Friday 23 October 2009

VOTE FOR ME! - "Doing Our Bit"...

I've entered the 1 Minute To Save The World competition, in which filmmakers are invited to create a one minute film (90 seconds including credits) about the environment and climate change, and such.

You can find my entry here:

So please , would you kindly go and vote for me - but don't deliberately vote other people down - a spiffing vote for me will be very kind indeed.

I'll naturally put up a full project blogpost all about it in due course, but for now, I need me some votes, thank you kindly.

Cheers folks.

Saturday 17 October 2009

State of Play...

One of the problems with Hollywood these days is that, instead of being inspired by a great movie and seeking to do their own - originally scripted - version in the same ballpark, they just remake it instead. Nevermind the context in which the original was made, nevermind the decades and accumulating critical acclaim, and fan adoration.

State of Play, however, is a tricky one in that regard. It's an American movie version of a British TV drama. Although clearly the source text is heavily inspired by All The President's Men - which is essentially the ultimate "newspaper movie". You want a movie about the printed press, about tracking down an explosive story, about shady un-named insider source meetings in shadowy parking garages - you go straight for All The President's Men ... and so you should, because it's bloody great.

State of Play, Americanisation or not, is a bloody good thriller. It's not a remake of All The President's Men, but it's from the same stable - but updated to the 21st century where the 'new kid' "blogosphere" has been giving the printed press a damn good drubbing.

If only the actual printed press was as good as it appears in this film, or the aforementioned 70s Watergate thriller. All too often the modern press is just an endless cycle of orgiastic simplification, of poorly checked facts (even out-right lies), of celebrity obsessed junk, and of a complete lack of anything really meaningful. You get the sense that many of them will believe themselves to be the next Woodward or Bernstein, but quite frankly, they're kidding themselves and the joke's on the public.

Still ... at least print journalism isn't as bad as TV news!

Back to State of Play however, and there's shady goings-on afoot within Washington D.C. (there's the President's Men vibe again) with Ben Affleck (on good form) embroiled somehow in the death of one of his aides - a death that is quite possibly connected to a huge private military company known as Point Corps. The shit's deep, and it's hitting the fan.

Cue a chunky, 1990 Saab driving, cluttered, old school reporter in the shape of Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), and the plucky young blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams). This conflict between old-and-new reporting styles is flagged up straight from the off, but is then pretty much watered down immediately and then forgotten about for the rest of the film, which is a shame as there was surely more meat on that theme's bone.

Similar to All The President's Men, the thirst for the story - but by getting all the facts present and correct (regardless of personal involvement, politics, or what-have-you) - is strong throughout. You can almost feel the newspaper ink on your fingertips. That said, it does lose some of its drive in the throughout the second half, and never quite regains the journalistic fervor of the first hour until the very end - which is capped-off nicely by a fascinating (even loving) tracking of exactly how a newspaper gets from the hack's computer to the paper in your hand.

All The President's Men looms large over this film (and this blog post) - quite simply, it's a bloody great film - but State of Play is a very solid and entertaining thriller, and more than deserving of being placed in the same stable as the (thankfully not tagged for a remake) All The President's Men.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Better Off Dead...

Originally looking for Say Anything - 'the movie where John Cusack holds a ghetto blaster above his head' - I'd gotten my wires crossed after seeing the cover for Better Off Dead so repeatedly. So off I trotted fully expecting that very scene (which I've seen lampooned all over the place, especially animated sitcoms from Fox), and I didn't get it - naturally - it's the wrong damn movie for that scene.

It does still have John Cusack in it, and it's still a good watch. It's almost like the a John Hughes movie strained through a sort of teenage, sub-Monty Python filter. It's oftentimes utterly bizarre, or blackly comic, or just downright weird.

It makes no excuse for being fairly scattergun with certain subplots (suicide contemplation, and a techno-whizz-kid little brother, for two examples) and it does feel generally low budget throughout. It doesn't have the flair of a Hughes movie from the 1980s, it doesn't have the flashy soundtrack (although the animated hamburger dancing to Van Halen is a highlight), but it does have John Cusack ... and like I've said before, if it's got him in it, it's worth seeing.

Jilted by his social class obsessed girlfriend (who trades up to some skiing douchebag spawn of a WASP community), Cusack's bewildered teenager attempts suicide and generally bumps around from moment to increasingly odd moment. A maths class with exceptionally eager and capable students (except him), for example, sets up this protagonist as a real outsider in a 'perfect' suburban world.

Then throw in a chubby neighbour's amorous advances on a French exchange student, a Howard Cosell-like Asian duo, and that aforementioned kid brother and you've got one oddball kind of 80s teen comedy.

It almost has its cake and eats it too ... it's not schmaltzy, but it still ends happily ... and rather than a whole generation of disjointed teenagers (a la John Hughes), it's just Cusack's bewildered, day-dreaming teen all on his own in a rather crazy world.

Although scattergun in its handling of the occasionally bizarre plot, and not as tightly written as a Hughes movie, it still offers plenty of free-and-easy fun.

Oh, and in case I hadn't mentioned already a bunch of times, having John Cusack in it automatically makes it worth seeing.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

An American Werewolf In London...

I've only just gotten around to seeing this flick (on a newly released double disc DVD), which is the sort of movie I've seen countless times on "top this that or the other" lists on TV and in magazines. I've seen various clips more than once, so you feel fairly familiar with the movie, but you've still not seen it.

I do feel, had I seen this during my formative teenage years - when I was busy discovering, with wide-eyed fascination, the works of Romero, Raimi and Carpenter - it would have had more of an impact on me. It does feel a bit dated nowadays ... but so what? It's a bloody good movie, even if it's not as horrific as it should be, or as funny as it should be (for being a horror comedy/comedy horror).

It's a horror cinema classic and it has well deserved it's respect and reverance.

I am quite looking forward to pouring over the DVD extra content, because there is certainly plenty to go over. I just wish I'd seen this, as I've said, during my teenage years so I could have a bit of the 'nostalgia factor', which would have - I'm sure - made this belated viewing more impactful.

Good stuff nonetheless, the gore is great, and how can you resist barmy scenes of werewolf Nazis, and a talking corpse that's done with old-school non-CGI techniques?


Things seem to be picking up quite nicely for my top ten films of 2009 list, because Zombieland was bloody good fun, and as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Make no mistake, this is a comedy that just so happens to take place during a zombie plague - you could pretty much replace zombie with any other creature, or virus and still get the same effect. Characters are the primary focus of the script, and that's what really carries it throughout, as well as a consistent level of comedy.

Not only comedy, but a perfectly balanced sense of sadness and loss, which strikes unexpectedly and powerfully. Even a careful choice of music (David Sardy's "Estasi Dell Anima" for example) can wrong-foot you and make you second guess your assumptions, which makes for thrilling and even moving moments - you find yourself really drawn in and on the edge of your seat at times, or dewy-eyed when a moment of utter seriousness comes along - afterall, this is a world where everyone has lost someone, and this aspect is perfectly weaved throughout the script for all the protagonists.

However, the script does fall down on occasion when the characters make some utterly bloody stupid decisions ... however, being a comedy, with an otherwise tip-top script and a real sense of fun about it, you can easily forgive such transgressions.

Everything about this movie is entertaining - Harrelson's Tallahasse is pure gold, with a tragic past - Eisenberg's Columbus is the oft-seen nice guy nerd who always finishes last, but in this fucked up world finishing first - Stone's Wichita is an easy-on-the-eyes girl-next-door that every guy wants, who has been forced to carry the world on her shoulders - and Breslin's Little Rock is a pleasantly not-annoying movie kid, who has likewise been forced to grow up too soon.

I was a bit disheartened to learn that the director wasn't much for horror (if at all), and had pretty much just watched 28 Days Later and stopped there ... however, he's still pulled out a great flick. I would hope, should there be a sequel, that he avails himself of the work of George Romero.

That's not necessarily a bitch about the whole running zombie issue - unsurprising as he'd only seen 28 Days Later (which is NOT a zombie movie, it's living people with an infection - they can die of starvation, unlike an actual undead zombie) - indeed, Zombieland is one of the flicks on a small list I have of 'running zombie movies' that have gained a 'get out of jail free card' due to them having something far more to offer than just zombies.

In fact, at times there's not a hell of a lot of zombie action going on - again illustrating how it's more about the characters, than the action (which is good) - although you do feel that in a world filled with zombies, there should be hoardes of them roaming around causing havoc. It all seems a bit on the empty side ... but again, the positives from the start out-weigh this ultimately mostly unimportant transgression. Had the writer/director been more of a student of the zombie genre, then I'd figure such an issue would have been dealt with in a more intricate manner - the sort of detail that me and my fellow zed-heads attribute to the undead universe.

Everyone knows by now that Bill Murray has a small role to play at one point in the film, but thankfully I had again been wrong-footed, this time by the rumours. I won't go on to spoil anything (unlike that one berk on the BBC Radio 5 Live film review podcast - a reviewer should know better, goddamnit - actually, they also attributed a certain "rule" to the wrong character, thus misreading quite seriously one particular character dynamic) ... anyway, the whole Bill Murray segment is riotus fun, and it's great to see him getting fully stuck in to the cameo role.

So yeah, a bloody good ride - I just wish it had been ten minutes longer - at a mere 80 minutes it feels a bit cut short, but hopefully there will be an unrated & extended double-disc DVD release (there bloody well should be, considering the box office success it's had).

So yeah, bring on that (hopefully awesome) DVD release! Plus, finally, "the soundtrack kicks fucking ass" - to quote High Fidelity.

My Top Films of 2009 list thus far stands as, in no particular order:

The Wrestler
Crank 2: High Voltage
Drag Me To Hell
Inglourious Basterds
District 9
Dead Snow

Thursday 8 October 2009

The Invention of Lying...

Are you a Ricky Gervais fan?

If the answer to that is "NO", then why are you even bothering to read this?

If the answer to that is "YES", then so am I.

While I can see where Gervais' act can become tedious for those that bemoan his existence, it doesn't bother me one jot, and probably if it hadn't have been for Gervais, I wouldn't have bothered going to see this flick. I could say something similar of Ghost Town (which was actually quite good for a watch) - Lying is good for a watch, but beyond that I'm not entirely sure.

The conviction of the plot is fine, but the conviction of the comedy is a bit lacking. It's a gentle comedy, with a strong concept to it. If there had been more guffaws then polite chuckles from the audience, then I feel it would have been a stronger film all-round.

That said, there are times in the film which really give a punch - one scene at a death bed, for instance, is very powerful and was tough going - plus it demonstrated Gervais' genuine talent underneath all these ear-shattering laughter and self-deprecation (a similar scene can be found in the confessional Big Brother scene in the Extras Christmas Special). It tempts immoral acts - if it had been real life, you just know the one liar in the world would take full advantage of it, but as this is a film (rated PG-13 too) he never really goes too far, and always turns away at the brink of anything becoming too immoral.

He'll gladly rob a bank (essentially, and more than once) through his lying skill, but he avoids going the distance with a woman he tricks into having sex with him (lest the world end, in his words).

Had this been Rated R, I do wonder if the comedy would have had the room to breathe that was really necessary, but who knows eh?

Good for a watch, particularly for Gervais fans, but if you can't stand his "pudgy, snub-nosed" antics, then steer clear.

Star Trek 2009...

I've never been one for Star Trek, and I've never been a Star Wars geek - but if I had to pick one over the other, it'd be Star Wars ... and even then just the original three movies, without any of that crap crow-barred in CGI rubbish.

However, I'm not a total Star Trek n00b. Being a media-obsessed sort - indeed I'm a zombie geek, aka "Zed Head" - I've picked up the odd bit of info along the way (with much help coming from The Simpson's et al). I know who Spock is, and his Vulcan ways, I know Kirk is a bit of an arrogant arse, and that Scotty says "I canny do it Captain, I'm giving it all she's got!" and such things.

As such, JJ Abrams' reboot of the franchise is well aimed at folk like me, as well as the Trekkies themselves. I didn't find myself overly gripped, but never bored, and always entertained - although I would have liked Scotty (Simon Pegg in this flick) to have come in earlier as he was great fun.

It runs along at a fair old lick for a two hour movie filled with stuff exploding, the cast all work well together, and it does a good job of allowing the reboot to happen. It doesn't feel too cynical - like a bunch of money men want more money - instead, because this is Star Trek, we get a decent plot device about alternate dimensions, which works very well and provides ample excuse to bring in Leonard Nimoy.

I've seen it now, and that's probably enough for me personally. I'd definitely see a sequel though.

Friday 2 October 2009

Flavours of the Month: September 2009...

Another month, another round of "flavours of the month"!

John Cusack:

So I've been into a bit of a John Cusack vibe of late, what with the bloody excellent Grosse Pointe Blank, and High Fidelity (I'm seeking the latter out as a new book to read), and then the not-that-good War, Inc. which was carried along by having Cusack's sullen face throughout. Indeed, that's the reason I will *eventually* (read, not in the cinema) see 2012 - which also sees Roland Emerich returning to safe ground after the disaster that was 10,000 B.C. I guess that's a lie though, because I will also *eventually* see 2012 for all the big things falling over ... but it was definitely seeing John Cusack in the trailer that curried any real favour with me for said 'sometime-into-the-future' viewing of it.

Jim Carrey:

I've also had a bit of a Jim Carrey vibe going recently too, what with both Ace Venturas (first one comedy gold from my childhood, second one a lame rush-job pilot for the follow-up cartoon), and The Cable Guy - which I also re-watched because I now know who Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann are.

Awesome Sauce:

As my fellow zed-heads on Homepage of the Dead will know, I've been particularly enamoured by the phrase "awesome sauce", and it's been following closely behind most of the praise I happen to be heaping on something at that very time ... so yes, September has been a month of "awesome sauce".

Daft Punk:

I've gone and gotten myself a Daft Punk best-of album (Musique Vol. 1) after getting all hot & bothered by their Tron Legacy excerpt, but I've been half-and-half about it. I've only given it a couple of listens, and to be honest I was a bit disappointed, but then upon a second viewing I can feel myself warming to it more - so no doubt after a few listens, I'll be properly in there. I like many of the tracks, it's just some of them haven't worn well on me yet.

Fallout 3:

I've also been getting back into Fallout 3 in a big, bad way of late - what with a bit of a lull work wise, and I've been meaning to really check that my new Quad Core PC is working well ... long, boring story, but there were some technical issues initially. Anyway - I've been barging a lot of that and have almost done everything you can do for the most part - roll on the new GTA IV content on disc (I've been mad keen on Eric Prydz's "Pjanoo" as well - which was in the first Ballad of Gay Tony trailer - it's not my kind of music 99% of the time, but now and then there'll come a track that I really dig, and this is one of them). Yes, there's certainly a lot of Xbox360 in my future's allotted spare time - new GTA, then Ghostbusters (fuckin' finally!!!) and then the gaming event of the year - Modern Warfare 2 - speaking of which, I almost went all Alpa Chino when I saw a grainy video of the first level ... that's a reference to those that'll get it, but aye, that movie has been playing this week on Sky Movies.

Script Writing:

Finally, what with having a bit of a work lull, I've been looking to take the opportunity to get some script writing done. I'd recently sent out some treatments for a couple of my scripts, and there's one place on my list at the moment who accept full scripts rather than just treatments (even though their website led me to believe they did take treatments ... but anyway) - I've been wanting to update "Generation Procrastination" for a while now, and that's what I'm up to right now.

But it took me quite a while to get the vibe going. A temporary software set back halted me making any progress - I'd thought I'd have to re-install Final Draft, but it appears that the copy of the file from which I was making another copy to revise was corrupted, so I copied from a different copy and it seems fine now.

As such, I'm in fine fettle with the script revising, and it's been really interesting to revisit this script - the title of which I really want to change, it was only a working title anyway - I began writing it on the 11th August 2007 and finished on the 14th January 2008, so it's been well over 18 months since I finished it, and well over 2 years since I started it.

Since then I've done a whole host of short scripts, not to mention two other feature length scripts - my zombie epic "The End", and my low-fi Brit-horror "From The Inside Out" - as such I've been able to bring my improved script writing skills to the table and I've been updating quite a lot. Thinning dialogue, and description, right down, as well as introducing new scenes, new jokes and new ideas. I've not gotten to the real bulk of the major changes yet (which will mostly be in the second act), but I've been doing a hell of a lot of fettling thus far and have been rinsing through the pages - so the progress is good on that front.

Now to finish that ... and figure out a title that's a damn sight better than the mouth-filling "Generation Procrastination", but which lurks around the same ball park being considerably succinct.

Well - that's it for another "flavours of the month", let's see what October brings, eh?