostalgia as well as an undeniable fun factor - a modern day (at the time at least) fifties monster movie. Add in the beloved gun-toting Burt, gravel-voiced Earl, and some truly memorable deaths (the hat in the sand, the road workers, Walter Chang, etc) and what do you get? A bloody good time, is what.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Top 50 Favourite Movies Ever - Part 3...

Read Part One here:
Read Part Two here:

Again, like in Part Two, I'll be covering this 'ten block' in alphabetical order.

Top 50: #31-40

* 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968):
I originally saw it when I was a teenager, I liked it and respected it, but perhaps it was a bit before my time. Then a while ago I got the Kubrick 10-disc DVD boxset, and spent quite some time enjoying an overdose of one of cinema's most engaging and awe-inspiring directors ever. Seeing it only for the second time, about a decade after first seeing it, I found myself transfixed, dumb-struck and fascinated all at the same time - suddenly, 2001 really clicked with me - like I said, I think it was a bit before my time when I first watched it. Technically the film is a marvel, visually it is stunning, and thematically it's deeply intriguing.

* Batteries Not Included
This is one of my early childhood classics and one of my fondest movie memories from more innocent times, and one which (like other childhood favourites) I would watch over-and-over again on my videotaped copy. What is not there for a kid to love? It's packed with cute robots getting up to all sorts ... plus I was captivated as a child by the architecture of the old, crumbling building (when I was a kid I wanted to be an Architect when I grew up) and indeed, the inferno which destroys the building was of particular fascination. As a keen drawer as a kid (and until filmmaking really took over my creative time) I would produce multiple drawings of that kind of building burning down ... perhaps that sounds a bit dodgy, but it was just a childhood fascination with things being destroyed, as well as the rustic look of the place itself. Indeed, the whole part where the building burns down - as an action set-piece you might say - fascinated me as a kid. The tense build up, the danger, the desperate need to escape, the spectacle of the raging inferno and then the Phoenix-from-the-ashes revival. These days whenever I see a clip on TV I'll quickly find myself become transfixed by it all over again, finding it hard to pull myself away - an overload of nostalgia.

* Brokeback Mountain
I may have only seen it once, but it left a definite impression on me - that final melancholly shot encapsulating perfectly how and why this film was so good. Mind you, I had to wait a while until I saw it, due to the sheer volume of hype and mockery surrounding it (heck, even I produced a Brokeback style trailer for Gary Ugarek's Deadlands: The Rising before seeing Ang Lee's film). The cinematography is incredible, the frame capturing paintings rather than images. The plot is enthralling and emotional, the direction poetic, the performances open, honest and naked. It's a wonderful love story - and the fact that it's about two cowboys has nothing to do with it - it's just a love story. File this entry under the softer side of my persona.

* The 'Burbs (1989):

Yet another childhood favourite, and yet another which endured countless viewings by my young self on videotape ... and yes, another favourite involving a spectacular inferno which lays waste dramatically to an architecturally engaging house. What's more, I could perhaps trace my love of the horror genre way back to this movie, which involves horror elements - and indeed I was stunned by the clip a chainsaw-wielding maniac bursting through a wall (I would much later, when I finally saw it, make the connection that it was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - one of my favourite horror movies). The movie is filled with classic comedy lines (which I enjoy referencing with fellow 'Burbs-mad friends) and is simply so much fun to watch.

* Critters
During my early horror-viewing years (after years of taking sneaky peeks at the horror section in my local videoshop, drooling over the lurid cover art), I got to see this cheeky little horror comedy (which, yes, involves another impressive scene of house destruction). It was one of the earliest horror franchises I got into and, again, it's just a lot of fun to watch and has over the years become one of my nostalgic favourites.

* The Devil's Rejects
I've always been a Rob Zombie fan, and have thoroughly enjoyed all his movies, but it is this one which has most impressed me. Unlike many of the post-millennial pretenders, this flick really feels like a down and dirty, sleazy 1970s, balls-out, punch-in-the-face horror movie. A horror movie which is really horror. The opening siege is brilliantly put together, the cast of undesirable leads are blackly-comic and instantly iconic, the horror is gritty, nasty and serious and the DVD features the best and most in-depth 'making-of' I have ever seen (at the time of writing I am still yet to see the epic four-hour doc for Zombie's Halloween). Quite possibly the best post-2000 horror flick, and undeniably one of the best horror movies of all time.

* The Matrix (1999):
I remember going to my local independent cinema with my Dad, right in my mid-teens, to see this movie, which I had been getting increasingly excited about. That year, this was the movie you simply had to see, and it didn't disappoint. I fondly remember sitting in the theatre staring gob-smacked at the screen, I just couldn't believe what I was seeing at the time, and it is also one of the many times I went to the cinema, just my Dad and I, that I remember fondly. Watershed movie-making, regardless of the wobbly sequels (which, action-wise, still left me head-spun in the cinema a few years later).

* Escape From New York (1981):
Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken - one of his greatest roles, if not his greatest role - directed by John Carpenter when he was at the height of his game, and featuring a classic Carpenter score (like the equally superb scores for Halloween, The Fog, They Live, and Assault on Precinct 13). When I first saw it I wasn't especially impressed, but I didn't hate it ... but again, like with 2001, I guess it was just a bit before my time, and I quickly grew to love and admire this slice of expertly realised dystopian future adventure.

* Screamers
This was one of my favourites during my teenage years. It had "the dude from RoboCop", a dystopian future setting, and blood-seeking killer robots. I haven't watched it in a good while, but I saw a clip recently and it still holds great interest to me - and indeed now possesses the nostalgia factor. It's kind of hard to explain why I like it so much, but I do ... let's leave it there.

* Sin City
I love Rodriguez movies (well, not those kiddy ones he did), and Sin City is one of his which I love the most. Great source material, great style, great execution, and just a really wild, fun ride throughout. It's a little bit sleazy, a little bit tough, and bloody enjoyable.

Monday 18 May 2009

Top 50 Favourite Movies Ever - Part 2...

Read part one (including an explanation of my list) here:

Note: As there's no real order, within these "blocks of ten", I'll write about the movies in alphabetical order.

Top 50: #41-50

* All The President's Men (1976):
I have a real soft spot for 1970s cinema - the 'New Hollywood' movement as it is often referred to as - and while (at the time of writing), I've only seen this film once, it made an immediate and lingering impression on me. I love the feel and the look of the 70's newspaper office, I love the representation of true journalism being conducted (something which we, pretty much, no longer have - sadly) and beneath all the film's standing as an iconic film, at the heart it has two powerfully gripping lead performances and a quality script to match. This film is one which defines not only cinema, but America in the 1970s.

* American Psycho (2000):
I would dearly love this film to be longer - that's how enjoyable it is to watch. Christian Bale is absolutely electrifying as a Yuppy version of Norman Bates via Leatherface - Patrick Bateman. It exudes a genuine upper-crust menace, at the same time as acting as a Wall Street-like nostalgia trip. It is also, a genuinely good adaptation of the source novel - which in itself is a brilliantly dark piece of fiction. I saw the movie long before I ever read the book, and bloody nora - I thought the movie was edgy at the time, but the book is damn near pornographic in its brutality, flair and cultural awareness.

* Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984):
Of all the big-name slasher-masters, Jason is my favourite, and of all the Friday 13th movies I would have to say that Part IV is my all-round favourite. The characters are entertaining, Tom Savini returns to deliver the splatter, it features the best non-Hodder version of Jason, and the look and style of the movie is one that takes me back to my formative years when I was first seeing a variety of horror classics at a time when here in Britain, we were on the cusp between draconian censorship and liberal viewing.

* Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956):
There are few movies which can routinely send shivers up and down my spine with every viewing, but this is one of them. The crisp black & white visuals, the McCarthyism/Communism backdrop is fascinating, and the simple terror in being at home with the ones you know and love, but who you know are no longer who you knew them to be - and all the while, nobody like you left will believe you.

* The Money Pit (1986):
I have fond memories of when I was a mere boy sitting in the TV room, on my favourite sofa, watching my VHS recording of Tom Hanks wrestle his way up a collapsing staircase. At the time I wasn't much interested in the plot or the characters so much as I was purely and simply entertained by a couple's comedic battle with their collapsing house. As such it became one of "the few" - a series of movies I would watch repeatedly as a child with absolute fascination.

* No Country For Old Men (2007):
While I'm not a rabid Cohen Brothers fan, the films of theirs I have seen have never failed to impress me. I never saw their apparent fall from grace with the likes of The Ladykillers remake, but indeed - this film saw them strike back with all the cinematic skill that they possess. As a student of film the movie is a fascinating watch - the mechanics and the construction of it are ideal examples of filmmaking methods - but as a movie-going audience member, the film is a real treat to watch. The cinematography on it's own - by Roger Deakins - is an absolute pleasure to behold. Indeed, in the same year The Assassination of Jesse James (also lensed by Deakins) was released, and was equally beautiful ... as if the filmmakers had used oil paints, rather than celluloid to compose their visuals. The slow-drawl accented leads, the obsession over practical operations in the pursuit of acquiring the money in the suitcase throughout, and the melancholly meander of the plot are all superb.

* Rambo (2008):
This movie is one of those which has become something of continued fun for my male friends and I. In 2008 it was the first film that really kicked off our very regular cinema trips, and that in itself had its own little adventure - a last minute dash from Newport (which was closed with no water) to Cardiff, running to the city-centre cinema and parking our butts literally as the distributor logo faded in. But in and of itself, Rambo is simply ideal movie viewing for the blokes out there - plus the true-to-life ballistics are stunning, and it ticks all the right action movie boxes. Rambo has become a movie for my circle of cinema-going chums of constant reference.

* Sunshine (2007):
I was never really aware of this movie before it came out, and even then I didn't know a lot about it, except the basic plot and that it was from Danny Boyle. However, when I was sat there in the cinema, in the dark, with the surround sound effect in full force ... I have to say that I've rarely experienced a film that has had such a visceral and physical impact on me. The music, the editing, the pacing, the stunning visuals - they all grew together in choice moments to leave me literally gripping my chair rests, my heart actually thumping through my chest, and my eyes welling up due to me being so transfixed on the screen. The impact of these moments left me trembling, and still do.

* United 93 (2006):
Of the few films which have come out that are about the horrible events of September 11th, it has only been Greengrass' restless-camera, docu-like, minute-by-tense-minute punch to the face that has left any real and tangible impact upon me. The film masterfully crescendoes in the final moments thanks to meticulous pacing and suspense building - and it was in those final moments - with me just sat there watching it in an office chair on my computer screen one afternoon - that I involuntarily punched the air and screamed "get those motherfuckers!". Not in a dumb-dumb xenophobic way, but in a way that I almost felt like I was on the plane charging the terrorists myself - the sheer rush of adrenaline totally consumed me and left me quivering for minutes after the stunning cut to black. This wasn't a one-time feeling, having re-viewed that one final scene on its own, I had the exact same feeling and rush of emotions. Truly, genuinely, and honestly powerful filmmaking.

* WALL.E (2008):
One of my childhood favourites is Short Circuit, which features a cute, loveable, bug-eyed robot. At the age of 24, I was again able to tap into that same sense of fun and emotional investment with an even cuter, even more loveable and bug-eyed robot - WALL-E. Pixar have produced many great animated films over the years - but recently Cars and Ratatouille just didn't do it for me, they looked great, but that was it, I wasn't laughing and I wasn't emotionally invested - but WALL-E came along and changed all that and took me back to, not only classic Pixar, but my own childhood. Also, from the perspective of a student of film, WALL-E is a fascinatingly beautiful piece of work. The attention to detail in the visuals, as well as the CGI camerawork (helped by instruction from Roger Deakins), and the simple-but-effective plot have all left distinct and long-lasting impressions on me.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Top 50 Favourite Movies Ever - Part 1...

Welcome to blogpost #300, and as something a little more special, I'm going to do a run down of my most favourite ever movies. I'll explain a little bit about why each movie is on the list, but first I should explain the criteria for the list...vague as that criteria is anyway.

1) Ideally I should have seen the movie more than once.
2) The movie should hold a special place in my movie-loving heart.
3) The movie should be so good that I can really only describe how awesome it is by making a exhaling/gasping sound...a sound that suggests "it's just that awesome."

There will be six blogposts covering my top films of all time - all time being up to the end of 2008, that is.

Each post will list 10 films - a Top 10, Top 20, Top 30, Top 40 and Top 50, plus an "Honourable Mentions" 10 ... however, while these segments of ten are in an order, the films within each 'block of ten' are not in any particular order - it was as close as I could get. With a personal collection of almost 1,500 films (at the time of writing), it's the best I could do - it was simply hard enough just getting the 'blocks of ten' organised!

So without further fuss...

Honourable Mentions
(the films that didn't quite make it into my Top 50):

* Seven (1995):
Visually striking, perfect direction, and one of the few movies I've ever seen which STILL creeps me the fuck out even after every viewing - just thinking about the guy in the bed alone wigs me out, not to mention the gluttony victim. A film so relentlessly dark, gritty and tough, that it can only be admired and feared at the same time.

* Vanishing Point (1971):
One of the best car movies ever made, and while I've only seen it once so far (I plan to re-watch it soon), it gripped me throughout, and let that gaspy/exhaling impression on me. It embodies the indie spirit of seventies cinema, the Dodge Challenger is a gorgeous slab of vehicle, and it's simply a pure joy to watch.

* From Dusk Till Dawn (1996):
It's a shame we never got to see the Joe Pilato/Robert Kurtzman version of this movie - the promo, accompanied by AC/DC's "Hell's Bells", suggested pure class would have followed...but regardless, the combination of Rodriguez and Tarantino is 100% gold. Few movies that are so clearly split down the middle of their running time end up working spectacularly well, but FDTD is a gleefully gory romp - a bit budget, modern day grindhouse extravaganza.

* American History X (1998):
Testament to the power of this controversial film, the mere use of suggestion and audio to convey the skull-crushing boot stomp of Norton's pre-prison neo-Nazi, is enough to make me recoil every time. Atmospheric and gritty black & white mixes well with the present day colour portions, while the performances are powerful across the board. There are few films out there which exhibit this amount of power to move - to anger - to demoralise - to uplift - to induce sorrow, and pity.

* Animal House (1978):
I saw this R-Rated comedy genre hallmark after having seen many films and TV shows which were inspired by it (or which ripped it off), and yet despite being fairly familiar with the formula (as a result of those previously-seen movies), Animal House still raised guffaws-a-plenty. A comedy classic.

* The Warriors (1979):
The script couldn't have been particularly thick, nor that deep, but the involving atmosphere of a gang-ridden New York at night - replete with funky 70's soundtrack - is surprisingly good. Such a film, if made today, would no doubt be trash ... but there's just something about The Warriors which consumes you as you watch it. Plus it further exhibits that fast-and-loose 70's cinematic vibe that produced so many genre classics during the decade.

* Last House on the Left (1972):
It's only just been released fully uncut in the UK in 2009, but this has only added to the sheer power of Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham's down and dirty, sleazy slice of fleapit horror. Plenty of kiddywinks obsessed with SAW V and shoddy remakes of classics will no doubt mock the film, but so what - the true fans (of the film, but also of the horror genre in general, as well as cinema full stop) recognise the importance of this Vietnam-weary glut of perversion. The backstory to the film itself is the stuff of cinema legend, let alone the film itself ... enough said really.

* In Bruges (2008):
Few black comedies really work ... they're not particularly funny, nor especially dark (like Observe & Report, for instance) ... but the wonderfully foul-mouthed and non-PC In Bruges is truly hilarious and truly, moment-freezingly dark. A brilliant script and a superb array of actors further cemented this film as one which made me laugh uproariously one moment, and then gasp in shock the next, before effortlessly making me split my sides all over again.

* Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003):
I've never read the book, and only got to see Two Towers in the cinema, but regardless - what really sticks with me about these films is the massively impressive job Peter Jackson did of directing this epic saga throughout. To command such an intricate story, and such an elaborate production, is nothing short of stunning ... and the films are good too!

* Napoleon Dynamite (2004):
I was introduced to this movie by one of my housemates in the final months I spent at university - and specifically, right in the midst of the fallout of "a bit of a to-do" between myself and another housemate (long story) - and yet this little indie chuckler trampled through the tension in the air and dispelled it permanently. We all gained so much joy from it in our house, that we watched it repeatedly - quoting it near-verbatim from start-to-finish - for weeks upon weeks until we all parted company when uni was over. As such, I have never re-watched the movie since; only watching the odd clip whenever it's on TV ... for me I guess, the movie burned very bright for a very short period of time, and as such it is one of my all-time most memorable films.

X-Men 3...

It's been nice being so late to the X-Men party, because I've been able to enjoy the three-movie run inside a week. A run which has come hot-off-the-heels of the Wolverine movie, and as I've gotten further through the X-Men movie saga, the more I've gotten into it.

I've grown increasingly fond of the first two movies in the past few days since seeing them for the first time ever, and indeed it further cemented Singer's place as a director of quality ... despite that wobble with Superman Returns.

It's a shame then that the quality direction and writing of X1 and X2 didn't hang around for X3 ... because there's a considerable drop in quality in those departments.

The only area where X3 improves on the first two, is in terms of special effects and stuff generally blowing up - everywhere else, it falters seriously at best, and completely goes arse over tit at worst. Instead of trying to write cohesively, I'll just blurt out my complaints/thoughts as they come to me, in a list (it's been about 3 hours, at the time of writing, since I saw X3 for the first time).

* Cyclops has sod all to do before getting killed off out of the blue - lame.

* The 'reason' for Jean Grey not dying is lame.

* The "20 years ago" sequence is actually pretty cool - the 'youthing' of Xavier and Magneto is particularly impressive, and puts the appearance of a 'younger Xavier' in Wolverine to shame alright.

* Gee, let me guess, Rogue's going to get rid of her powers so she can play tonsil-hockey with Ice-Boy ('Man') ... and she bloody well does - thus pissing all over one of the core points in the X-Men series which is, 'don't be ashamed of who you are, and don't let anyone make you think you should change yourself' ... the alternate ending where she didn't go through with changing herself made far more sense.

* Xavier gets killed off - again - lame, plus he didn't seem to have sod all chance. So that's two awesome characters slain in the first half.

* The opening battle is cool - and brave - until you find out it's a simulation, gee, I wonder when that'll come in handy - yes, at the end, surprised? No.

* There's so many characters, and so little running time, that everybody is skimped over completely to the point where most of it doesn't make a lot of sense amidst the constant onslaught of shit blowing up.

* Magneto losing his power is an interesting plot point, although it's tossed into the last ten minutes, but fortunately some quality acting from McKellan makes the best of a bad situation.

* Mystique - yet another character dispensed with willy-nilly (or should that be titty-witty?) - I understand the point of it in the plot, but it's all so rushed - and then she's forgotten about for sodding ages until we get one brief glimpse at a monitor of her apparently giving away the location of Magneto's random woodland camp for his army (why are they in the woods?)

* This bald kid who saps people's powers - he's part of the reason for the entire plot, yet he's barely on screen - then he's rescued from that facility at the end so he can be promptly forgotten about entirely like the actually pointless character that he was.

* Pyro is an even bigger douche than he ever was.

* "I don't swim" - well then steal a boat, or have Magneto float you over the sea on a big sheet of metal - why go to the huge effort of uprooting the famous San Francisco bridge? Clearly (painfully so), it's a meaningless set-piece.

* Yes, throw a ton of flaming cars from the same bridge, but then show a full bridge (chock-a-block of headlights) in the wide shot. Stupid mistake there.

* Blimey, it's Ellen Page.

* Kelsey Grammar's not got a lot to do ... like everyone else ... ah, finally he punches someone.

* Numerous, clunking lines of expositionary dialogue yank you right out of the movie.

* Vinnie Jones ... looking like a giant walking cock ... they even have Ellen Page call him a "dick head" ... geeeeez.

* So Jones' dude can be restrained by thick metal clamps over his limbs and torso in a truck, but encasing him chest-deep in solid concrete does sod all - despite his power being reliant on momentum? Not a lot of sense going on here...but that's what you get in a rushed, hatched-job script.

* The ending they chose is about the best you could get (despite Rogue's stupid decision to lose her power - surely she's no longer eligible to attend the school), but the fact that there's three alternate endings simply goes to show that they had fuck all idea what they wanted in the script.

* That winged dude - what was the point of him? He's one of the least developed characters, and he's purely there to play the same lines we've seen before in X1 and X2 - "mutant is ashamed of self / mutant finds a home at the school / mutant saves the one who disrespected him/her so much in the first place" - an entirely pointless character given sod all to do.

* Fortunately, Hugh Jackman remains the most watchable and best part of X-Men (for me at least, but also many others I think - hence X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

* Tin Man - nifty power, but underacted, underwritten, and generally side-lined ... yes, like almost every other character.

* The final scene is an odd thing - the final punch isn't carried off as well as it could have been, it falls flat for some reason, despite the thankfully subtle nature of the last moment ... but what does work very well is McKellen, who brings some of that Royal Shakespeare Company gravitas to his (and the movie's) final scene. Magneto - robbed of his powers - sits all alone in a park full of old codgers playing chess in pairs, his face full of loneliness and despair. You feel sorry for him, despite him thoroughly deserving it (his cold-hearted ditching of Mystique is reason enough alone - and she was a villainess too!)

That's about all I can think of, off the top of my head, but it's as I figured. I thought X2 was great stuff, so - according to the common theme of reviews online - I was bound to be rather let down by X3 ... and I was. Also, as I'd figured, X3 is the "all action, and basically bugger all else" third act to X1's efficient, introductory first act and X2's grandiose, gap-filling second act.

X3 comes as a real shame - a duff cap-off to two excellent superhero movies which had brain and braun - X3 is as dumb and blunt as Vinnie Jones' Juggernaut. I also wasn't pleased with them killing off not only Cyclops, but Xavier and Jean Grey as well - it felt too harsh, and missing any kind of real redemption.

In the end though, the movie's flaws all come down to the script and the direction. The script is rushed, lacking, confused and misguided with no real direction. The direction is nothing special ... it's paint-by-numbers, it's formulaic, it's mechanical.

When compared to the writing and direction of X1 and X2, there's no similarities to be made on those two fronts, X3 simply fails to meet the standard set by those who came before.

Still ... the action was entertaining (despite the context), Wolverine continued to pwn everything, and the leads all brought their acting chops to the table and more than upheld their part of the deal.

And that was post #299, fact fans - next up, I'll do a run down (in ascending order) of my all time favourite movies (plus, and starting with, the honourable mentions list).

Saturday 16 May 2009

Another script update...

Well, act two is now done - so I'm onto act three, which has gotten off to a good start.

Although, throughout the writing of this script, I've found myself struggling to pick up a continual pace ... not sure why, it's odd really as this script is far shorter than my previous one (for zombie epic The End).

Anyway, hopefully I'll have a creative spurt and I'll pimp out the rest of the script easily, but yeah ... I've been weirdly struggling in creative terms when it comes to writing this script. Regardless, the important thing is to make it a good script, and hopefully it is a good script - I think so anyway - I know, not a large audience - lulzorz - but my point being, if I thought it was shit, I wouldn't be spending time on it.

Well there we are, a little update - fingers crossed for a creative stint, eh?


Also, this is post #298 - I'm thinking of doing, for #300 (and a few after that), a little run down of my Top Films of All Time. I recently sat down and really had a think about it, but I could never quite get it into a proper numbered list - instead I got a list of five 10-spots, with a bonus "honourable mentions" list of another 10 ... but the lists of 10 are at least organised in order, but within each 10-spot there's not much order of preference - with so many favourite movies in mind, it was hard enough to just get what I did manage.

So aye - I think I'll do a series of posts listing those titles (one post per 10-spot), and I'll write a little bit about each one and why it's so revered by me.

Alright, enough talk...more editing to do.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

X-Men 2...

Clearly, the success of Spider-Man is written all over X2 - the increased budget, the far more expansive plot, the greater investment in character arcs and so on.

That said, X2 does walk a bit of a wobbly tight-rope between deeply-plot-driven, and simply-too-talky. The action is upped, but so is the running time by a considerable degree - and for the first half anyway, there's not a lot of bang to balance out the character exposition.

Then, particularly in the somewhat overlong third act, the pendulum swings in the completely opposite direction and large scale action mostly takes centre stage.

I've heard mixed reactions to X2 and X3 (I'm still yet to see X3) - some love X2 but hate X3, and some are of completely the opposite view. X2-wise, I did think it was perhaps a bit uneven - some more action earlier on, and less later on would have balanced the whole movie out ... and just thinking about it, the character arcs are a little bit mixed. Understandably, with so many characters, you're going to run into a problem of fleshing people out - I've experienced the issue myself when I was writing a script which had a whole list of characters - but what you do find is that some characters are underdeveloped, and even the ones who take centre stage find themselves cut adrift somewhat.

Mind you, I think X2 works - overall - better than X1 ... not that X1 was bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. X2 certainly feels far more epic, and the budget level feels far more suited to the plot this time around, when compared to X1 and I think that's where the difference lies.

Also, it's quite clear that X2 is the "second act" of a deliberate three-movie run ... and no doubt that's why there has been a varied response from fans. The second act is always the largest, and the one where the most exposition occurs. X1 - the first act in the trilogy, essentially - sets things up efficiently (although you do feel it would have benefitted from a larger budget), and X3 (which I am, at the time of writing, still yet to see) will be - I'd assume - the fairly efficient wham-bam third act loose-ends tie-up of the whole lot.

While X2 might be a bit flabby, it takes what X2 did and takes the simple notion of "more is more" and runs with it quite successfully - more plot, more characterisation, more action. Next up, let's see what X3 is like ... although it not being Singer branded X-Men, and having Vinnie Jones in a daft-looking costume, doesn't do it many favours from a pre-viewing stand point.

That said, I'll no doubt enjoy it - particularly as a three-movie closer - but, like Spider-Man 3, it will no doubt be "not as good as the first two".


What with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I figured it was about time to catch up on the X-Men movies, so I nabbed myself the 6-disc DVD boxset, and have set about pouring over the flicks.

I liked X-Men ... it's no Spider-Man or Batman Begins (in my view), but it's better than other superhero movies. It's quite well structured, the plot is decent (although it does flag a bit when they start fighting on Liberty Island), but these days it's not the most action-packed superhero movie.

It's like the original Batman movie from 1989 - Burton's flick is positively sedate, and Batman Returns is even more-so - although X-Men has more action than Batman, but I just made the connection as they're the first in a series (if you set aside the campy Batman movie from the sixties), but they also pre-date (by years, or by months) the time when superhero flicks really kicked off grand style.

Spider-Man was one of the first really huge superhero movies - and now we have the likes of The Dark Knight with it's hugest ever hype machine (which it lived up to), and Spider-Man 3 with it's truly epic budget.

X-Men, on the other hand, is a much more moderate affair. Yes, there's a good amount of action, but it's not especially long, nor particularly grandious - what it is, is efficient.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Script and editing update May 12th '09...

Well From The Inside Out is still continuing, although I have been going through a bit of a dry spell with the creativity...that said, I finished the second draft of the second act today - so that means I can get onto the third act, and that means I can soon have it finished and then start on the treatment, and then start putting the treatment out there.


Editing wise, it continues apace - it's coming together nicely, like I said, the films are even better than last year's Sex & Ethics films, so yeah - it's good.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine...

I never saw any of the X-Men movies when they came out, but what with having a consistent posse of mates to go on frequent cinema trips with, there's so many movies to go and see - two of the group were really looking forward to Wolverine - and I thought it looked like fun, so off we went.

In the end, the two who were really looking forward to it came away a bit disappointed (I figured they would, the way they were banging on about it everytime the trailer was shown).

This said, it's not trash, it's a good bit of fun and I had fun watching it - despite not being someone who read the comic books, nor watched the kids cartoon (although I do remember the themetune, recently heard for the first time in years at a birthday party), and - when I saw Wolverine in the cinema - I had not seen the X-Men movies either.

Mind you, this being an origin story, it's not necessary - and indeed, I can view it in chronological order - Origins first, then the X-Men movies - and indeed, I've now seen the first X-Men movie (I got the 6-disc box set for a few quid, probably like a lot of other folk who love a bargain in a recession).

Action wise, Wolverine was packing heat - I've seen hotter action, but I've also seen far colder action ... if I dare draw that dodgy metaphor any further ... but I did think that in the last 30 minutes plot mostly went out of the window and was replaced by punching. Enjoyable punching, but also a little bit lacking.

Also, I would have very much liked the 'Wolverine through the ages' war montage (Civil War through Vietnam) to have been it's own 15 minute segment. I felt like the point where Wolverine 'goes solo' came far too quickly - we were there inside 15 minutes, when it really should have been at the 30 minute marker.

Or am I just seeking indulgence - the sight of Logan, chomping on a cigar, Thompson machine gun in hand, stepping off a troop transport onto the Normandy beaches was made of "pure win", quite frankly. More of that please, a little bit of indulgence now and then is a good thing after all.

For someone, such as I, who hasn't seen anything X-Men before (but was aware of it), Origins fills in all the right blank spots at the same time as acting as good fodder for the fans. Hugh Jackman is an absolute joy to watch as Wolverine (heck, the man just has the X factor ... and I don't mean having that shitty tv show taped on his DVR), it never truly stumbles (but it never truly thrills your pants off) and generally, well, it's a solid effort.

That whole bit where Logan was charging about on the motorbike was awesome though, as was the whole war montage.

Thursday 7 May 2009

The Negotiator, a decade-in-the-coming, and a rant about Pan & Scan...

I've seriously had this on tape since the middle of 1999, and I've never gotten around to it. On the very same day I also got the Kurt Russell movie Soldier - which I watched that very day - but for some reason I left The Neogitator for another time, no doubt I had plenty of ... well, no wait, it was the summer holidays of 1999 so it was too early for mock GCSE exams later that year, and a good 9 months-ish until I'd actually have to do my GCSEs.

I don't know, something summer holiday-ish must have come up and I never got around to it - and then, no doubt, other movies came along and got watched instead, and indeed some movies came along and got taped but never watched ... of those, some have been watched years later for the first time, and some have still not been watched all these years later.

There's so many movies out there.

So anyway - I've been meaning to watch The Negotiator for a very long time - and a few days ago, I finally did.

What did I make of it? Well, it's nothing special, but it's not shite. It kept me watching, I enjoyed all the 'negotiator procedure' stuff (they could have perhaps done with a little more of it), I got a little lost in the embezlement plot towards the end though, and Sam Jackson and Kevin Spacey played their parts well. Slap in a wodge of action and you've got a good, solid thriller. It's worth a watch, put simply.

One thing though, my copy is - considering this was from way back in 1999 - in that god-awful thing known as Pan & Scan, which many of my old recordings are in. Sometimes it's not so bad, but other times it's REALLY bad (one example that comes to mind is Short Circuit - both my recording of it, and a recent airing on Channel 5 were horribly butchered by Pan & Scan ... it's quite possibly the worst example of Pan & Scan at work, if you can call it working) ... but The Negotiator never really suffered too much from Pan & Scan, although it was evident at certain times.

It's funny, I think back to 'the day' (as in "back in the..."), and Pan & Scan originally didn't occur to me at all. It's hardly surprising as the vast majority of movies I saw when I was a kid and in my younger years were in Pan & Scan, and that was the only way I'd ever seen them. It's only been thanks to DVD that I've been able to see movies in their proper aspect ratio (a much better way to view things - and my Short Circuit DVD preserves the 2.35:1 ratio, lovely) ... mind you, I do object to the use of widescreen on DVDs being some sort of selling tool when they could (and did) sell movies in widescreen on video (my 1992 Directors Cut of Blade Runner, for example, is in widescreen on video).

The use of Pan & Scan was one of the reasons why the image quality of video was always a bit rough - of course it was going to be rough, if you zoom in on an image it will degrade, and that's what Pan & Scan did. But widescreen movies or Sky TV recordings on video don't look too bad, they're not DVD quality, but they're not bad by any means...I guess it all comes down to those pesky "corporations, being all ... corporationy".

So, getting back on track, I never had a problem with Pan & Scan until I was educated by getting to see movies in widescreen on TV, or on videos, or in the cinema and then mainly on DVD. Indeed, there's a great little featurette on the Die Hard 2-disc DVD that explains Pan & Scan, and as a result why it's so shit. It is odd, however, that I never really made the link - you see a movie in the cinema and it's in widescreen, then you see it on the telly and it's in 4:3 - but then again, you're not thinking about the ratio, you're just thinking about the movie itself.

It's only been a relatively recent (but years long now) development in my movie-viewing and wider film education that showed me the light all those years ago ... much like with Kevin Smith, who recently reminisced about how he was educated by a friend in the ways of Pan & Scan versus true, original widescreen.


Mind you, I do find myself making these educational DVDs and using a whole host of public domain information films which were originally shot in 4:3, and having to crop them to 1.85:1 ... but it's easy to retain the necessary visual information, and it'd just look shoddy to be constantly cutting sharply between 4:3 and 1.85:1 (either way) ... and it'd be daft in this day-and-age of widescreen-as-the-standard to produce a series of films in 4:3, when 16x9/1.85:1 is the industry standard.

However, many of these 4:3 films in question were shot with a lot of space in the top and bottom of the frame, so it works out in the end - and, if I'm not mistaken, thanks to Sony Vegas' method of cropping, you're not actually zooming in on the image - I essentially edit in 4:3 letterbox widescreen (so with a 4:3 image, which is un-zoomed, you cut off the top and bottom - re-aligning to your heart's desire - and then once you're all done you can then take that 4:3 letterbox image and render out a true 16x9 file, by simply telling Vegas to do so - it just slices off the black bars).

In terms of my own short filmmaking though (such as "Signing Off"), I'm sticking with 2.35:1 - a very simple trick that makes an ordinary DV short look far more 'film-like', then colour it and you're sorted - the difference between what you started out with and what you end up with, is remarkable.


So yeah ... somewhere in all that was a bit about The Negotiator, ha!

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Valkerie, accents and the Germans...

I wasn't expecting Valkyrie to be good at all - the main bug-bear was the cast of Brits & Americalanders playing Germans, while using their native accents ... something which went very wrong with the movie The Bunker, where German soldiers all sound like they're either from Lahndahn, or The Norf.

Then, while not trying to be part of the "only as good as your last movie" brigade, Superman Returns (Singer's previous movie) was a complete load of pish ... plus, let's be honest, Scientology is a huge red arrow that points away from Tom Cruise's actual acting talent ... and the tabloid coverage of him, his missus and their celebrity spawn doesn't help much either.

So - with sights set decidedly low - I ultimately thought that Valkyrie was pretty good over all. I'll take events depicted with a pinch of salt - Hollywood, afterall, was the gang of pretty boys who stole the Enigma machine apparently (when in fact it was the British ... bloody U-571) ... ... anyway, I was quite surprised to find that this movie was really quite tense - even though you know what happens (well, most of it anyway - the state of modern education is shocking) - and yes, you can even get past Cruise the Couch Jumper, and find Cruise the Actor instead.

The actor who was so good in Born On The Fourth Of July, the actor who was gripping in Eyes Wide Shut - that guy is on screen, although admittedly having an eye patch and only two fingers and a thumb also help add to the illusion.

Mind you, it is a bit distracting when Eddie Izzard crops up and gets all shouty in the bathroom as it became eerily close to some of his (hilarious, by the way) stand-up comedy. I was half-expecting a lampooned James Mason as the voice of God routine.

What wasn't as distracting, however, was the actor's native accents ... well, not as distracting as I'd been expecting - but it was still right there in your face ... along with Bill Nighy's trade mark twitching.

Tension, though, is the film's strongest suit, and it was during the scenes showing the preparation, process and failed execution of the plans which provided the most wear to my seat's proverbial edge.

However, I recently (and finally) got to see the German language film Downfall - the meticulously detailed, decidedly non-Hollywood account of Hitler's final days in his doom-laden bunker. Now, quite frankly, that's how it should be done. The main problem with Valkyrie, is that it's decidedly Hollywood - perhaps not as Hollywood as say the likes of History-raping U-571, but it's all quite flashy and pretty looking. Downfall is about the darkest time of the darkest era in Germany's history, made by Germans and in the German language. It feels authentic, as well as being both endlessly gripping and morbidly fascinating.

Valkyrie on the other hand, surprisingly enjoyable as it is, is like History by Coca Cola ... History with a Pinch of Salt ... still, at least it's not the usual sort of 'Historic' garbage peddled by Tinseltown.

On a final note, perhaps it's best for each country to make war movies about their own side - it always feels vaguely inaccurate, or even wide-of-the-mark when one country covers another country's side in a battle. The Americans make (and have made many great ones) war movies about American boys fighting the bad guys ... but if I want a movie about the German side, I want it in German and made by Germans - and you know what, I want the same for the other countries. Quite simply, you can't truly represent someone else's side without being a part of that very culture.

Valkyrie, as I've said, is a decent movie. But Downfall's native viewpoint feels like something you could legitimately show in schools, and perhaps it has been. I know I watched Schindler's List twice in High School - once in History and once in Religious Studies - but I don't imagine any kids will be seeing Valkyrie in class anytime soon (although with the current state of education - thanks Blair, Brown, Balls et al - I wouldn't be surprised if they did), but I would fully support them getting a look-see at the bloody brilliant Downfall.

Monday 4 May 2009

Slasher flick revisiting, and Nightmare on Elm Street 4,5,6,7...

So I've been into a right old slasher flick rampage of late - what with the Friday 13th and My Bloody Valentine remakes coming out, it got me thinking about revisiting some of the slasher flicks I'd only seen once or twice on DVDs that were otherwise collecting dust on my DVD shelves - I'll point out that I saw Friday 13th 2009 in the cinema back in February, which is when this slasher revisiting rampage started.

I'll also point out that back in my teenage years, and then again during my time at uni when DVD exploded big time, I was frequently watching slasher flicks ... and that last year I had a whole Halloween franchise revisit ... but you know how it is, there's so many movies out there, that you just happen to stop watching certain flicks or certain sub-genres for a while through no actual intention, it's just how it goes.

Anyway - I started off, after the Friday 13th remake, with My Bloody Valentine (the original), then there was (in no particular order), Madman, Nightmare In A Damaged Brain, The Burning, and Maniac ... then I fished out Friday 13th Part 5 as I'd only seen it once on the DVD that had otherwise been sat around for a few years not getting watched at this point ... then I got the His Name Was Jason DVD, which in itself was great, and in a wider context got me all hot and bothered to rewatch some of the Friday 13th flicks again - I ended up doing all of them (but not in full chronological order, oddly enough).

Then a poll on Homepage of the Dead - about picking your favourite slasher icon (Jason, Freddy, Michael or Leatherface) got me intrigued in going back to Nightmare on Elm Street 4 through 7 - movies I'd only seen once-a-piece many years ago (the first three I've seen more than once each though), so, without further delay, some thoughts...

Nightmare 4: The Dream Master - it's pretty tame, the kids are annoying, they're poorly written, Freddy is miles away from being scary or intimidating, and I just couldn't help but be continually annoyed (for this and the two following movies) by the lead telling all their friends about Freddy - if they didn't do so, their friends wouldn't have a clue about Freddy, so therefore the lead is murdering their chums by proxy ... silly bastards. Also - Freddy raps in the credits ... oh dear lord.

Nightmare 5: The Dream Child - thoroughly sick of "Dream" sub-titles now, plus it's a direct follow-on from #4, which was naff anyway - plus, it's decidedly NOT scary ... while the dream elements are creative, I don't find them scary, nor especially interesting ... also, how come everybody falls asleep in the blink of an eye? I wish I could do that, but no, it always takes at least ten or twenty minutes to actually drift off. Plus, Freddy is far from scary or intimidating - he's just stupid, but still the best part of the movie ... then, once again, more end credits rapping - geeeeeeeez.

Nightmare 6 ... or rather Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare - oh my fuckbeans, this is bad ... I mean really, really bad. It's not scary (again), the dream sequences have gotten more ludicrous and downright shit (such as the videogame sequence with a horrendous Power Glove advert-cum-spoof), Freddy is a complete joke, the script is awful, the acting is pish - especially by that black-haired woman who turns out to be *sigh* Freddy's daughter from when he tried to 'be a family man' (with added childhood abuse flashbacks for extra cheese) ... she is really shit - "aaaaaaaarrrrggghhhh ... oh wait, my hair's flopped over my right eye, let me break the moment completely and move it out of the way ... ahem ... aaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh" ... I mean for fuck sake ... then there's that bullshit with the 3D glasses.

Oh, and the bullshit about killing Freddy - with a few knives and a pipe bomb - WHAT THE FUCK?! That's how you kill him? If you can't kill him by burying his bones in sacred ground, or by that weird shit in the church in #4, or whatever it was in #5, how is a few knives and a pipe bomb gonna do it?

Nightmare 7 ... or rather Wes Craven's New Nightmare - a pre-cursor to Scream in many ways, it's actually quite interesting, but sadly it takes too long to really get moving. I feel it could have been 15 minutes tighter with ease, or how about putting a bit more Freddy into it - who, while only really there in the second half, is finally scary again - no more Power Glove gags, no more rapping, no more "oh just forget he was a child killing kiddy fiddler as we sell soft toys of him to children far too young to watch these movies" - no - he's bad ass once again, rocking a kick ass trench coat and boots and sporting a genuinely fucked up face (the make up in 4 through 6 was crap) ... the dude's scary again.

Now - as is the trend - A Nightmare On Elm Street is getting remade. Is this necessary? Of course not, but it's happening, and at least they've got the dude that played the decidedly messed-in-the-head Rorschach filling the sharp-fingered one's boots. Let's hope they at least make it scary, and make Freddy a dark and disturbing figure.