Wednesday, 30 September 2009
While he's not reinventing any wheels with this sleazy little flick, he is having an absolute laugh - it's a veritable who's who of Rob Zombie film regulars, horror icons and horror movie references, nods, winks and prods - plus it's got tons of cartoon boobs in it and zombie Nazis.
If you'll remember from my thoughts on the bloody excellent Dead Snow, if you've got zombie Nazis in your flick, then you're pretty much golden, and fortunately El Superbeasto is bloody good fun.
Some of the gags stray wide of the mark, or feel a tad out-dated, but it moves at such a pace that any flaws are quickly paved over with another sleaze-filled scene of boob-surrounded violence. Plus the song during Suzi X's first big battle with the zombie Nazis had me laughing out loud as I sat there all on my tod watching this cheeky feature.
To be fair, it isn't all from the fevered mind of Rob Zombie - there's a variety of additional directors, writers and sequence-specific staff, but RZ is the lead writer and director, so regardless, it feels very much his baby, and as such there are a few nods to his own work.
Not only does Michael Myers (a la Rob Zombie) crop up at one point, but we also find Otis, Baby and Captain Spaulding hanging out in a hellish bar surrounded by monsters galore - and yes, Sid Haig and Bill Moseley return to their roles. Also, there's the inclusion of werewolf Nazis - like those in his ideal-for-a-trailer "Werewolf Women of the SS" for the Grindhouse project ... and that's just the tip of the ice berg.
Character wise, there's something for everyone - from Tom Papa's (who was also co-writer) ego-fuelled Beasto to Sheri Moon Zombie's sexy 'n' sassy Suzi X, from Rosario Dawson's foul-mouthed sex bomb Velvet Von Black to Paul Giamatti's tantrum-fuelled Dr Satan, and Brian Posehn's horny-as-all-hell Murray.
The voice talent throughout is top notch, and it's full of names - just a quick squizz on the IMDb page reveals some of the other aural treats that are in store for you: Danny Trejo, Harland Williams, Clint Howard, Dee Wallace, Geoffrey Lewis, John Di Maggio, and Ken Foree among others.
A bloody good laugh, it's only a shame the DVD didn't have a greater variety of extras - all you get are deleted scenes & shots, as well as alternate scenes (which at the time of writing I am yet to see) - but even still, it's a must-see for Rob Zombie fans, and it's highly recommended for those who enjoy a delve into RZ's craziest cartoon images ... it's almost like a White Zombie album cover come to life, come to think of it.
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Fortunately, Surrogates is a damn sight better than both the history-raper, and the T-raper - so that's good news.
What's more, is Surrogates - despite being a PG-13 - plays it's central plot more skillfully than last week's Gamer. The two movies have something in common - that of people being enabled to become who they want to be. In Surrogates it's everyday people spending their entire lives living through a robot (a "surrogate"), and in Gamer it's a bunch of everyday gamers and web freaks living out their fantasies online through real-live, brain-controlled people.
Not only that, but a grubby fat guy pretending to be an attractive woman.
Unfortunately, at a rather slim 88 minutes, there's only time for the central plot and that alone. This means action, and pretty much just action - therefore, it never stood a chance of being properly good sci-fi. The definition of which, oft-said by Mark Kermode (and I'd have to agree wholeheartedly), is that really good sci-fi is never about what it appears to be ... for example, District 9 appears to be about aliens and people exploding, when in fact it's all about immigration, race relations and apartheid. However, if you just want to have fun watching humans explode, then you're fully within your rights to do so.
With Surrogates, however, there's the plot and that alone. You never get to really explore the world of surrogacy - what it means for society; the wide effects of such technology - this is skimmed over superficially at best, and avoided at worst.
The depth of any discussion is pretty much "people don't like themselves, they live in a surrogate to be who they want" - and it basically involves the real life person wearing no make-up and wearing a "sad face", in direct opposition to their made-up, happy-fun-time-smiley robotic surrogate.
We get elements of the wider impact - a rather blunt 99% drop in crime (what about all those not using surrogates - couldn't they just rob the users blind while they're in their machines?) - and what happens when your surrogate is in the shop and you're supplied with a courtesy model, to name two things ... but otherwise, it's very light on thoughtful storytelling. Oh, and there's something about controlling surrogates via "grey area" technology too.
Action wise it has its fair share, but it never truly pops for the most part, and the two on-foot chase sequences feel oddly out-of-place. The surrogates are capable of super-human feats, yet we barely see this on screen, so that the two times it does it feels out-of-place.
The surrogates themselves however, are convincing and make for good screentime. There's not enough running time to bore you, and it's proficiently put together.
I've seen it, so that's probably enough for me. Solid fodder, but nothing to get buzzed about ... it does have Bruce Willis in it though, so that's always a plus.
At a slim 78 minutes it certainly doesn't out-stay its welcome by any stretch of the imagination, and while it's a pretty standardly plotted flick, it's good fun due to the key performances - Colin Hanks' put-upon university applicant, and Jack Black's drugged-out loser brother are the two main ones for me.
That said, the parents - both equally damaged (John Lithgow and Catherine O'Hara) - certainly steal their fair share of limelight when they're on screen, plus it's always worth watching Lithgow ... speaking of whom, I just saw him in the new Dexter playing a serial killer ... damn, seeing Lithgow bare-ass naked in a bathtub cutting his female victim's phemoral artery really dispells all images of him as the alien buffoon in 3rd Rock From The Sun, that's for sure.
It didn't ball me over, but it was ideal lads night in fodder ... but better than your average fodder, most certainly.
Well, all that really means is that there are a bunch of similarities - they both have John Cusack playing an assassin who wants out of the business, who has a secretary in the form of Joan Cusack ... they also both have Dan Ackroyd popping in now and then, and such like.
However, beyond that, they're not the same. Grosse Pointe Blank is a quirky black comedy, him being an assassin is almost neither here nor there, what the movie is really about is the high school 10 year reunion. It's a great 80s nostalgia movie, it's a rom-com (of sorts, at times) with the addedd benefit of genuinely funny jokes and some nice snippets of action.
War, Inc. on the other hand, is a rather blunt 'in the future' and thinly veiled critique of the Iraq war. Right there, it suffers. While yes, it is funny to see tanks with sponsorship for gambling websites plastered all over them ramble around war torn streets ... it's just that it's all so blunt. Is it a serious allegory for modern American warfare, or is it a piss-take? Which is it? It feels like both at the same time, and it never really pulls off either. Add in thinly-written side plots involving a reporter and Hilary Duff, and you've about got this movie.
John Cusack is always a joy to watch - which is the only reason why I'll eventually see 2012 ... oh okay, fine, that and all the big things falling over ... (ditto for an expressive Joan), it's just a shame he (and the others) have been let down by the material which feels scattergun and unsure of it's tone throughout - not to mention blunt, very blunt ... did I mention it was blunt yet? Well yes, it's bloody blunt alright.
At times the production budget does feel stretched, which is also a shame.
Grosse Pointe Blank had a very clear vision and a very clear style - War, Inc. has neither of those things and suffers because of them. There are laughs to be had amongst it all, and a "two Cusacks" movie is always worth watching, but apart from that the movie has not a lot going for it.
Just watch Grosse Pointe Blank again, really ... then High Fidelity again ... because those movies are both awesome sauce.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
I'd seen the first two once-a-piece (a long time ago), and had never seen the third. So I figured it was about time I had another gander, mainly inspired to give the second another run-through for the first time in years and to really see if I thought it was "better than the first".
Part II is certainly very grand, and has a strong plot - but I do feel it's overblown and dragged out. Not enough happens, which damages some of the very strong themes in the film, such as Michael's descent in himself as a result of being consumed by this lifestyle which has been hoisted upon him as a result of Vito Corleone's death in Part I.
Part III is, well, pretty dull. I struggled to follow all this stuff about business and different families and the church ... in fact, I do struggle with these sorts of films in general. There's a lot of people, often looking somewhat similar to each other, with names I can't remember, and then all of a sudden someone has another killed - but I'm not sure why. They've betrayed them somehow, but it feels like I missed a reel of the movie or something.
Anyway, Part III isn't much cop, it really does feel like "one and two together ... and then three on it's own in the corner" ... and, yep, I couldn't do with Sophia Coppola's performance either - she's much better suited behind the camera (with The Virgin Suicides, and the excellent Lost In Translation, for example).
Part I though, is the best of the lot I think. It's grand and lengthy, but not too much - Part II is definitely 20 or 30 minutes too long, and certainly too wordy. Part I lets you see what happens in this world - stuff actually happens. I don't want it to be like Crank 2, it's not that kind of film of course, but something does have to happen to propel the plot along ... otherwise it's three hours of people with confusing names and similar faces talking to each other and not letting the viewer get a toe-hold on what the fuck is going on.
But then again, like I said, I've never been so good with these kind of movies. I get lost by them quite easily.
So yeah - Part I all the way - that's the best one in my view. Part II may have stronger themes, but Part I tells the story more convincingly and efficiently. Part II - while very good - is definitely too drawn-out and too wordy. Part III is mostly pish, but it does have a few good bits in it, but to be honest, it shouldn't have really happened.
Someone was talking about this flick on Homepage of the Dead the other day, and I remembered I have a copy that's remained unwatched until now.
Immediately when I saw that it was 101 minutes long, I knew that was too long for this film - and I found it to be very much the case. This movie needed to be 90 minutes max, and preferably 80 minutes. It also needed better pacing and a tighter script - characters come and go, they mumble around in circles about nothing in particular and occasionally we get to see a kick arse 'meltdown' sequence - something which pretty much disappears during the second act of the movie - a second act which drags on unmercifully, it has to be said.
It's cheap and tacky, and that's part of the point, but it simply needed to be far leaner and meaner. I've seen it now, and that's enough for me personally.
I'm a big Sam Raimi fan, but there are a few of his films that I haven't gotten around to - until recently, Darkman was one of these films. I kept missing it on TV, and didn't bother getting the bare bones DVD - then I spotted it on Sky Movies, so I recorded it and checked it out.
It's a fun flick. Not Raimi's best work, but you can see a lot of things in it that fed into the Spider-Man films a number of years later, and many stylish flourishes which have been somewhat diluted by the same Spider-Man films. It does make you yearn for Evil Dead 4, but at least we got the almost-full Raimi festival with the excellent Drag Me To Hell (which would have only been improved by not being a PG-13 ... that said, it scared the crap out of me, and grossed out the entire audience - so it really pushed the PG-13 barrier, I thought).
Anyway - Liam Neeson - you can't go wrong with him ... the running time was lean, the pace efficient ... overall, it's a rather good Raimi flick, and although not his best work, it still exhibits all the gusto that Sam Raimi typifies.
Ace Ventura 1 & 2:
The other week I came back from the cinema, sat down with a "naught-to-tasty" microwave burger, bunged on the telly and starting at that moment was the first Ace Ventura movie. I hadn't seen it in years, and it's still as gloriously stupid and downright funny as it always was. A solid plot and plenty of room for Carrey to go insane makes for a solid, very enjoyable movie. Plus, it was a great moment of nostalgia for me.
The same can't be said of the sequel, which - naturally, came a year later - feels rushed and like a pilot for the kid's cartoon more than a proper sequel. The plot is naff and all about a bunch of stereotypical Hollywood "tribes people", and even Carrey seems like he's left dangling in the wind. That said, there are a few great chuckles to be had, but it just can't live up to the sheer fun of the first movie.
Well there you have it, a few flicks I've barged through of late, as I'm in a bit of a creative lull at the moment ... will pick up again soon though, so I might as well make the most of it.
Monday, 21 September 2009
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Now scroll down and have a read of my thoughts on Gamer.
Neveldine & Taylor are back already - we had the bloody good fun of Crank 2, which was an unstoppable orgy of sex, violence and crazed camerawork ... if there was ever a movie that snorted coke, Crank 2 was it.
Gamer, on the other hand, is by comparison relatively sedate. There's still oodles of crazed camerawork (especially during the opening battle scene - pay close attention for the all-too-brief "tea-bagging" gag), but the pace isn't quite as relentless.
It's nowhere near the sedate and considered pace of something like The Godfather Part II, goodness no, but it's certainly not Crank 2. It's not as fast, not as compelling, and not as out-right fun.
To be honest, they really should have upped the "gamer" aspect of it far more - that would have given it a really strong USP to play with, and situated it apart from other recent "bloodsport as entertainment in a distopian future" such as the pish remake of Death Race 2000 (known as just "Death Race").
We do get the odd gaming gag here and there, and a decent (but not deep enough) look at "Society", a perv-filled version of Second Life pretty much, but the main focus is the Call of Duty multiplayer-like "Slayers".
The plot doesn't feel as tightly pulled together as either of the Crank movies, nor is it as convincing throughout ... it's good fun, but it is ultimately lacking - I kept thinking, after having seen it in the cinema, 'if only they'd been more convicted to the videogame side of things'.
A lack of conviction to the end ... that's what Gamer feels like, as well as a movie born out of exhaustion from the Crank movies. While Crank 1 and 2 are the moment the drug hits your system, Gamer is about 10 minutes later when the buzz is beginning to fizzle out.
Michael C. Hall's billionaire bastard is typically venomous, but you feel he should have been far more outlandish - as a result, a particularly outlandish dance-off towards the end of the movie feels rather out-of-place. The 'resistance' - led by feckin' Ludacris of all people (seriously, fuck off Ludacris, you were pish in Max Payne, you were pish in this, and pish in something else I can't even remember the name of - get the hint and sod off away from the silver screen) - isn't a particularly threatening underground gang, and to cap it all off, our connection to the players themselves (such as the shiver-inducingly grotty tub-o-lard who leers around in "Society") isn't strong enough ... plus we don't get a good enough look into their side of the game, so-to-speak.
Perhaps I sound a bit down on this flick, but I guess after the sheer bloody good fun of Crank 2, I was expecting something similar from Neveldine & Taylor, or at least something with the same arrow-like commitment to an idea. Unfortunately I was let down in that respect, and was never gripped by what was on screen ... solid entertainment for a couple of hours, but only as sustaining as a couple of pints and a kebab.
I've seen many worse, but I've seen quite a few better. A "check-minus" ... could do better.
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Although I did think more than once - WHY DON'T YOU JUST GET THE FUCK OUT OF THAT GOD-AWFUL HOUSE?!
That niggle aside, this film really punishes the viewer. It's 90 minutes of visual assault and intensity. We are frequently left bewildered - by either the dizzyingly brutal violence, or by the whole point of the title of the film, which becomes increasingly apparent throughout the second half - right up to a jarring, shocking finale.
I've rarely felt this beaten up by a movie - other examples include:
The poor decision to watch August Underground, a perversely chaotic mess of indie filmmaking nastiness was one.
Another was a mid-afternoon showing of the UK film Boy Meets Girl at the Bristol Bloodbath Film Festival in 2006. Watching horror movies back-to-back in a small, dark, indie theatre in the back streets of Bristol was part of the reason I was left so physically shaken by the film, but mostly it was down to the determination of the film itself to skewer the audience - to ensnare them within the heinous torture traps on show.
Similarly, Martyrs is a gruelling experience - fortunately, despite the horrifying sights and sounds, the conviction of the filmmakers to take a horror sub-genre, which is frequently (disparagingly) called "torture porn", and pull it into reality.
Rather than wallowing in gore effect set pieces to make the audience "ooh" and "ahh" and cringe, Martyrs feels almost true ... with a recent rash of discoveries of women who were kidnapped at a young age and kept locked away for years upon years, this film is only the more shocking and illuminating. The horrors that these people have seen, and how it leaves their minds utterly scarred forever ... their bodies beaten, bruised and sometimes disfigured. The line between reality and make-believe gets uncomfortably blurred in Martyrs - but it's all the more worthwhile for it.
A brutally violent, creepy-as-all-hell, torture movie with a conscience ... if you come away without your mind infected with haunting imagery for a good while, then I'm not sure whether I should be fascinated or perturbed by your easy tolerance of such visual fare.
Honestly, I had to watch an hour of panel show comedy (in the form of Mock the Week) to balance me out afterwards, and now that I've spent a while writing this summary, I'm going to have to go and watch some more of The Godfather to rinse my head out.
Not for the squeamish, easily offended or horrified, quite simply.
Friday, 18 September 2009
If it's not your thing, fair do's, but I can't be doing with folk who diss it just because it was popular (insanely popular, even) - anyway, I'm getting off topic here.
Point being, I got back into the show - which had conveniently looped back to the beginning of the series' run a couple of days prior to me finding myself laid-up in bed with not a whole lot to do.
As such, I ended up getting into full-on Friends mode, and with not having much to watch on telly anyway (Big Brother was utterly shit this year from the very beginning, so stuff that), I've been chuntering through the entire run again ... I've missed a few here and there with E4's schedule, and then what-with the previously blogged about censorship of the entirely innocuous on E4, I went back to my own copies and viewed them at my own pace.
Finally - after burying the lead under a mountain of set-up - the point of this blog is ... I finished my re-run-through of Friends the other day, and it got me thinking about the endings of TV shows.
Friends "The Last One"...
It's odd, even re-watching it years later (after having seen it a number of times already), it still feels the same as when I first saw it in 2004. It's like a mad dash to the finish, like when leaving to go on holiday and having to make sure everything is just-so before you leave.
Then the final shot, after the six of them disappear down the corridor blissfully happy, where we pan through the empty apartment - seeing the six door keys laid out - and ending on the picture frame around the eye-hole, with Jefferson Airplane's "Embryonic Journey" (a wonderful acoustic track) playing in the background, you can't help but succumb to the wistfully melancholly feeling of the end of a televisual era. It's just a perfectly pitched way to close a television phenomena.
Fortunately - there's always repeats though, eh?
Six Feet Under "Everyone's Waiting"...
This is a show that was really great in the first season and was situated ideally between serious and blackly comic. Unfortunately it became increasingly stuffed up its own arse with pretensious moments and overly depressing, never-ending plot lines.
However, come the final few episodes it rediscovered it's groove - and the closing montage was the best the show had been in a very, very long time. A truly stand-out ending to a TV show, backed-up by Sia's "Breathe Me" (another wonderful piece of music), we get to see all the major characters at various key moments in their life beyond the end of the show - and, suitably for a show about death, how they all die.
It's honestly touching and powerful, even when just viewed on its own, and is one of the most powerful endings to a TV show since my next example...
Blackadder Goes Forth "Goodbyeee"...
While Blackadder has not had anywhere near as many episodes as either Friends or Six Feet Under over the years, it's how we British often do things - in short supply, but perfectly pitched throughout, and getting out while the going's good.
The ending to the final series of Blackadder - "Goes Forth" - set in the World War One trenches is an incredible finale, and nothing short of absolutely haunting. After the hilarity, daftness, cunning plans and pencils being shoved up one's nose, it is astonishing how the tone shifts so effortlessly into a completely different territory - one that can elicit tears from practically anyone ... and serious pause for thought from everyone.
When I was at university, one of the course I took was about sitcoms - a far more detailed and serious examination of structure and trends, rather than "just watching The Simpson's" (like a number of scoffing know-nothings would tell me whenever the topic came up in conversation) ... bitterness to that snide misunderstanding aside, we covered the final episode of "Goes Forth" on this course.
Every week we would have a screening, which were always filled with plenty of laughter, and a usually raucus banter when the screening was over as we left. This time however, it was very different, and an experience I shall I always remember.
Naturally, we all chuckled heartily at the myriad of jokes and generally japery, and while I would wager all of us had seen the episode before (more than once), our collective reaction to the final moments was quite something.
The characters come together, their faces crushed by a realisation that they're finally being ordered to go "over the top" and engage the enemy, and that - without really saying it to each other - they know they're not going to be coming back. After episodes filled with these same characters taking the piss out of each other, berating one another, and generally being unkind, the sudden shift in their fortunes shows their actual respect for each other deep down, writ large on the screen.
The whistle is blown, the men yell, clamber over the top and then we cut to a slow motion pull-out - the sound fades away, leaving just the gentle-but-sad music to play us out - the men charge, still in ever-increasing slow motion, as explosions burst around them and they become lost in flying debris ... then we dissolve to the peaceful scene of a poppy field accompanied only by the peaceful sound of birdsong.
Just writing about it sends shivers up my spine and gives me pause for thought.
However, back at uni at the screening of this episode, at that very moment you could hear a pin drop among us students. Nobody spoke, nobody began packing their bags early (as was so often the case during more frivilous fare), and after the final shot faded out and the screen was turned off, we all sat there for a moment in total silence - all of us stunned and shocked - then still without a word being uttered, we quietly got our bags and filtered out of the room as you might a funeral wake.
I'll never forget that experience - such a stark shift in reaction written so tangibly across everyone's faces and actions - all brought on by a piece of TV perfection. One of the best moments of television ever committed to tape.
I've been meaning to blog about that Blackadder screening for a while, but have never had the cause to until now, just getting into the mindset of TV show endings that leave a real impression...
Pause for thought, most definitely.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Sex & Ethics:
"The DVD is extremely well presented and addresses sexual ethics in a clear and concise manner. The links between sexual ethics and Natural Law, Utilitarianism, Kant and Situation Ethics are particularly good as they encourage pupils to make links between the ethical theories which is absolutely crucial at A-level. The DVD is not only visually stimulating but, more importantly, current for those who are watching, and is a must-have resource for any RE Department, especially for those departments providing A-level Philosophy and Ethics courses."
Emma Brambell, Teacher of Religious Education
Gaia & Genesis:
"This is an outstandingly engaging and timely resource that will grab the attention of students and persuade them of the significance of environmental ethics like never before. The narration and content presentation includes concise quotes from key thinkers that add depth and academic rigour to a stimulating and intelligent exploration of the main issues in environmental ethics. It would stretch the brightest at GCSE, engage the vast majority, and, inspire AS students to personal curiosity. It is visually impressive, content rich and well produced - overall a great resource."
David Potter, Teacher of Religious Studies, Ashby School
And here's some more short & sweet comments on the Sex & Ethics DVD:
“Lovingly crafted by Joe Jenkins, a master at producing workaday resources for hard-pressed teachers at both GCSE and A Level."
Judy Grill, Churcher's College, Petersfield
“Well worth the price of a few text books."
Andrew Pearce, Principal Religious Studies Examiner
“Accessible and stimulating.”
Christine Chalstrey, Wychwood School, Oxford
Hannah Williams, St. Helen's School, Middlesex
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Gary Ugarek (the writer & director of the Deadlands movies) asked me if I wanted to record a fan commentary for the Work Print version of Deadlands 2. I said yeah, and roped in a couple of mates to chip in - Gareth "I Am Zombie Man" Knox, and Sean "Signing Off"/"Skinner" Connell. The commentary will be appearing on the limited edition HD-DVD version of the movie - Gary, being a big fan of the HD-DVD format (which lost-out to Blu-Ray last year) wanted to provide something for the fans of the format (there's still something like over a million HD-DVD players in North America so I've been told) - and here it is.
You can pre order your copy of the limited edition of the HD-DVD format disc via this link (only 200 copies left out of 500 last time I heard)
The Special Features are as follows:
1920x1080 Versions of both the work print and the unrated cut
Director introductions for both versions
2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Indie FIlmmaking Documentary (28 Minutes)
Another Discussion about Indie Filmaking (20 Minutes)
A Discussion about Zombie Films (22 Minutes)
90 Minute interview with me (90 Minutes)
Weapons and Tactics (20 Minutes)
Composing Deadlands 1 & 2 (10 Minutes)
Cast & Crew Interviews (9 Minutes)
all 3 Trailers (Total time 7 Minutes)
Directors Commentary (EXTENDED UNRATED EDITION - Brand new commentary for HD DVD Version)
Commentary with British filmmaker Nick Thomson (Work Print Version of film)
5.1 Dolby Digital Audio UNRATED and WORK PRINT EDITIONS
2.0 PCM Lossless Audio (WORK PRINT and UNRATED Editions)
Also of note, The Helena Hussy of Horror introductions will now be separated from the film. you the viewer can choose whether or not to view the intros before watching the film.
So there you have it, that was the cool and different thing I alluded to a couple of weeks ago.
It was fun to do, and we all enjoyed recording the commentary ... we ramble off into various tangents, but always hook back over to the film itself, express our thoughts about zombies movies, running zombies vs shamblers, what our ideal zombie movies would contain, and various other topics - plus, explaining exactly who on earth we are and why we're appearing on the DVD in the form of a fan commentary for the Work Print version.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Adventureland is both written and directed by Greg Motola, who only directed Superbad - which was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. They're from different generations, and have different sensibilities down at heart seemingly.
While I disagree with what Mark Kermode said - that essentially teenage boys don't talk about the things they did in Superbad, let alone how they go about doing so - that's bullshit, because they flat out do. Teenage boys are raucus, rowdy and raunchy in their dialogue ... creatively so ... and that's the world in which Superbad was living in.
Adventureland is in a completely different world, and one which an equal number of teenage boys will inhabit - the sweetly awkward formative years when you're trying to figure things out.
While Superbad does have a coming of age aspect to it, and indeed a heart underneath the plethora of dick and sex jokes, the theme is far more central to Adventureland's slow-but-steadyily-paced vibe ... some have called it a romantic comedy. Perhaps it is, in a way, but it's nothing like any "romcom" you'll normally see.
It's Stand By Me, but a few years on, set in 1987, and all about a shitty summer job instead of a boys-own adventure to see a dead body. You get the vibe now, surely?
Add in a kick arse soundtrack, gentle and well-observed performances (both central and peripheral), and Kristen Stewart as the effortlessly enchanting "girl all the guys want", and you've got a nostalgic and wistful look back to simpler times - back to writer/director Motola's own formative years.
The laughs are generally gentle and scattered, but that's not the focus of the film. It's not like Superbad which is all about having a bloody good guffaw at some mucky jokes (and a little sweetness on the side), instead it's about connecting to a part of everyone in the audience. A first love, a shitty summer job, trying to figure out your place in the world, and the loss of your innocence.
There's something in there to connect with everyone deep down, be it one or all of those things (and more that remain even subtler, and unmentioned here). Indeed, it can even be for others the summer in their youth that they wished they had ... in fact I would wager many of the audience will come out of Adventureland wishing their summer was something like that, perhaps feeling like they've missed out on something.
Nevertheless, as I've said before - it's a sweet, meandering, coming-of-age comedy-drama - and it's a great little film, which illustrates Motola's nostalgiac, indie spirit.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
View the full film on YouTube now.
Nick Thomson is a writer and freelance film-maker, best known for the multi-award-winning short film 'For Want Of A Nail' (which was inspired by his own experiences with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), as well as his work in documentary shorts and educational films, which have screened around the world at festivals and on television, gathering a host of nominations and wins.
He is also the author of the horror novella 'Dug Deep' as well as the 'Celebrityville' series of books, and has reviewed genre and exploitation movies for publications such as 'Sleaze Fiend Magazine' and 'Exploitation Nation'. He is currently working on an adaptation of 'For Want Of A Nail' for television, in addition to his new novel “Murder at the Grindhouse”, a coming-of-age murder mystery set during the last notorious years of New York City's 42nd Street.
Brother of Mine:
What is this blog?:
A gathering place for various posts about various things, including filmmaking, writing, and film reviews.
I graduated with a dgree in Film & Television Studies from the University of East Anglia.
"Contempt of Conscience", is an independent documentary about UK protest group The Peace Tax Seven, on which I acted as cameraman (as well as some additional editing, and consulting). It has gone on to be shown at film festivals (both foreign and domestic), on TV, and is available to view online at YouTube and TopDocumentaryFilms.com.
"The Racket" is a short documentary about World War One and profiteering. I acted as editor, camera operator, and script editor. It was nominated twice at the St. Tropez International Film Festival, and gained further nominations from other film festivals - including a nomination for Best Editing in a Documentary Short from the Porsmouth IFF. Watch the trailer HERE.
I have worked for Ethics Online for many years, in numerous capacities, on educational DVDs such as “Sex & Ethics”, “Gaia & Genesis”, "War & Peace", "Abortion: Ancient & Modern", "The Problem of Evil", "Life After Death", and "Ethical Theories I & II", which are designed for GCSE and Sixth Form students. These award-winning films have been well-received by teachers and students alike. Follow the links for Ethics Online's Website and YouTube Channel.
To view my Top 50 Films of All-Time, click here.
To get to September and to have only just gotten my Top 5 of 2009 is quite something. I'd easily achieved that a good couple of months earlier in 2008 ... so, the top five thus far are:
Crank 2: High Voltage
Drag Me To Hell
I will add that I'm yet to see Moon, I never got a chance to see it in the cinema unfortunately - but the DVD is pre-ordered, oh yes, so I can see that fighting it out for a space in the top five. Nor have I yet seen Let The Right One In ... so I guess there's always room for improving my extended outlook on 2009's cine-offerings.
Quite easily though, I have at least my #6 - Dead Snow - a bloody entertaining Norwegian horror movie that you simply can't not love for two simple reasons.
1) The tagline is "Ein! Zwei! Die!".
2) It's got zombie Nazis in it.
To be honest, if you've got zombie Nazis, you're onto a winner - and you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want. Along with the two Deadlands movies, and Charlie Brooker's TV series Dead Set, Dead Snow now joins the limited ranks of "running zombie movies I'm totally cool with" ... a list that will most likely grow one larger when I get to see Zombieland (which is already pretty much off the running zombie hook thanks to having Woody Harrelson in it, as well as the notion of "zombie kill of the week" - illustrated by an old lady luring a zombie into a doorway so she can drop a piano on it's head).
Back to Dead Snow however and, put simply, it's everything you'd hoped it would be.
Heavily indebted to Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, and very much within a "the gore the merrier" school of thought, the set-up is simple. A bunch of medical students head off to a remote cabin in the snowy Norwegian mountains, and while there they become aware of a local legend about a group of gold-obsessed Nazis who were chased out of town by the locals.
Obviously, as you'll have long since known about, said Nazis are very much still out and about - as zombie Nazis.
The pace is a tad on the slow side for the first 40 minutes, with only the odd punctuation of horror - but this is very much how The Evil Dead went too. Admittedly I was fearing it wouldn't live up to the hype ... but at that very moment, the zombie Nazi action kicked off for good. Like many horror flicks, such as The Evil Dead, the build up is gradual while the pay-off is constant and seriously gory.
Shotguns, hammers, axes, chainsaws and trees - they're all used to dispatch the goose-stepping undead in gleefully OTT fashion. If you don't cackle with laughter and let slip the odd, impressed "nice!!!", then you're as dead inside as the purveyors of this zombie holocaust ... ... perhaps one pun too far, but I was mostly going for a play on the title of the movie by the same name (aka Dr. Butcher M.D.)
Anyway - is it fun? Hell yes. The only one downside is that there is no dubbed version on the DVD, which considering it's a simple tastes horror hellride, would allow those who don't fancy reading a horror movie the opportunity to just lie back and enjoy ... even still, once the real meat and potatoes that the trailer promises kicks off (in spades) it's just all-out action.
Like I said earlier - put simply - this is a movie that has zombie Nazis in it ... if you don't already have a copy of this in your zombie-loving paws right now, then what the fuck are you still doing reading this? Go! Go buy it now!
Somewhere in the middle and here we are with Hush - a road-horror-movie in the tradition of The Hitcher or Road Games, but taking place at night on and around the rain-soaked M1 motorway and its various service stations along the way.
While the opening ten minutes that introduce you to the lead characters and their faltering relationship can at times feel a bit clunky in the dialogue and delivery side of things, the atmosphere makes up for it. A near-empty motorway, a car meandering its way through the lashing rain, and a sinister-but-average-looking lorry up ahead.
Considering the indie budget, the atmosphere afforded through the crew's dedication (lots of consecutive night shoots, a lot of rain to be manufactured) really helps spur the film along - especially when the plot takes a more sinister turn when leading man Zakes catches a brief glimpse of a naked and caged girl in the back of the aforementioned lorry.
From this point on, and with the relationship establishing stuff gotten out of the way, the film really gets into its groove and becomes quite an effective low-fi cat & mouse chase flick. Pleasingly there are a few little twists dotted throughout that really keep you guessing, and on the back foot throughout most of the flick. All-too-easily this movie could have ended up as entirely predictable, but these few turns - as well as the previously adored atmosphere - manage to keep the plot fresh enough to keep you going through the not-too-short-not-too-long running time.
There are a couple of obvious moments, where you can see what's going to happen from a mile off, but it's still bloody good fun regardless.
I wasn't necessarily expecting great things from Hush, so I was pleasantly surprised to find more than I was hoping to. A very solid debut from Tonderai, and a really enjoyable British indie, which - on a final note - has further inspired me, as a fellow filmmaker looking for a way to get my boot wedged in the door.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
I'd been aware of it in various discussions, or in magazine articles - I knew it was Neill Blomkamp's debut with Peter Jackson producing after their ill-fated attempt at getting the Halo movie off the ground (the trial/teasers of which were fucking awesome by the way) ... but yeah, I hadn't been paying a great deal of attention to this movie.
I'm kind of glad I didn't either, because that way I went in with zero expectation - hell, I wasn't entirely sure what I was in for. I had a good idea, but not entirely.
Well - put simply - I finally have the best movie I've seen so far this year (aside from Inglourious Basterds), and a sure-fire winner of a place in my Top 5 of 2009. There's been numerous movie's we've been to see this year...
*Role Models (Jan) - good fun, not incredible, but good fun.
*The Wrestler (Jan) - actually, come to think of it, fucking awesome.
*Friday the 13th 2009 (Feb) - slick pish, only the Jason stuff was any good, Derek Mears deserves better fare.
*Gran Torino (Mar) - classic Clint.
*Watchmen (Mar) - best Zack Snyder movie thus far (Yawn04 sucked copious balls, 300 was pish), but I didn't cream over it.
*Lesbian Vampire Killers (Mar) - has its moments, otherwise a let down.
*Crank 2: High Voltage (Apr) - actually, it was seriously bloody good fun.
*I Love You, Man (Apr) - solid fun, better than Role Models.
*Observe & Report (Apr) - crap.
*X-Men Origins (May) - decent action, not as good as X-Men 1 or 2, but better than X3.
*Drag Me To Hell (May) - seriously kick ass horror, despite the PG-13 rating.
*Terminator Salvation (Jun) - has a few moments, but overall it's limp ... better than T3 ... sucks compared to T1 or T2.
*The Hangover (Jun) - surprisingly good fun, crap trailer though.
*Doghouse (Jun) - solid horror comedy fun, but Danny Dyer's "geezer schtick" is wearing seriously thin.
*Transformers 2 (Jun) - TF1 was a lot better than this inconsistent, over-long, self-indulgent, curiously-sordid-for-a-family-blockbuster mish-mash.
*G.I. Joe (Aug) - some kick ass bits (the Paris chase, which is essentially real-life Team America haha, and Levitt's awesome Cobra Commander)
*Inglourious Basterds (Aug) - kicked ass, but a smidge too long.
*Funny People (Aug) - a let down from previous Apatow-directed flicks, but plenty of chuckles.
...it's been a mixed bag. The Wrestler, Crank 2, Drag Me To Hell, and Inglourious Basterds would have to be my highlights so far - so there we have it, those four and District 9 - that's my Top 5 of 2009 thus far.
However, it has been a year of many dashed expectations, as well as a number of modest let downs ... so it seems even more "hip-hip-hooray" when something seriously kick ass comes along - such as District 9.
It did perhaps lose some momentum when it shifted from pseudo-documentary to Fly-like tale of desperation, but even still, this is a seriously good sci-fi flick, and like all good sci-fi, it's not necessarily about the aliens, or gadgets, or guns or whatever. It's about ideas - in this case, apartheid, racism, segregation, immigration, untrustworthy governments, and slum-life.
Fortunately it didn't get too overt with these themes - they were just there within the film for those that wanted to find them could do, but even then it didn't beat you over the head with subtext. I was fearing that could happen, as the whole "white gubment evil, black gubment good" simplistic argument that gets trotted out by various Guardianistas all the time is tiring - life, simply, isn't that straight forward. Besides, the idea that skin colour affects the quality of governing intelligence is nothing short of insulting to any and all human beings, regardless of their colour or creed.
But yeah - fortunately it didn't get into club-heading political territory at all. Both the whites and blacks in Jo'burg are equally evil or equally innocent, heck, the main character starts out like a bit of a pitiable twat and then becomes a genuine hero who you can really respect - same goes for the aliens (or "prawns" as they're nick-named by the humans).
Also, on a budget of a relatively mere $30 million, the scale is damned impressive, and while the CGI aliens may not be the most convincing CGI you'll have seen, their innate humanity (in their movement and their dialogue and how they're treated by mankind) will easily make you overlook the downside.
Visually the film is arresting, the constant mix-up of pseudo-documentary footage, CCTV clips, and docu-style traditional-fourth-wall stuff works perfectly. It's mixed from pretty much the beginning, so it never feels clunky, or out-of-pace throughout ... which had been a slight worry ahead of time, but I needn't have fretted.
Why bother ranting on and on though, District 9 is a seriously good sci-fi outing, and while a sequel isn't necessary, I'd still go and see one (just as long as they keep the quality up, naturally). Hopefully this can act as a calling card to re-open the Halo movie door, because ... yeah ... those teasers on YouTube kick ass.
And you'll find five clips, one from each of the five films that make up the Gaia & Genesis DVD.
Then head over here:
And you'll find a review of the Sex & Ethics DVD, an excerpt of which is below.
Sex & Ethics has had a lot of positive feedback since its release, so hopefully Gaia & Genesis will follow suit.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Knocked Up was, similarly, filled with jokes and raw human emotion and honesty - helped in no small amount by the casting of his real-life wife & kids in the movie ... just like he did here in his latest flick as writer/director.
However, although Funny People has a lot of raw human emotion and honest running throughout it ... but it's not as funny as 40 Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty damn funny (you'd have thought the Apatow gang would have run out of dick jokes by now, but nope, they're still going strong). Unfortunately the film indulges in Apatow-style meandering comedy too much.
Virgin and Knocked Up were both long films (for comedies anyway), especially in their extended cut forms, but Funny People is seriously long for a comedy, and feels too unrestrained - it feels flabby and in serious need of a diet. This is really the only thing harming Funny People though, I feel. For such a long running time, with this amount of raw human reality and impending-death depression, you really could use a few more jokes ... or a shorter running time with the same amount of gags.
It doesn't go for the knock-out punch that his previous two flicks have delivered, but it does an admirable job of pummelling through the full fifteen rounds (if I dare labour this boxing metaphor any longer, that's come from out of nowhere).
Character wise, however, Eric Bana plays a good loveable bastard, Leslie Mann plays a complex house wife having to balance love, life, marriage and commitment ... and then, Adam Sandler.
I've never been a fan of Sandler, I've not disliked him, but I've not been bothered to watch any Adam Sandler movie - I've seen a couple, but I've generally been "meh" about the whole Sandler thing. However, here he gives a cracking performance - the man needs to do more of this kind of raw, open and honest comedy, rather than the sort of gimmicky shite he usually does (which is sent up here in Funny People with "Re-Do" and "Merman").
Apatow fans, like myself, will most likely dig this movie ... not as much as his previous efforts, but it's easily in-line with the better quality Apatow-produced spin-offs (such as Pineapple Express, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall). If only it had entered the ring in full fighting shape, rather than being a bit pudgy around the midrift ... yep, there's that boxing metaphor again ... where did that come from today?
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Also, I've updated my Flickr Photostream with new pics from "Skinner" and "Gaia & Genesis" ... and I think that about does it for blog updating, which all came about as a result of me finding out that GeoCities was getting shut down (it'll be gone come the end of October apparently).
Actually, there is one more thing to do - an "About Me" summary - and seeing as I'm updating stuff, I'll update that too ... you see, a guy's work is never done.
Also - I've started a new script, called "Like" - which is going to be a flat-out comedy. The last flat-out comedy I did was "Smack Addict" (filmed in December 2005), and apart from that, there's been the "I Am Zombie Man" films, which have been zombie comedies - but yeah, "Like" will be my first full-on comedy in a long while.
Finally, there might be something pretty cool happening at the weekend, but I'll blog about that later as-and-when-and-if, you know?
As such I used the Robert Rodriguez mantra for indie filmmaking - what do I have at my disposal, because it's going in my movie.
I had a few props lying around which were at the time unused (bought for another project), so that formed the basis - a gas mask, boiler suit, and two horror props (a skinned head and arm). I had a title suddenly - "Skinner" - and then I thought about how these elements (additionally a plastic sheet, garden implements, Christmas tree lights, and a dark garage) could go together.
Within 48 hours I had the script knocked together - it was going to be a horror noir - influenced in the back of my mind by the likes of Se7en and Dexter, as well as a list of exploitation horror flicks I'd been re-watching back-to-back while laid-up in bed recovering from the aforementioned operation. Added on top I placed a noir-inspired voice over (think Sam Spade meets Max Payne (the videogame that is) meets the horror genre), laden with grisly descriptions and tired-soul musings.
Come Sunday, we filmed the short (I decided to plan my shots quite clearly in advance, in a way I hadn't done before) quickly and efficiently, and then I was able to edit it together at my own leisure in moments of spare time.
"A forensic detective attends the latest in a long line of grisly, unsolved crime scenes - murders committed by the titular serial killer whose modus operandi remains so varied and vague that those tracking him have been unable to gain any traction on the case. It is here that we see a gruesomely festive tableau set aside for the detective - a tired-eyed, noir-like protagonist - replete with a note left at the scene; the product of a diseased mind that continues to goad those who seek to bring him to justice."
You can view the film via the YouTube link below, also available in High Quality:
N.B. Click the images to go and see full size versions, as well as the rest of my Flickr Photostream.
This was a great opportunity to expand and improve on what we achieved with Sex & Ethics, and I am very proud of the final product, which we also cut together in a feature-length format for festival purposes.
I acted as editor and lead cameraman on this project.
N.B. Click the images to go to see full size versions, and to see the rest of my Flickr Photostream.