Wednesday 30 June 2010

Flavours of the Month: June 2010...

Continuing on from last month, my obsession with Prison Break Season One exploded and I'm now eager to see the remaining three seasons. Initially I was sceptical as it does take a good four or five episodes to get you into the groove of the show, but after that you're totally sucked in and fascinated by how every single problem that arises gets solved ... and the last two episodes are nothing but awesome.

I read Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, as I'm a big fan of the film adaptation, and naturally it was ruddy great, and then I simply had to watch the movie yet again - inspiring another mini-Cusack fest complimented by another viewing of Grosse Pointe Blank.

There's been a lot of script writing going on, what with Summer Road (comedy drama, now onto Draft 2.2) and Allen Bridge (drama mystery with a somewhat supernatural tint, now in the planning stages).

I also got the Season 1 through 3 box set of Robot Chicken, so it was nothing but that for a couple of weeks as I gorged myself on the extra features - and yes, season 4 is pre-ordered.

I finished Red Dead Redemption, which was a ruddy good game, and is Rockstar's best game to date, I'd have to say. You really care about John Marston and you end up caring about his family too, and what's more you really feel involved in the setting - that of the dying days of the wild west - and wow, the ending really packs a punch (just remember, the game ain't over till you've seen the credits roll). Speaking of the credits, the soundtrack to the game is tip-top, especially those two tracks on the credits which leave a memorable mark in the context of the ending.

As such, there has been a bit of a soundtrack festival on my CD changer - the soundtracks to Red Dead Redemption, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and The Road - two are westerns, two are by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and all three are excellent.

Finally, a hot topic for discussion over on Homepage of the Dead at the moment is the forthcoming TV series The Walking Dead, and having never read the source material before, I've now gone and gotten myself into that. At the time of writing I've read Vol. 1 "Days Gone Bye", and I've just started Vol. 2 "Miles Behind Us".


And there we have it, a whole year's worth of Flavours of the Month - to see the first one, follow this link:

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Triple Bill Mini Musings: The Jurassic Park Trilogy...

Jurassic Park:
I hadn't seen it in years, possibly even a decade, and I'd forgotten just how well paced, structured, interesting and involving the flick is. It's Spielberg at on his best showman's roll, and the effects still stand up to this day ... well the CGI is a smidge dated and flat by today's standards, but the overall wonder that coats the film smooths over such things easily.

Most impressive are the animatronic dinosaurs (especially the giant T-Rex head), which add to the overall feel of believability (except for Attenborough's roaming 'generally British' apparently Scottish accent), tension and action-packed excitement. A true classic.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park:
Like with the first film, I went to see this at the cinema as an eager, excited kid, and loved every minute of it. Now twice the age I was at the time it feels baggy, lacking of a properly involving plot, and it plays out as one action sequence after another. Sure, the effects (both CGI and practical) had gotten even better and greater, but there's too many side characters with nothing to do.

Even the main characters have little to do but run around and scream from time to time, and there are some biblically stupid things that happen. Malcom's kid stows away and turns up on the island to be almost nothing but a hindrance, and Sarah - supposedly a very intelligent woman - doesn't realise that it's probably not a good idea to continue wearing a jacket soaked in the un-drying blood of a baby T-Rex (she even discusses it directly with a professional hunter!!!).

It's big, bloated and at times needlessly silly, but the convincing dinosaur work and rough-and-tumble action sequences at least make it interesting enough.

Jurassic Park III:
I'd not seen it until now, and I'm hardly surprised. It is interesting to get Grant back - and even a bit more Satler - but the inciting incident is too weak and daft, and Grant simply going along with it literally for a pay cheque doesn't ring true. It made enough sense in the first movie - before he knew what he was getting into - but now, after two movies, you'd think that Grant would just say "NO!" and be done with it entirely.

Even more so than the second movie, it's just one action sequence after another, and while - again - it's all technically very proficient, you just don't give much of a stuff about it all in the end. The film itself is a good half hour shorter than the first two, and that about says it all - there's not enough meat to bother with, and - again - stupid characters make stupid decisions. If it wasn't for seeing the first two movies, and holding the first in such high regard, I wouldn't have otherwise bothered with it.

Double Bill Mini Musings: A Decade Apart...

I'd known about it for as long as it had been around, but that's it. Now that I've got Sky+ I can just record every movie that takes my fancy and work through them as-and-when - and an example of 'oh yeah, I've heard about that one, I'll give that a try' is this.

The central theme of morals vs. ethics, played out against the increasingly important backdrop of a high school election, is really quite interesting. On one hand you've got these small town characters either improving or destroying their own lives by any means they deem necessary, or happen to stumble into, and on the other it's a commentary on democracy. I should have watched this ages ago.

This Is It:
June 25th 2009 I got back from the hospital after having an operation, and still chock-full of drugs, I returned to the news that Michael Jackson had died. "Weird", I said in a rather understated (and drugged-out) manner. Over the following month it was nothing but MJ on the news and the music channels, so the singles became the soundtrack to my recovery.

Now a year later, with the documentary showing up on Sky Premiere, I had a skim through it - skipping over the songs I didn't know/didn't like ... as well as all the luvvy-duvvy stuff with dancers praising MJ. It's amazing to see just how much work, effort, and cash go into making an event such as this tour was supposed to be. You get a sense of it being 'the greatest show that never happened', and while it plays as a bit of a glorified DVD extra (to what you would have no doubt been a special edition DVD of the actual intended show), it makes for an intriguing watch.

Friday 25 June 2010

Double Bill Mini Musings: Kinda Naff, Kinda Fun...

McHale's Navy:
Getting Sky+ has allowed me to see a bunch of movies I would have probably never gotten around to seeing - you record it, and then can dip in and out as you see fit. McHale's Navy is one such movie - and the only reason I wanted to see it was the involvement of Bruce Campbell, which is unfortunately not an awful lot in this Sgt Bilko rip-off/Tom Arnold vehicle.

Cheap sets, soft gags, and an underused side-cast all make this generally dull. Again, I only checked it out as a Bruce Campbell fan.

I'd thought it was a zombie flick when I was skimming through one of those 'you may also like...' sections you get on websites, but it's actually a giant bug movie. Apparently it's send-up/referential of the B-Movie heyday, but beyond the giant bugs I don't see the connection - well, it is cheap, so that's two things. It doesn't have the same lure as the classic B-Movie greats, and it isn't bad enough to have the 'so bad it's good' influence of the B-Movie era's less illustrious moments.

On the plus side it's got Ray Wise in it, and the human/bug hybrids are ickily fun to behold. Mind you, I didn't like the lack of a final shot - clearly they were having fun with the 'uh oh/grand saviour shot' moment - but it just comes off as annoying and flat instead of sarcastic and witty.

Double Bill Mini Musings: Brits and South Koreans...

If only more horror movies had a similar vibe to this flick. It's not about big jumpy "BOO!" scares and loud crashing noises on the soundtrack. It's about a creeping sense of dread in an intimidating atmosphere, and while it's not going to freak out horror fiends such as myself, it was a far more convincing slice of genre fare than - for example - The Haunting In Conneticut, which was a case of loud noises and jumpy moments (incidentally that flick was decent for a viewing, but it tried too hard).

It's low budget, it's creepy, it's well pieced together and while the script isn't anything particularly special, the overall package is pleasing - after all, it's ghost/zombie Nazis in a dark, spooky Nazi bunker!

The Good, The Bad, and The Weird:
The last South Korean movie I recall watching was The Host (which also stars one of the same actors) - and I didn't care for it - however this love letter to Sergio Leone (specifically For A Few Dollars More, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, and Once Upon A Time In The West) is a corker. Aside from some second act pacing dips, and a mildy confusing interplay of character groups, it has some brilliant action - a raid on a moving train, a market bullet ballet that ascends to the skies, and an all-out chase after the treasure map featuring multiple factions running and gunning like crazy set to Santa Esmeralda's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (a possible Tarantino nod?).

In short it is a beautiful-looking, beautifully crafted South Korean take on the Spaghetti Western. Your patience might be tested around the middle portion, but it's entirely worthwhile to stick around and enjoy the spectacle of it all.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

What's the point in the remake of The Last House on the Left?...

It's nothing but remakes of late, and it's no more prevalent than in the horror genre. Occasionally you get a worthwhile remake, but more often than not you get an inferior (or even utterly crap) clone with more money, fancy equipment and slick editing to go with the even slicker ad campaign.

The 2009 version of The Last House on the Left is a remake that's just pointless. Wes Craven's raw and tough (and occasionally slapstick) original is very much of its time. The story surrounding the film is just as important, if not more so, than the film itself. This is a key issue when it comes to the failure of so many horror remakes - context.

Many of these genre greats that are being remade have decades or fan obsession surrounding them. They were often made for little money, and much of the time with an indie sensibility back in the days when the horror genre was seen as every studio's dirty little secret. They came from a time of social and political upheaval and the inspiration this brought was more than a passing excuse - it was their reason for being.

Craven's Last House was birthed from the horrors of the Vietnam war, and the film itself would become a huge controversy and a huge attraction at the same time - and it all started when the typing pool staff who would write up the copies of the script would hand them around to each other in shocked fascination at the horrors unfolding in Craven's words. You so rarely, if ever, get such stories with modern horror movies - and most specifically of all - you never get these stories with the remakes.

There's no sense of danger, myth and legend, and everything's so clean. Within three months you've got it on crisp DVD - or 'better yet' Blu-Ray - it's just not the same, and as such, totally devoid of the original's context, the remake is simply pointless.

Not only is it pointless, but it drags. The original had a sense of dangerous, illicit immediacy, but the remake takes itself far too seriously and doesn't pack any of the impact of the original.

Case in point - the original has two bumbling cops as a side plot (falling off chicken trucks etc) - and yet the heinous scenes of woods-bound humiliation are far tougher, grittier and scarier. The sight of Krug's face smashed against that of Mari - a strand of oozing spittle smearing her cheek - all in close up as she is violated is far more haunting and graphic than the shots of nu-Krug's hairless arse wobbling around. It's still not a comfortable scene in the remake, but ... it's as if the remake is a bit of a poser, and the original is the real badass that you could see stepping up behind the posing pretender right in the middle of their posturing act and beating them senseless.

The antagonists are nowhere near as memorable, nor are they memorably played (even though I like Dillahunt's performances - heck, he was in The Assassination of Jesse James, and you should know by now how much I love that film) ... the family unit feels cold and hardly explored (despite a barely peripheral back story), and when we finally get down to the nitty gritty, again it lacks the same punch. It feels too choreographed, too clean, and the closing 'microwave moment' is just stupid.

The whole film has a stick up its arse until that moment, and then we get this preposterous moment that completely undercuts everything that came before it. The movie isn't entirely rubbish, but it's not much of anything else - again, what is the point in this remake? There feels no rhyme nor reason to it beyond making a quick buck on the back of the horror remake craze that has gotten entirely out of hand.

Stick with the original.

Monday 21 June 2010


I knew nothing of the MacGruber sketches featured on Saturday Night Live (we don't get SNL in the UK as far as I'm aware), so all I had to go on was a review in Total Film and the trailer on YouTube. I was expecting a vulgar, gleefully scattergun, laugh riot and I certainly got that. The early afternoon screening we attended (on a sunny Sunday) wasn't densely populated, but that didn't stop riotous laughter breaking out every few minutes.

It's a daft film with a daft sense of silly joy at making you laugh at vulgar and inane things. It's seriously good fun and I'm really quite glad I checked it out. Stand-out gags come thick and fast, including a wonderful undercutting of the traditional movie love scene that caused uproarious laughter amongst the relative few of us who chose air conditioned darkness over a blue-sky sunny Sunday. Two throat-ripping thumbs up from me.

Double Bill Mini Musings: A strange pairing...

Sean Penn makes you believe he's Harvey Milk in this fascinating biography from Gus Van Sant. It's big-scale biography with an indie thoughtfulness mixed with real-life newsreel footage. What's more, it's astonishing to think that 30-40 years ago, some politicians were seriously lumping homosexuals together with paedeophiles and animal botherers as their argument against pro-gay legislation. Living in present day Britain - where religion is subtle and sexuality is no bother - it's amazing to think that the above argument was seriously being made, and met with vocal support, not all that long before I was born.

A slightly weird British horror comedy that's got two of the original cast of Skins in it. A bullied kid comes back from the dead to torment and bump off those whose bullying and selfishness affected him most. I'm still not sure why he kills the nerdy kid with the pencils up the nose gag, and it's frustrating that none of the bullies show a single ounce of understanding or regret for their actions ... and the reveal of the website that's foreshadowed earlier proves so wholly troubling (as it bloody well should) stalls proceedings with distinct unpleasantness.

That said, there's some great gore gags - a broken classroom guilotine, a towel-whipped eyeball, and a steamy encounter in a cemetery among them - and the final pay off is a rallying cry to those who have been bullied. A violent resort such as this isn't the answer - naturally - but who wouldn't want to see a bunch of despicable teenage bullies getting what they damn well deserve? A pretty decent flick - worth a watch.

Double Bill Mini Musings: Mockumentaries...

Paper Heart:
I've not got a lot to say about this quirky, cute, indie-feel mockumentary, but it gave me the same sense of warmth as the similarly cute, quirky and indie-feeling Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (both feature Michael Cera too). It's a nice little film that feels different from the majority and it makes you feel good. Two thumbs up.

I'd been meaning to see this for a while, a mockumentary about a chunky Aussie who deals in portable toilets and common sense blokey wisdom and unassuming one liners. It's slightly odd, quite chucklesome and a good little flick that's worth a watch, especially if you like a bit of toilet humour.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Updates on scripts - plural - 17/6/2010...

Summer Road - Draft 2.1 is now complete, and it's been hacked down to a nice 99 pages long. Draft 1.1 came in at 128 pages, so 29 pages have been torn out of it, and it's not like I didn't add any new content - because I did, I added three new scenes.

Allen Bridge - the planning is coming along nicely, with another couple of scenes springing to mind thanks to the muse presenting me with the ideas (which have a tendency to come to me when I'm brushing my teeth before bed these days). I'm gradually finding pieces of it, and doing scattered research relating to the plot ... I don't want to get to wrapped up in it when I've still got Summer Road in progress, you know? However, the pieces of the puzzle are beginning to come together - but being a mystery, I'll need to be sure of having the entire mystery/plot itself all laid out replete with who's who and what they do. Allen Bridge will be a nice departure for me after the likes of Zero and Summer Road (comedy, and comedy-drama respectively), so I'm quite looking forward to getting it onto the page officially.

Finally, can't remember if I mentioned before or not, but I got myself a book on screenwriting, so I've been ploughing through that to get all the info and technicalities and structural things I didn't already know - as well as plenty of helpful tips - so in terms of script writing, it's all go at the moment.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Updates on scripts - plural - 8/6/2010...

"Summer" is now going to be called "Summer Road", and I completed the hand-written Draft 1.2 changes a couple of days ago - so now I've got to go back onto Final Draft and apply said changes, with further changes as I see fit to therefore create Draft 2.1 - after which there'll no doubt be a Draft 2.2 as I add all the subtle or small things that get lost amidst the big, chunky construction that is Draft 1.1 ... indeed.

As for the other script - the mystery one - it's going to be called "Allen Bridge", and the ideas have continued to flow for that. I'm letting it percolate in the back of my mind and every time a new idea, or a scene, or a character comes to mind I make a note of it.

I also went and got myself a screenwriting book - better to have all the helpful tips (which covers anything script related to boot) in one place rather than bits of tips here-and-there on scraps of paper. It's all a part of the self-taught approach to writing a script that I'm employing.

While there'll be a bunch of stuff I've already figured out over the last couple of years of feverish writing, or which were obvious and apparent from the-off, there will be plenty of things that can otherwise be easily over-looked, or indeed information on how and when to best place the beats of the plot - and indeed how to write for different genres effectively. Precisely what information is necessary, and how exactly it should be conveyed. It's all learning and it's all progress in the right direction.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Updates on scripts - plural - 3/6/2010...

Draft 1.2 of "Summer" is coming along nicely, I'm on page 92 (of 128), going through it by making hand-written changes, and it's feeling good to be able to increasingly see the wood and not just the trees. I'm also thinking of changing the name to "Summer Road".

I mentioned the other day that I had a new script idea - and labelled it a "mystery" - well the old creative juices have been flowing, and I've been gathering various pieces of local British folklore and legends for inspiration. I can't really give away too much about the central 'thing' about the plot though - so expect a lot of vague talk about this new project as-and-when I get into it.

I'm quite excited by this new idea I've had and it will extend me into fresh territory, and like every new script, I'll be able to bring on board all the new things I've learned about script writing along the way - rather than taking a script writing class that I can't afford anyway, I've been 'learning by doing' and gathering tips and information from different sources - reading scripts of movies I know well, and trawling the internet - and my filmmaking library of books on my shelves - for simple tips and guides. There's a wealth of information out there and it's all proving very educational ... ... so I guess you'd say I'm "self taught" ... or am "self teaching", rather.

Having already done the 'official education' route with my Film & Television Studies degree from UEA, and not being able to afford official script writing classes (as well as not being thrilled by the notion of more classes anyway), I wanted to take a different learning path when it came to script writing - so that's what I'm doing.

The Losers...

I didn't really know anything at all about this flick until just before seeing it. An article in Total Film and the trailer in the cinema the week before it opened when we went to see Cop Out, and that was all I knew of it - but it looked like ruddy good fun - and ruddy good fun was what we got.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Losers, not that it's especially clever or has an exceptionally original script, because it isn't and it doesn't - but it's just a bloody good time at the movies. Big guns, big explosions, big characters with sarcastic senses of humour, and tub-thumping action set pieces.

It's a movie to just enjoy, like eating a take-away dinner on the sofa with a couple of kick ass DVDs on the telly.

My one grievance, though, is the 12A rating. The violence feels neutered - although the neutering is done within reason (a comic book style freeze framing device at times) ... but then again, for a 12A it's pretty bad ass. It's been a while since I've heard "shit" flung around so freely in the dialogue of 12A flick, and there's a damn clear "fuck" thrown in for good measure. The violence swings between stylistic awesomeness and bruisingly bloodless. It'll be interesting to see if they do an unrated version for DVD, but even if they don't, I can easily see myself enjoying the hell out of this movie all over again on DVD.

Wham, bam, thank you ma'am - that's The Losers for you. Pure, boiled-down entertainment.