Sunday 31 January 2010

Flavours of the Month: January 2010...

I'm going to try and make this month's flavour run down a little more punchy, so here it goes...

Music for this month has mostly consisted of the "End Titles: Stories For Film" and "War Stories" (both versions) albums by UNKLE, along with "Invaders Must Die" by The Prodigy, as well as a return to CKY's "Carver City", not to mention the soundtracks to Sin City, Planet Terror, and Death Proof.

Speaking of which, I had a return to Sin City via the excellent 2-disc R1 special edition DVD. Grindhouse was also on the cards again, I seem to come back around to Planet Terror and Death Proof every few months and just gorge myself silly on the two double disc DVDs (still awaiting the double disc theatrical cut DVD that was promised months ago - hopefully it'll appear with the launch of Machete, which I'm also eagerly awaiting).

It's also been a right old month for weather. While nothing like what parts of America (and many other parts of the world) gets, we haven't had a winter this harsh for a good few decades (although it was worse in the 40s and 60s). The snow's now gone, and what we've got left is a bunch of roads covered in pot holes that are either still there or hastily patched over - needless to say the left front tyre of my car succumbed to one monster pothole that sprang out of nowhere - resulting in a bent alloy that needed replacing, as well as a new tyre. It's like driving on the sodding moon, out there!

It's also been a month where I've indulged my Top Gear fandom in the form of the Big Book of Top Gear 2010. Funny stuff indeed (and I've just started the latest Richard Hammond book "Or Is That Just Me").

Naturally January has been a busy month on the DeadShed shorts front - the third I Am Zombie Man film "The Inevitable Decomposition of Zombie Man" has been going through the editing process - and I'm glad to say the muse was with me the entire way and I simply barged it out quicker than I'd expected. It's now in the hands of Gary and Brian, who are doing the music, and as such we're aiming to have "TIDOZM" up on YouTube in the second half of February. So far the music is sounding great - and indeed the first fully completed track (for a montage sequence) kicks total ass.

It's also been a month of nostalgia after nabbing the Criters 1-4 box set for a fiver. I hadn't seen these movies in years, but it all came flooding back. Despite often being considered a Gremlins rip-off (in fact the script was written before Gremlins came along), the franchise still kicks ass ... well, maybe not Critters 4, which seems to really suffer the consequences of making the last two movies, with not enough money, back-to-back (Critters 3 meanwhile was great fun, but 1 & 2 are the best of all).

Finally, I've been barging my way through Nazi occupied France, in the form of The Saboteur. While it may be somewhat undercooked and in need of further polishing, considering I got it less than a month after release on a special offer for £20, it was a bloody steal in my favour. I've really been enjoying yomping around Paris and its environs, sticking it to the Nazis with some sabotage explosives, sniper rifle and Tommy machine gun.

Speaking of games - I've recently become aware of (and obsessed by) Red Dead Redemption (Wild West sandboxing), and continue to grow excited about Mafia 2 (1940s/50s mobster sandboxing) and of course, this year Alan Wake finally gets released. These three are, of course, just the tip of the ice berg as there's a whole bunch of games on my list - some I'll never get around to playing, and others will just have to wait (which also benefits my coffers).

Well ... so much for being punchy ... maybe next month, eh?

Tuesday 26 January 2010


Another one I've had hanging around for a while, and being that it was a lazy Sunday afternoon, I figured why not. I initially became aware of this movie through a fan page for the British kid's show from the 1990s called "Bernard's Watch" - about a kid who had a watch that could pause time.

There's a similar element in Cashback, although it's certainly not the main thrust of the plot, which is a little bit disappointing. It's an interesting idea in itself, and feels like it needed more exploring. However, if you take this flick as a movie about a young guy who gets jilted and then finds inspiration and possibly love working the night shift at his local Sainsbury's (due to chronic insomnia), who just so happens to be capable of freezing time - then it works better.

I'd still like to see a proper movie specifically about the ability to stop time, and all the different things that different people could and would do with such a power. In this instance, we stop just shy of total perversion, because this protagonist is an artist who likes drawing de-clothed women who are doing a spot of late night shopping in this frozen moment world.

It's a flick about the central character's life long obsession and fascination (and experience inbetween) with the opposite sex, and it's over all a solid little British comedy. Like I said though, it's just a shame that they didn't investigate the time-pausing abilities a little further. So yeah, I dug it, and I'm glad I finally got around to watching it.

Sunday 24 January 2010

The next script...

I think I mentioned a few posts back that I was already thinking about my next script, and that I was very excited about the idea at the heart of it. It'll be another comedy script - now that I'm really quite into the comedic mindset after a few months re-drafting "Zero" recently - and while that script involves a group of five university graduates in their early twenties, this next script will centre mainly on one protagonist who is 19 and has just completed their first year at university. That's not the topic, but it's the setting (of sorts) ... perhaps I'm being a bit cryptic, but I'm still figuring out what this new script is going to be all about.

Indeed, I've been gathering some research related to the central theme - that of 21st century manhood - via questionnaires, and I've just finished going through a crop of them today, which revealed some interesting opinions and ideas regarding the topic.

Needless to say my mind is filling with various ideas regarding this new script - which will also take in an idea I had years ago (from the summer of 2003 in fact), but never got around to - and I'm beginning to clear away the fog to find pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is the structure, flow, and content of the script itself.

In fact, doing this research into the central theme has been fascinating. It has helped draw attention to things going on in my own life, and things that have happened or changed in recent years, and I am beginning to see myself in the centre of the script's theme - which is of course really necessary to understand what you're writing about. After all, they do say "write what you know", and I've been thinking about modern manhood for a number of years now - taking in little snippets here and there over the years that all ring a bell with a common theme, and now here I am bringing this (and much more) all together.

Like I said - fascinating stuff - I can see that this script will develop my own outlook on life further, something which has been changing and developing for a number of years now, and something which I have been noticing more and more in the last couple of years.

So finally I'd like to say cheers to those who helped me out by responding to the rough little questionnaire I put together. Your answers have really helped flesh out, solidify and expand my thinking on the subject of modern manhood - indeed, some of the answers have been openly honest and very inciteful - so thank you folks for your time and effort.

Saturday 23 January 2010

The Video Dead...

I've had this hanging around for a while, and finally got around to checking it out. I wasn't expecting anything good, and I certainly didn't get anything good. It's pish.

I should have written a "bitch list" during it, which would have passed the time more easily and been good for this - my 444th blogpost. Rest assured though it's utter nonsense - one thing that would have definitely gone on a bitch list about it would have been the silly, long and entirely unnecessary scene between the Texan dude and the young guy where they establish how they should start addressing each other from now on ... ugh ... I wanted to bang my head against the shitting desk at that point.

Pretty much every facet of filmmaking on display is executed poorly, and it's just downright cheap in a bad way. The only good thing is the zombie make-up, but even then the zombies are so strange and inconsistent that it's all just pointless.

In fact, it's so naff (just bad, not 'so bad it's good') I'm going to stop moaning about it!

Waltz With Bashir...

I'd heard universally good things about this film (in brief), but hadn't paid a great deal of attention to it. Sometimes you just need to let the hubub die down before you investigate, and that's just what I did. Having spotted it on Sky Movies last week I stuck it on a videotape and spent the next few nights watching it in chunks before bed (perhaps not the wisest idea considering the final moments of the film).

It's a beautifully animated documentary film that tells a story your average viewer is going to know little or nothing about. Indeed I pretty much know sod all about the content - the 1982 Lebanon war - so it was an interesting experience to come at it from a completely unbiased and uninformed position. It's rare these days to know so little about a film before you see it, so Waltz With Bashir was really able to speak to me on its own terms. Furthermore it is a stylish film in its visuals, choosing striking images throughout - a pack of dogs running through the streets, young soldiers bathing in the sea at night, firing blindly into the night, to name but three.

I do wish they'd put a grey filter behind the subtitles though, because they sometimes get lost amongst the captivating imagery (it was the same with Inglourious Basterds' yellow subtitles that would sometimes vanish amidst the scene's colours). I'm always a bit annoyed by having to read subtitles - being that they're at the very bottom of the frame - when it's such a visually lush film. Bashir is such a film, and I found myself sometimes getting tripped up by wanting to invest in the visuals - to see this representation of the conflict for myself - and wanting to read the oftentimes fast-paced sub-titles (which didn't have grey shading behind them to improve clarity).

I'm not entirely sure what to say about it all, but it is a fascinating film that we English speaking Westerners will mostly have not seen, and which we don't often see in our territories anyway. The film feels balanced in its view - it doesn't go into politics - but naturally addresses the atrocity of the massacre at the heart of the plot. We view the boredom, chaos, horrors and even fun-among-men of warfare from the viewpoints of a few men on the ground who were barely out of their teenage years when they fought in the war.

It's a conflict that is old, but feels new and tragically raw on screen in the form of film. It's at times hypnotic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes humorous, sometimes hallucinatory, and other times devestating. Indeed, the final moments are a real punch in the gut, and perhaps what its real purpose in existing is, is to make viewers want to find out more about the conflict and what the film is all about - and that's what I'm off to do right now.

The Book of Eli...

I was hoping to have an "apocalypse weekend" at the cinema, but annoyingly our local Cineworld wasn't showing The Road - hopefully it will be sometime soon - so it was just one dose of apocalypse for us at the cinema this past weekend. I wasn't expecting an awful lot, and went into it with mild interest - indeed the trailer makes it look like a dumb actioner.

Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised. It's not a dumb actioner. Sure it has some action in it, some quite good action too, and one set piece that's sparse but immensely stylish, but it's much more thoughtful.

No surprises though that the titular book is The Holy Bible, but mercifully there isn't any bible bashing (of either kind). The film performs a straight forward balancing act between the good and bad sides of religion through, you guessed it, a good guy and a bad guy.

The thoughtful nature of the film however is in its construction. The ruminations on the Bible are there, but it's more a case of the feel of the film as a whole. At times we don't see the visual payoff we might expect - we know something is going to happen, and that's good enough - indeed, it makes it better. The post-apocalyptic world feels functional (replete with a simple, but informative look at the bartering process) and fleshed out, even though it's treated merely as the setting and not the subject.

Many of the elements in the film could have been expanded upon (and some sequences could have been trimmed for pacing), but you rarely feel short changed. You're left wanting more in a good way.

This flick is also stylish. Really stylish. Not in the MTV way of 'style', but in a more thoughtful way (hooking back to the thoughtfulness again). It feels considered and dramatic, with the right amount of sensation thrown into the mix.

It's a hard flick to sum up, but needless to say it's not the actioner that the trailer leads you to believe. Indeed I would wager that in most screenings there will have been people who either walk out disappointed, or are frequently in-and-out to go for a piss after they've spent the first half guzzling eighteen litres of Coke. This was the case at our screening, which was a mid-afternoon showing. It was far from sparsely populated, but there were people in and out like a fucking Yo-Yo. It did amuse me to see a teenager - decked out in expensive trainers, football shirt, low slung trousers, and a baseball cap - wearing a gaudy crucifix around his neck. Considering the content of the film, it seemed like an odd juxtaposition, but strangely related.

So far it's been a surprising start to the year for me at the cinema - first with the rather enjoyable Sherlock Holmes that I wasn't sold on until the final trailer - and now with The Book of Eli, which is far better than its paint-by-numbers stock trailer suggests.

Now come on Cineworld, show The Road.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

"Zero" has landed...

At the BBC Writersroom that is.

Got my acknowledgement card in the post today that they've received my script "Zero".

All I can do now is cross my fingers and hope they see what I see in it.

Friday 15 January 2010

Pre-score edit of IAZM3 is done...

The other day I finished the edit of IAZM3, and it's now gone off to Brian and Gary to get the music done over the next few weeks. I've already heard one sample for one of the scenes, and it kicks ass already. I'm really looking forward to getting all the music into it and putting it online when it's done.

The film clocks in at 9 minutes and 58 seconds, so I was successful in sticking to my strict 10 minute running time, which was at times a tricky thing to do, but it was also kind of fun to solve the puzzle of how to edit shots down to make them as quick as possible while not losing their point of existing, and how to economise on the number of shots to tell the story of a sequence. It really makes you look closer at your editing, and you sometimes get down to trimming frames off of shots so that they cut when you'd naturally expect them to.

While editing this I would look at the time line and find myself going "8 seconds long? How indulgent!" during certain sequences. Indeed, some parts of the film have a slower pace, while others are as tight as ... something very tight ... and are frame-specific in their pace. So yeah, the puzzle was solved and all extraneous fat was trimmed, so I feel it now really barrels along at a fair old pace - which is a much better place to be with a short. It's better to feel it go by fast and to want more, than to be sat there waiting for the next thing to happen as it drags along.

But such is life and how you learn with each film what's important and what isn't, and how to make each and every new one better than the last.

While I will no doubt continue to refer to it as "IAZM3", indeed it is the third Zombie Man film, the only title on the film itself is what was originally the sub-title (but which is now just the title) - The Inevitable Decomposition of Zombie Man.

This further ties in with what I wanted to do with it - to make it capable of standing alone, but continuing to be a part of the series.

Monday 11 January 2010

More update sauce...

The IAZM3 editing process continues apace, with about 8 minutes worth pretty tightly edited. I might look to trim it down a smidge during my next session, but all-in-all it's going well. It's actually kind of fun to work strictly to a time limit that you've set yourself (the duration of the film I mean, not the length of time it takes you to make it), as you really look at what you've got and find exactly what you need to tell the story and make it all make sense.

Anyway, here's a couple of screen grabs from one of the recently edited sequences.

Sunday 10 January 2010

My Top Films of the Decade 2000-2009...

Following on from my Top Ten of 2009, I've only gone and compiled a list of my favourite films from the past decade - a tricky task in itself. There are years where there are sometimes several more films I would have wanted to include, but you just have to pick the ones to fit in your allocated spots - as such I set myself the task of picking a Top Three for each year, with two honourable mentions.

My Top Films of the Decade 2000-2009:

Top 3:
American Psycho - phenomenal book, phenomenal movie. Bale at his career best in a hell of a flick.
Battle Royale - brutal, comedic, action-packed and iconic.
High Fidelity - Cusack is on top form, the soundtrack is top notch, and it's generally just great.

Honourable Mentions:
Memento - a cracking little thriller that fucks your head up.
Requiem For A Dream - this should be shown to kids at school to deter them from drugs. Horrifying, electric, and in your face.

Top 3:
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - a decade-defining trilogy begins.
Donnie Darko - mind-fuck meets the nostalgic high school movie.
Dogtown and Z-Boys - beautifully crafted, energetic, involving documentary about the birth of modern skateboarding.

Honourable Mentions:
Black Hawk Down - a thunerous slice modern war(fare) film-making.
Monsters, Inc - Pixar take a simple concept and turn it on its head, and give the world the cutest tyke in motion picture history.

Top 3:
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Helms Deep. Nuff said.
28 Days Later - they're not zombies, but Danny Boyle's UK-set dose of apocalypse has reverberated throughout the horror genre.
The Rules of Attraction - vibrant, sleazy and stylish.

Honourable Mentions:
Spider-Man - Raimi's superhero movie masterstroke.
Bubba Ho-tep - Bruce Campbell as an elderly Elvis. Nuff said.

Top 3:
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - the conclusion of the grandest filmmaking achievement in decades.
Lost In Translation - moving and involving character study that makes you feel like you were in Japan.
Bad Santa - gleefully politically incorrect and so funny it hurts.

Honourable Mentions:
Finding Nemo - Pixar hit another high note with a beautifully animated and written undersea tale of a father searching for his lost son.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 - Tarantino's first movie in six years, and it's a thrash-bash slice of pure QT brilliance.

Top 3:
Downfall - astonishingly great telling of the final days of Hitler and The Third Reich.
Shaun of the Dead - the best British film of the decade, and it's an utterly hilarious zombie comedy - with shamblers in it, and the folks behind Spaced giving it to us.
Team America: World Police - foul-mouthed hilarity from the South Park duo and a cast of supermarionettes.

Honourable Mentions:
Layer Cake - Matthew Vaughn and Daniel Craig on top form in a gangster picture that does away with years of Lock Stock's influence with limitless confidence.
Saw - giving the horror genre a royal kick up the arse, this intense, shocking, low budget flick is just fantastic.

Top 3:
The Devil's Rejects - Rob Zombie's Citizen Kane. A brutal, stylish, confident shredding and re-writing of the horror and road movie handbooks.
Sin City - a graphic novel brought to life with real pinash.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - under-rated, but tip-top Hollywood-set detective-flavoured thriller with RDJ knocking it out of the park.

Honourable Mentions:
Brokeback Mountain - poetic, beautiful, heart-breaking.
The Descent - one of the (few) scariest horror films of the decade, which takes time to investigate the characters themselves before squeezing us into the most claustrophobic movie ever made.

Top 3:
United 93 - gripping, none-more-intense dramatisation of the infamous hi-jacked flight on September 11th 2001. Horrifying, and incredible in its power to move the viewer to tears and adrenaline-fuelled muscle spasm.
A Scanner Darkly - superb, drug-addled rotoscoped Philip K. Dick adaptation.
Rocky Balboa - the return of two giants in the form of Stallone and his most famous character, in a thoughtful and inspiring return to the ring.

Honourable Mentions:
Right At Your Door - terrifyingly real-feeling terrorist attack indie flick.
Casino Royale - the spiffing reboot that made James Bond cool again.

Top 3:
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - an incredibly well crafted, mesmerising, meandering, poetic, beautifully photographed and acted piece of filmmaking.
Zodiac - David Fincher delivers a fascinating slow-burn character piece.
No Country For Old Men - stunning return of the Cohen Brothers to their best in a perfectly crafted thriller.

Honourable Mentions:
Grindhouse - brilliantly sleazy love letter to the golden era of low budget, independent grindhouse cinema.
There Will Be Blood - wow. Just wow.

Top 3:
The Dark Knight - it kicks ass. Nuff said.
WALL.E - beautiful. Pixar's best since Toy Story.
In Bruges - non-PC and utterly hilarious, deeply black British comedy.

Honourable Mentions:
Rambo - the ultimate bloke's film in which Rambo atomises a Burmese soldier with a huge truck-mounted machine gun. Nuff said.
Tropic Thunder - endlessly quoteable mix of action and mass market satire. RDJ owns everyone.

Top 3:
Avatar - I visited Pandora. I want to go back. End of story.
Moon - UK indie sci-fi with it's head thoroughly screwed on. Superb.
Adventureland - it makes you feel like it was your own coming of age.

Honourable Mentions:
The Wrestler (2008/09) - soulful turn from Mickey Rourke in a soulful film.
Gran Torino (2008/09) - a non-PC Clint Eastwood growls his way through a touching realisation of one old man's twilight.

Finally, as I'd alluded to at the start of this post, there were many times when I struggled to pick one film over another, so here follows a list of films I was close to including as greats & favourites.

The 'Ones That Didn't Quite Make the List' ... List:

2000 - Tigerland (tense boot camp war movie without the war).

2001 - Training Day (gripping), and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (simply a fun favourite).

- Panic Room (rarely has a simple premise been so masterfully executed).

- The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions (take away all the pretentious nonsense, and you've got two kick ass action sci-fi flicks, plus I really enjoyed seeing them in the cinema).

- The Aviator (a fascinating life story from Scorsese & DiCaprio), The Bourne Supremacy (the best of the three in my eyes), Kill Bill Vol. 2 (a stylish, wordy end to an enjoyable romp), The Machinist (stunning), and Napoleon Dynamite (this became a huge favourite in our off-campus house at university).

- Batman Begins (overcame 'bat nipples' brilliantly), Good Night and Good Luck (intriguing slice of McCarthy era tension), and Walk The Line (great, quite simply).

- Clerks 2 (a firm favourite of mine, and a really touching/gleefully crude follow-up), and The Departed (Scorsese doing what he does so well).

- Sunshine (beautiful), 28 Weeks Later (my biggest about-turn in movie opinion this decade), The Simpson's Movie (the funniest they've been in years), Gone Baby Gone (tense directorial turn from Ben Affleck with a great performance by his undervalued brother Casey), and Juno (quirky and fun).

- Iron Man (it kicked ass), The X-Files: I Want To Believe (welcome back), and Taken (Liam Neeson kicking all kinds of ass, nuff said).

- Watchmen (even better the second time around with the Director's Cut), District 9 (smar sci-fi that's also bloody enjoyable), Drag Me To Hell (scared me witless), Zombieland (ridiculously fun), Dead Snow (zombie Nazis, nuff said), and Inglourious Basterds (QT's best since Pulp Fiction).


Right, that's enough lists for now I think.

Sherlock Holmes...

It took me a while to get interested in this movie. Upon initially hearing about it, I wasn't especially fussed, and indeed early trailers didn't do an awful lot for me - I was even getting a bit sick of them, particularly that clip with RDJ naked and handcuffed on the bed with only a pillow to provide him modesty, which you ended up seeing all the time.

Then I saw another trailer soon before its release, and I suddenly found myself sold on the whole film and was rather interested to see it. RDJ's career resurgence of recent years is one big reason to see this movie (he's on top form), but it's also good to see Guy Ritchie getting away from most of what he's commonly known for. It's good to see him doing something a bit different, and a lot bigger.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a modern British lark about classic, although on the downside it did inspire a endless slew of impersonators and shaded the entire British film industry for years to follow. Snatch was then just the same movie again, and while I certainly did enjoy it, it's not really anything important to chew on. I never saw Swept Away or whatever it was called that he did with ex-wife Madonna, but you only hear bad things about it, so let's move on.

Revolver was full of style, but was so over-engineered and ever-so pretentious that it never really gelled. I've seen it once and I've never been back, it just kind of faded away into the ether of 2005. Then we have Rocknrolla, which was a return to his Lock Stock days in a way, and was a good bit of fun - but it didn't push Ritchie in any new directions, and didn't provide us as viewers with anything we hadn't seen before.

Thankfully, Ritchie has really taken a big old step forward with Sherlock Holmes, which is bloody good fun throughout (despite the odd bit of flab here and there where it occasionally gets a bit wobbly). I can't claim any real prior knowledge of the characters or stories as I've never read any of them or seen any of the adaptations, so I was - beyond knowing of the duo themselves - a complete novice.

As such, Ritchie's film works very well. You feel like you've known these characters for much longer than you really have, and the central relationship itself is the biggest draw of the film. We enjoy being in the company of this duo, and it's fun to see them play off each other like a bickering old married couple at times, while knowing full well that they're a side each of the same coin.

The other big draw for me was all the detective stuff - it's fascinating - seeing Holmes work his magic, revealing all the secrets and details we all missed. Great fun indeed.

It's a film that barrels along at a fair lick, and never really lets you drift away (although there are times in the second act that you do begin to drift a little, before being pulled back in), so all said and done, it's Guy Ritchie's best film since Lock Stock, and actually his best film to date. Here's hoping that there's not only more of this incarnation of Holmes, but more of Ritchie heading in this direction.

And I didn't even make one single "elementary" pun.

Saturday 9 January 2010

IAZM3 editing is underway!

After a few days of uploading, logging, colouring, cropping and selecting stock shots (from my personal library, and from some Public Domain footage from my gathered archives from the excellent Internet Archive website), I finally got down to some serious editing last night.

As is usually the case it's a slow start (just like when writing a script), but I had to drag myself away from the edit as I'd been sat there for a good while - so that's a good sign - the last thing you want to do is be editing when your heart isn't in it.

Anyway, I'm slightly trepidatious about whether I will get it all fitted into my 10 minute time limit - if only YouTube could give you 15 minutes per video - because I really don't want to do more than one edit (what's the point?), and I don't want to split the film into two videos as I want it to flow nicely. That said, I've risen to the challenge before in editing to a strict time limit, so I'll sodding well do it again.

UPDATE: I've been bashing away some more at the edit today, and I've now got the first 3 minutes and 45 seconds nicely bashed into shape. I even cut out some of the opening monologue (34 seconds worth), which wasn't necessary, and just helped to move things along faster at the start. No doubt I'll include these deleted snippets in a sort of 'gag reel/behind the scenes' type cobbled together video, after IAZM3 is online and out there.

Friday 8 January 2010

Gaia & Genesis screening...

I've received word that a couple of the chapters from Gaia & Genesis ("Gaia" and "The Rapture") will be screening at the Borderlines Film Festival 2010 on the 27th February.

Good news to start the year then.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Snowed in!

Typical really, isn't it?

"Zero" gets put into the mail yesterday to head off to the BBC Writersroom, and then it starts snowing - and now we've got a good seven inches on the ground (other areas are deeper). Is it a good or bad omen? Hopefully a good one.

Still, got some kick ass photos when I went for a venture up and down the road, and even got to try out my new Kodak Zi8 HD pocket video camera. The below picture is from my digital photo camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12), and I'll note that the sign had fallen down the pole, in case you thought the snow was several feet high or something!

Tuesday 5 January 2010

"Zero" & "IAZM3" update...

Today my 120 page feature film comedy script "Zero" was put in the post for the BBC Writersroom, and perhaps ominously it started to snow.

I'd really love for the folks at the Writersroom to see in the script what I see in it. It's a script that I'm really proud of, and I've really stepped up my writing craft over the course of doing this script. Indeed the first draft was my first real, properly formatted and structured, feature length script - after which I wrote another two scripts (the zombie epic "The End", and designed-for-low-budget horror "From The Inside Out") - and then I came back around to "Zero" (which was then called "Generation Procrastination" - I think this new title is better, and at least it's certainly less of a mouthful).

Coming back to this script really showed me how far I'd progressed in terms of my writing. I immediately set about removing anything too blunt and obvious, and including more subtleties, character traits and so on. I had also found myself much more 'in the heads' of my characters by this time, and over the course of three further re-writes (drafts 2.1, 2.2 and 3.1) I really locked it down to what I wanted it to be, and even though I've been over it meticulously I can still remove myself from it and just enjoy it as an enjoyable comedy with entertaining characters.

I can really see "Zero" so vividly in my head as a film, and indeed that's how I write. A movie plays in my head, and then I write down what I see. I even go so far as to act out the dialogue (as best as I can anyway, not being an actor) to allow me to dig out any troublesome passages that trip up my tongue, and to put in all the inflections in the right places so that whoever will read it will be able to hear the dialogue.

So yeah - fingers crossed dear readers - I would love for this script to be my foot in the door. Goodness knows I'm hungry for the next step.


Moving on to another update - the editing process for the third and final I Am Zombie Man short is sort of underway. The footage is uploaded and plonked into the timeline, and the various chunks of stock footage have been selected (some Public Domain stuff from the excellent Internet Archive, some my own stock footage I've gathered over the years in general or for other projects). I must make a start in earnest though and get this thing moving onwards.

Aside from that I was also tidying up some of the dialogue files as I'd noticed some extraneous noise I needed to extract.


First though I've got some clips to gather and send off to go up on the Ethics Online website.

Monday 4 January 2010

Embarrassing DVDs in your collection?

I was perusing my growing collection of DVDs, and I began to notice some that make me cringe these days.

1) Bowling For Columbine...

In itself not too bad of a pseudo-documentary. However, Michael Moore is such an insufferable, hypocritical prat who now produces utter pants for a living, something which has become ever-more-prevalent in recent years, that it just feels a bit embarrassing to own this on DVD. Not only that, but it's the special edition.

2) Children of the Living Dead...

Bought - for a fiver - from one of those scruffy second-hand video shops you only find in the rougher parts of town, out of the way and smelling of cigarette smoke and general staleness, I am almost ashamed to own this. However, of the two times I've watched it, the first was a group piss-taking, and the second was so I could compose another one of my 'bitch lists' about it. The film itself is beyond terrible, but the director did at least give a highly entertaining and honest response to an enraged fan (find it on Homepage of the Dead, in the articles section).

3) Dawn of the Dead (the dreadful remake)...

In a rare, but none-more-potent, lapse of common sense and mental capacity, I purchased - brand new and at full price - the Region 1 Unrated Director's Cut of Zack Snyder's utterly pish raping of Romero's legendary horror film. I came up with 110 reasons in 110 minutes why I disliked it so much. Still, at the absolute least I got to write it off as an expense (after the fact), when I chose to use it as one of the examples for my final year dissertation - which centred on the post-millennial development of the horror genre.

4) Dead & Breakfast...

When I was light on cash immediately after graduating, I dim-wittedly purchased this Shaun of the Dead wannabe. It's really quite annoying, and isn't remotely funny. I've watched it once. Maybe I'll create a 'bitch list' about it so as to reclaim some face.

5) Don't Go In The Woods ... Alone!

Bought for about £3, simply so I wouldn't have to pay shipping costs (better to have something rubbish and avoid shipping costs, than just pay for shipping). It's still terrible though, and is perhaps the worst DVD package I've ever seen. However, there's still a part of me that barely respects it ... I just can't fathom why.

6) 100% Unofficial - Friends: In Their Own Words...

I'm not ashamed to be a fan of the show, I really do like it quite a bit. However, this cobbled together hunk of shit transferred from a ropey old videotape directly onto a DVD is nothing short of offensive.

7) Freddy Got Fingered...

Bought during my early DVD purchasing days, and the heady times of first year university, I found this movie really quite funny at the time. It's been a long time since I've viewed it's beyond stupid scenes. Now I'm a little bit embarrassed to own it, but is it a once-in-a-blue-moon guilty pleasure?

8) Gang Tapes...

Bought simply because it was controversial, at a time when such an accolade was good enough for me to sprinkle out a few scheckles, I found myself physically queasy from the hand-held footage ... but mainly because of the almost unstoppable use of the "N word".

9) Gone In Sixty Seconds...

The one with Nic Cage. Again, an early DVD purchase, of a film I have taped off of Sky Movies and purchased on ex-rental videotape in my teenage years. It's a guilty pleasure alright.

10) Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3...

Guilty pleasures. Both of them. Like the first movie's DVD, they're both the special editions. I got them cheap though.

11) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines...

So unspeakably crap that I could go on for days about how rubbish it is. So I won't bother.

12) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the remake)...

It's a guilty pleasure. While not a patch on the original (naturally), I am a bit uneasy about owning it. Not only that but it's the special edition 2-disc ... the one with the 'crime scene photos' inside the packaging that folds out in the form of a massive chainsaw blade. I kind of dig it.


And now the ones that are so bad they're good enough for a free pass:

Drive-In Massacre - the example I always give when ranting about this fad of remaking movies. How about remaking a shit movie, such as this, and then the remake will actually be worthwhile?

Nightmare In A Damaged Brain - a whole lot of nothing happens for 99% of the movie, and generally undeserving of its Video Nasty status. Plus the DVD release is dreadful. How this barely clings onto any life in this portion of the list is simply because it reminds me of when I was 18, just at university, and buying up newly released video nasties (such as superior horror gems like Maniac).

Oasis of the Zombies - so utterly rubbish that it's actually kind of fun. While a movie like Zombie Lake is silly and kinda rubbish, it actually has a lot going for it, however this movie doesn't. That said, it's a prime example of cheapy euro-trash euro-zombi flicks. If you want to know how to make a euro-zombi grindhouse movie, watch this.

Redneck Zombies - Troma-in-label-only, this tacky, cobbled together, shot-on-video mess appears on this portion of the list because there are some great, juicy bits of indie gore, and an infection scene which is basically the filmmakers employing every single special feature on their videocamera - the sort of feature that only family video amateurs will find any genuine interest in. It's hilarious, that scene. Ideal fodder for a "group piss take" viewing.

Zombie Nosh - Bill Hinzman further cashes in on Night of the Living Dead with this woefully executed hash-bash of nonsense and personal perversion. So bad it's kind of good.

Saturday 2 January 2010

Halloween 2 (2009)...

Well, this is a weird one alright. I have seen such routinely dire reviews for this flick that I was really beginning to expect the worst. Rob Zombie's 2007 Halloween re-do met with much controversy. Some dug it, some despised it. I dug it - although it was naturally not a patch on the original.

I was really quite interested to see H2 therefore, especially when it was launched into such a cold and stormy reception. Perhaps this is why, with expectations set so low, I actually kinda dug this flick too.

Don't get me wrong, it's a weird flick - sometimes good weird, sometimes uncomfortable weird - but there's something about it which impressed me enough to not dismiss it outright. Perhaps it greeted me as a particularly violent plucky sort of slasher movie that knew it was both breaking and relying upon genre convention and audience expectation. A movie that is one part predictable, and one part strange new pastures.

The main failings however, all come down to the script. The three main threads of characters are so disconnected throughout the movie that you never really feel any true connection between them all, and at a too-long two hours you start feeling a bit lost half way through.

I was led to believe, by the myriad of frothy-mouthed and bile-soaked online reviews, that Rob Zombie had truly indulged his obsession with white trash and rock chicks. Fortunately, it was nowhere near as continuous or in-my-face as I was expecting. Sure it's there, and sure we could really do with a different character type taking centre stage in an RZ flick, but I was happy enough to let it slide in the end.

That said, Laurie's transformation into a medicated freak was a tough pill to swallow. It both makes sense and not enough sense, especially when you feel a certain 'revelation' to Laurie should have been there from the beginning as we, the audience, are way ahead of her. Indeed, her tidal waves of changing emotions begin to tire after the first act and you begin to not give a stuff about her. She becomes a bit of a pain to be honest, unfortunately.

Equally, while it's always a joy to see McDowell chomping into a character, the shift in Loomis into the territory of a fame-obsessed, greedy bastard doesn't sit at all well. A reluctant, media hounded Loomis would have made for a more interesting character that you could actually be on the side of, but with the way it is, the third act Loomis has lost your support after the first two acts of prancing around like a celebrity.

As is the way with a Rob Zombie movie, it's filled with genre stars and strong character actors - which helps pull you through the movie. It's a brief treat to see Caroline Williams (from the second Chainsaw Massacre movie in 1986), and a whole host of "oh, that one" appearances are entertaining, if a little distracting. The stand-out performance though, has to go to Brad Douriff who - while underused - demonstrates exactly where H2 should have remained throughout. One particular scene in the third act demonstrates his performance strength and depth vividly.

Now - all this white horse, vision business - it's all a bit pretentious, quite frankly. The first half is far too 'on the nose' and blunt in terms of visions and dreams, albeit in a very stylish manner. Sheri Moon Zombie, while enjoyable in past RZ flicks, feels out-of-place here, and you just begin to wish that RZ would stop casting his wife in all his movies. Not only that, but the replacement for Daeg Faerch (the young Myers from the 2007 film) feels inconsistent with Daeg's warped tyke, who held something darker and un-child-like behind his eyes. Sadly, there's none of that in this movie.

Supporting cast wise, they're all a bit generic, and this is where H2 becomes very dependent on genre convention to the point where it feels like the rather ropey Halloween 4 and 5, especially when the Halloween night party kicks off and we follow the quite pointless friends of Laurie Strode around for the evening.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is very split, essentially following three single paths all at once, but rarely combining them at all until the very end of the film. It feels disconnected and loose, and as such Myer's yomping through fields while occasionally killing some random person off never has any real power or purpose.

As for the beardy giant look of Michael Myers, that I was fine with. It's an interesting diversion from the established look whenever the famous mask is taken off. However, the raw power and one-tracked-mind approach of the character from the 2007 movie is mostly lost.

I did mention that the visions and dreams are very stylish. Indeed, the entire movie is very stylish. It looks superb with crisp editing and creative photography, and RZ proves he really knows how to stage a dramatic scene with a bit of flair and grit. He has continued to grow in this respect, so it's a real shame that he seems to be treading water when it comes to characters and plot in H2.

All-in-all however, and H2 is nowhere near as bad as I'd been led to believe by online outrage. Does it falter? Yes, frequently. Does it improve upon the actually-pretty-good 2007 re-do? Nope. Is it stylish, dramatic and well staged? Yes. Does it keep you on side and on board throughout? Not at all.

Like I said, this is a weird one, and I think that's part of why I kind of dig it. However, Rob Zombie really, really needs to move onto other things. I was gutted that he decided to go with H2 rather than T-Rex last year, and I do hope he gets back to that project, and I also hope that he seeks to explore new horizons in terms of plot and characterisation. He clearly has talent and strong vision, but H2 shows him mostly wasting it or not fulfilling his potential.

Monsters VS Aliens...

The main problem CGI family-friendly flicks (produced by those other than Pixar) have, is that they aren't from Pixar. The gang that gave us such greats as Toy Story, Monsters Inc, and WALL.E really know what they're doing, and frankly everyone else is trailing in their dust (although Cars was a noticeable mis-step, and Ratatouille wasn't much better).

However, Dreamworks (who have given us the hugely successful Shrek films - none of which I've seen - and the two Madagascar movies - both of which I've seen and rather enjoyed) continues to do a stand-up job of walking in Pixar's shadow, while producing solid fare.

Monsters VS Aliens is such a film. It might be a little light on the laughs at times, and the plot can sometimes drag a little here and there (before feeling a bit rushed and undercooked in the third act), but the quality of the characters carries you through - especially the Seth Rogen voiced B.O.B, who steals every scene he wobbles through. Add in Keifer Sutherland's gravel-voiced W.R. Monger, Reese Witherspoon's cute-and-huge Ginormica, Will Arnett's cocky, Creature From The Black Lagoon-riffing The Missing Link, Hugh Laurie's mad, cock-roach-headed Dr Cockroach and a wide-eyed Insectosaurus, and you've got a good, fun movie.

It doesn't contain the same level of heart or originality that engenders Pixar's greatness (I'm really looking forward to checking out Up), but it's a really fun flick packed with references for sci-fi and monster movie lovers.

Donkey Punch...

I'd been meaning to see this one for quite a while, and noticed it was on the telly in the run-up to Xmas. I didn't know what to expect really, but I wasn't especially intrigued. Nor should I have been, to be honest, as it all feels a bit generic as a thriller.

The film leading up to the titular scene is alright, albeit a bit sleazy (and not in the good grindhouse kind of way) - sex, drugs, alcohol, mouthy people being mouthy to one another - and then it becomes an increasingly unbelievable thriller on a boat. You don't care about any of the characters, for they are either complete bastards, complete tossers, or make such silly decisions that you can't respect them enough to be bothered following them.

To be honest, these are people I'd avoid like the plague in real life, so why would I want to watch them in a movie? It's a shame there's no redeeming features to these characters, as that would have made you care at least a bit about them.

It's very stylish as a film, and has a cool, sexy soundtrack ... but that's it unfortuantely.

WNWR Podcast - 31st December 2009...

The last WNWR podcast - of 2009 - went up on New Year's Day, recorded mere hours before the ball dropped and a new decade came to pass, and while a shorter-than-usual affair, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's all about quality rather than quantity with podcasts after all.

Find a link to the WNWR podcast website over on the right in my "Make With The Clicky" section.

Anyway, after dishing out a bit of my own pestering (for a new WNWR podcast), in jest-shaped retaliation for all the podcast-based (and beyond) pestering I've had from Brian & Gary (our verbose and strongly opinionated-as-ever podcasting duo) to get on with I Am Zombie Man 3. As you'll know by now from an earlier post, IAZM3 has been shot and is now entering the editing process, which will take as long as it'll take - which isn't some round-about way of saying it'll take sodding ages, but at the same time it's not going to be rushed out. The idea is to make IAZM3 the last entry in the Zombie Man series.

Speaking of which, as both Gary and Brian have read the script (to which I added a few other ideas just-prior-to, during, and after shooting - my shooting scripts always end up scrawled with a myriad of hand-written notes), and has expressed in the podcast how it puts an end to things, but at the same time leaves it open.

Indeed this was the intention, but mainly I wanted to be a little more subtle - plus it suits the tone better to be ambiguous, but Zombie Man himself has most definitely fallen on hard times.

Anyway, in passing it was mentioned that the second IAZM short had been trimmed down by Gary prior to it being shown along with the first one ahead of a Deadlands theatrical screening. I'm not entirely sure why Gary never told me, but he need not have worried as I agree it was a wise move.

IAZM2, while still good fun, is most definitely playing to the fans for a significant portion of the running time (particularly those who post/posted at Homepage of the Dead). It is indulgent, and at a good 25 minutes it's over-long. Perhaps part of the reason for this was that IAZM2 came so soon after IAZM1. As such, the two year delay in getting IAZM3 filmed will hopefully be to its benefit. Time has passed, I've developed as a filmmaker in all respects, and yet those who dig the Zombie Man vibe are still up for a third slice.

Indeed, I'd thought myself about doing a re-edit of IAZM2 at some point, but I just never got around to it. Perhaps one day I will - albeit merely go back to the master MPEG-2, as I simply cannot be arsed to find all the original files and cobble them together again. If I was ever going to re-edit, I'd want to make it a simple-as-possible job.

As for IAZM3, there is no alternative ending, but as I've said above it is open enough so that if someone said "hey, I've got three buckets and a moderately sized padded envelope full of cash, how's about you make a fourth Zombie Man?" I'd say "only if I have something interesting to do for the series" ... which I'd find bloody quick, no doubt!

I'd never say never, but in terms of the series as it stands - a bugger-all-budget (soon-to-be) trio of YouTube-based shorts playing to a small, but loving audience - this will be it. Now, if someone really did want to give me a budget, I really would develop a new idea and rope in a producer, actors, FX people and so on. I really would - but yeah, I'd have to have a small crew, because bugger me was IAZM3 an ordeal to prep and shoot. There were just too many differing areas for one mind to organise, create and contend with. If I could just concentrate on writing & directing (which is my ultimate career goal anyway), and have good people to fill every other role, then I'd love that.

There was a mention of a BenZee spin-off (a side kick character in IAZM2) - and indeed I have spoken of this a few times before, and I do have a handful of scribbled down ideas for one such short. Perhaps I'll shoot that one day, and what I can say about it is that it would link in to IAZM3 to an extent. It would be self-contained and finite.


Anyway, enough IAZM chit-chat, so onto some other things brought up in the podcast. Hell yes, True Lies and Last Action Hero are kick ass movies. I don't understand the disrespect these movies get. They're both fun-as-hell action rides, True Lies especially. Now if only they'd release a fully uncut version of that, as it is notoriously fiddled with and there are multiple cuts out there.


Speaking about my Top Ten of 2009 movies list, Gary stuck mainly (almost exclusively) to the offence I caused to his senses when I 'merely' gave the rather good Gran Torino an honourable mention. I'll also add that, on the topic of the casual (even humorous) racism on display throughout the film, my fellow Brits and I in the cinema all laughed somewhat guiltily at the extremely colourful and creative display of non-PC goings on. All the better for it quite frankly, as I've gotten sick of how far political correctness has gone - it's simply gone too far.

The fact that people feel uncomfortable with such racist terms and attitudes is a good thing - we don't share those views, and that's a good thing. The original objective of political correctness has been achieved. However, this shouldn't mean we can't have a little laugh at it at the same time. Lighten up for crying out loud. It's Clint-freaking-Eastwood!

As for the Hmung cast members, not once did I feel they were amateurish as actors. They all felt like real people, and that just worked better in the end, and made Walt Kowalski all the more real too.

Also, yes I am in the "love camp" for Avatar - not only is it in my Top Ten, but it is my favourite movie of the year. While I don't organise my All Time/Top lists numerically (at best I group them into chunks of ten, such as I did with my All Time (up to-and-including 2008) Favourite Movies List), Avatar is my number one movie of 2009. Despite its flaws, not only is the welcome return of James-freaking-Cameron, we get to visit a world like no other we have seen before. A world so lushly realised that we cannot help but be in awe. He takes human emotion and combines it with cutting edge CGI, which pushes the envelope like no other. I loved visiting Pandora, and I am eager to go back.


It's well known that Gary is a Mustang man. I am stunned at how frequently he changes his car though, and I have to say my eyebrow did jerk upwards when he said he was opting for an automatic rather than a manual. I do understand how manual shifting in a city environment can be a right old haggard bitch that smells vaguely of pee ... but come on, it's a Mustang!

Still though, he's getting one in black ... so I'll let him off, ha!


I had no idea at all that Megashark VS Giant Octopuss - the latest abortion from talent-free/resource-heavy gaggle of tosspots The Asylum - had a theatrical run in the UK. It must have been miniscule as it certainly played nowhere in my vicinity, nor did I see any adverts for it. I do know it's currently (as I type) showing on the Sci-Fi Channel, however.

Speaking of 'The Asylum', it doesn't half piss me off when you've got a group of people such as this who have money and resources to hand, but simply insist on producing such gargantuan turd festivals time-after-time-after-time. It's nothing short of an insult to talented filmmakers out there all over the world who are struggling to get their foot in the door of 'the business'. People who have original ideas, not some poorly written rip-off of whatever summer blockbuster is out soon.

That's what The Asylum are. A utterly disrespectful and incredibly annoying flick in the balls to filmmaking as a concept. Full stop. No two ways about it. They can fuck off.


Anyway, ending on a more positive note, that was a little follow-up to another spiffing Wet 'n' Wild Radio podcast. I look forward to hearing the next one.