Saturday 30 April 2011

Flavours of the Month: April 2011...


Hot Tub Time Machine - still a bloody good laugh. "Great White Buffalo ... Great White Buffalo ... Great White Buffalo."

Event Horizon - I hadn't seen this for years, so it was a nostalgia trip as I used to watch this all the time when I was in high school (when it originally came out). Me and my mates loved it, and the fact that it featured "Funky Shit" by The Prodigy made it all the more appealing to us. I tell you what as well, it's a damn sight better than Pandorum, that's for sure.

Blue Velvet - there's a certain tone and vibe to a David Lynch project that makes them stand out from the crowd, and Blue Velvet is one of his strongest films. I'm rather looking forward to the Blu-Ray release, now that a whole load of deleted content has been recently discovered.

Jackass - I had another skim through the Jackass flicks, being that the third one recently came out on home video, for old times' sake. Now roll on whenever Jackass 3.5 comes out.

Mulholland Drive - I'd not seen it until this month, but the Blu-Ray was released not too long ago, and coming hot on the heels of another viewing of Blue Velvet, it felt like the right time. It looks nothing short of seductive on Blu-Ray, and the extra features (which are mostly in French, somewhat curiously) are intriguing - particularly the one that uses Lynch's own list of 10 clues to decipher what the movie is (most likely) about. I loved it.

MacGruber - I'm totally unfamiliar with the SNL sketch on which this is based, but we laughed hard at the cinema when we went to see it, and I certainly enjoyed it a second time around. "KFBR 392, KFBR 392, KFBR 392."

Iron Man 2 - it was about a year ago that we saw this in the cinema, and we were insanely psyched to see it. It's a shame then that it just didn't live up to the excellent trailer, nor the very enjoyable and well paced first movie. The sequel's pace is too uneven, the final battle with Vanko is bizarrely short, and it gets a bit distracted by establishing the wider Avengers franchise. There's still some cool action, but here's hoping that the third movie - apparently under the tutelage of Shane Black - re-asserts the quality factor of the first flick.


CKY "An Answer Can Be Found" - I was a little bet let down by this album back in 2005, but it's definitely better than I remembered it as being. However, Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild, and Carver City, were both superior albums in my view.

The Prodigy "Invaders Must Die" - I think it was the use of "Run With The Wolves" in the trailer for Paul that inspired me to give this a few more spins.

Angelo Badalamenti & BlueBob - there's something about the vibe, that music produced for David Lynch projects, gives off that helps get my mind into a certain place that helps me write.

Foo Fighters "Wasting Light" - after being a little bit underwhelmed by their last two albums (although I still enjoyed them, just not as much as their 2nd, 3rd and 4th outings), this is a return to form in my view. A stripped back sound with catchy songs. Make sure you check out the 'Live at 606' version of the album on the band's official YouTube channel.

Scream 2 - I gave the soundtrack CD, which I bought back in 1999, another spin after seeing Scream 4 in the cinema. It's a rather mixed album - the good comes in the form of "Eyes of Sand" (Tonic), "Dear Lover" (Foo Fighters), "Red Right Hand" (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), "I Think I Love You" (Less Than Jake) and "She Said" (Collective Soul) ... but the bad comes in the form of the absolutely dreadful opener "Scream" (Master P), and a series of mediocre offerings filling out the rest.

White Zombie "Astro-Creep:2000", and "La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1" - the former is definitely my favourite White Zombie outing. Every now and then I swing by these albums in my collection and give them another spin.


Brownies & Apple Juice - a recurring snack choice for this month.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 - it's been a while since it was released, but I got around to it for the PC. It's good fun with some pretty cool levels and a nice sense of scale. Plus, naturally, the sound design is superb, and how could you not enjoy blowing holes in buildings and then rinsing the military occupants with bullets?

Hobo With A Shotgun - trailer contests, trailers, featurettes, music, there's been a decided Hobo vibe to this month.

Allen Bridge - having broken the back of the central idea (which originated in June 2010), I finally got into writing it, and as you'll have noticed here on the blog, I've been doing a series of posts specifically about it. Inspiration has come in the form of Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks, and the music connected to those flicks, but that's not to say that this drama mystery of mine is particularly Lynchian. Those just happened to be the influences that got my mind into a particular space that allowed me to head off into my own directions and generally set a sort of tone ... if that makes sense. Continue to follow my progress with this script here on the blog.

Red Dead Redemption - replaying the story missions, ahead of L.A. Noire out later in May, I really enjoyed heading back to the dying days of the wild west with John Marston. It's possibly the best thing that Rockstar have thus far produced, even if certain elements feel very familiar from the likes of GTA.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - I've seen Blade Runner numerous times over the years, but I've never read the book. Now though I'm into the second half and I'm really enjoying it - especially as it's decidedly different to the film, so it's pretty cool to see how Blade Runner developed out of Philip K. Dick's android hunting paranoid vision.

Quiz Cocktail Supreme - it's that time of year when spring is slowly morphing into summer, and that means cider and pub quizzes. Teaming up with some chums of mine, with a name inspired by a Jackass 3D skit, we've been doing better than we thought we might.

The Royal Wedding - while I wasn't all super-psyched about it, or especially looking forward to it, I remain in favour of the Royal Family for numerous reasons (which I've gotten into elsewhere, so I won't get into it here). I ended up watching the whole thing and actually quite enjoyed it, particularly for the sheer military precision and organisation of the entire event. Besides, it's not often that an event like this happens, and we Brits are reserved in our patriotism - saving it up for grand gestures and events, such as this, every once in a while - and we really show a global audience (estimated at two billion) just how to pull off pageantry properly.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Hextuple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Speed, Money, Sand, Aliens, Action, and Gore...

Fast Five:
The original movie was a pretty decent flick. I never bothered with the second or third movies, the fourth movie left me cold when the action wasn't punching, and the fifth ... well, it's actually bloody good fun. Realism is out the window in favour of big cars, big guys, and bigger action. Set in Rio, this fifth instalment brings practically every familiar face from the franchise into one huge spectacular - so characterisation, which was never a big issue in the franchise, is naturally surface-deep pretty much all the way through.

What does keep the movie bashing along at a bloody good whack though, is the action. Justin Lin clearly knows how to deliver plenty of bang for your buck, and in a movie where everything is ridiculously massive (including franchise newbie Dwayne Johnson who resembles a gun-toting mountain driving around in a glacier-sized uber 4x4) things get crazy in a big bad way. Seemingly inspired in-part by the Rio-set levels in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (a ballsy action extravaganza of a videogame), it's insanity from beginning to end with genuinely spiffing action which makes up for any drawbacks. Big, dumb fun defined.

The remake is upon us, weirdly at a time of financial restraint in the era of Deficit Reduction, so naturally the original with Dudley Moore was going to be trotted out. If it wasn't for Moore, who is a charmingly useless multi-multi-multi-millionaire-to-be old soak, it wouldn't be particularly interesting.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time:
In need of another Pirates of the Carribean (even though a fourth is on its way, no doubt ready to inspire two more sequels in-turn), Bruckheimer & Co make a big budget videogame adaptation starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a Persian Prince from the streets who gets mixed up with Gemma Arterton and a special dagger from the Gods which can turn back time. Clash of the Titans (2010) was complete and utter bollocks, a dreary old mess, but fortunately Sands of Time has decent action and a fairly decent script - notably in some nice banter between the two leads in the first half. It's no Pirates in terms of rogue charm and romp-factor, but it's not a total slouch either.

I do enjoy a Stephen King adaptation, even if the quality varies wildly, however this tale of four telepathic buddies getting mixed up in some alien invasion - that involves butt-born worms that inspire plenty of gas in their hosts - quickly rolls downhill from intriguing, to poorly realised. It feels off-kilter with a decidedly uneven tone and some underwhelming performances. I recall hearing pretty mixed reviews of it back when it originally came out, and now I know why. The Mist was far, far, far better.

Tango & Cash:
I'd never seen this slab of late-80s action until just the other day, and I don't know what's taken me so long. Aside from a couple of moments that are either too-comical or too-cheesy (cross-dressing, and a hokey bullet-proof van), it's a bloody good laugh - the humour and acerbic banter between Stallone and Russell being the key to the flick's charm. The style, fun, and good helping of explosive action help the movie sidestep any flaws along the way.

Saw VI:
The increasingly convoluted, nonsensical, and grusomely violent 'torture porn' (how I dislike that term) franchise hasn't been any good since part 3, but part 6 - which I've only just gotten around to - is easily the best out of parts 4, 5 and 6. There's a solid premise at the heart of the plot - revolving around the company that provided (and redacted) Jigsaw's health insurance. The opening is, however, weak - and a handful of side characters are annoyingly underwritten/just plain stupid - but it moves with a swift old pace and is, mercifully, not as pointless and incomprehensible as the previous two entries ... but it's still far removed from the low budget shocker that established an increasingly cliched and repetitive franchise. The first movie was actually bloody good, so it's a shame that this factory-line approach to the sequels has sullied the quality and importance of the original.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #07...

The re-drafting of Act I continues apace - so far 6 pages worth of whittling down has been achieved, but there's still 8 more to eek out. Challenge accepted.

In a totally different direction, but one that is fairly common for me in the midst of working on a project, my mind got all hot and bothered deep into last night for another script idea I had sometime last year, which I'll refer to as "Dug Deep". I recall when I was putting the finishing touches to the last draft of Summer Road, before sending it off to the BBC Writersroom, my mind suddenly exploded with a fresh new idea for a script - and that idea is what I'm currently in the midst of writing right now.

So a bit of discipline is required at times like these to not just ditch whatever you're working on to pursue some new fresh idea as the ideas come rolling in - but at the same time, when an idea springs to mind, you've got to jot it down lest you forget it. Then you can come to it down the road when you're finished with whatever you were doing at the time. If you don't do that, you'll never see any great idea, that has inspired fevered note-making and brainstorming sessions in you, come to fruition.

Back to "Allen Bridge" though - the re-drafting is coming along nicely. I'm on (re-drafted) page 19 of 38 now ... so here's hoping I can manage to whittle down 8 more pages worth of extraneous fat.

Monday 25 April 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #06...

Now underway is the re-drafting of Act I - the key aim of which is to trim 14 pages from the 44 that constituted the draft 1.1 version of the first act.

I am now sitting back on page 13, having managed to trim, chop, and re-write 2.5 pages out of the way - so clearly there is still plenty left to do, but there's also plenty of pages left in which to achieve that aforementioned goal.

I find re-drafting much more enjoyable and far more of a free experience than writing that very first draft. You get to re-write what you've written in a more efficient and focused manner, and you get to hear your own dialogue back at you - if that makes sense - so you can remove any clunkiness and any extraneous 'chuffa' (as Bruce Willis might say).

Being that this script is a mystery drama - the mystery part being the key descriptor - taking this time to re-draft the current first act allows me to splice in tidbits of information here and there, stuff that might prove pertinent later on, or inversely be a total red herring. Mysteries are intricate things, and so they must be built upon, examined, and defined with a sharp focus on detail as well as plotting, pacing, and story ... particularly story in some cases, being that story takes place beyond the boundaries of page 1 and page 120 (for example).

So I'm feeling good about the script so far - a further benefit of re-drafting is that you get to revisit what you've written once and zoomed away from immediately, and discover - contrary to that paranoid, nagging voice in your creative mind - that what you've written does make sense, that it is interesting, and that you've not lost any skills that you have nurtured and developed on previous screenplays you had written.

In a strange way, re-drafting is when the real writing gets done.

Saturday 23 April 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #05...

Act I, to draft 1.1 standard, is now done - and it clocks in at 44 pages - 14 more than it needs to be. So I've got some serious trimming, re-positioning, and cutting to do before it's bashed into draft 1.2 form.

My plan, as I've stated before, is to go back to page one and re-draft everything I've written so far. It will help cement what I've already written in my mind, which in turn will benefit what is to follow. It will also allow me to see if there's anything that can be bumped into Act II, and to polish what has so far been established relating to the central mysteries, and various red herring moments, so that the plot makes sense and various pieces join up as-needs-be.

The 'writing flow' is moving fairly freely now, although draft 1.1 will always remain a route paved with trepidation - however, when it comes to re-drafting, you're already working with a version of the script that goes from the start to the very end. At the moment there's a big empty expanse stretching out beyond my current position filled with action and dialogue that has yet to be written - so that very first draft is always a path that is tread upon with unsure footing ... in other words, you can still find yourself, even at page 44, pausing to tap your fingers absent-mindedly on the keys as you try to figure out what to write next.

Nevertheless, it's proceeding fairly well thus far, but I am looking forward to re-drafting, because that's where you first get to see a relatively complete something that has a beginning, middle, and end, which you can then polish to your heart's content.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Triple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Screamin', Journeyin' and Rollin'...

Scream 4:
The original Scream came out when I was around about 12 or 13, so I saw it on rental VHS, and at first I really enjoyed it - indeed, I was fairly new to the horror genre (although the Scream franchise has always been more thrillers than horrors) - but then I came to resent the franchise after the sequel (which I also enjoyed initially). However, I was actually resenting the fallout from Scream - the dreadful copycats and how there were no horror movies anymore, only gory thrillers. Then Scream 3 came out and it had descended into self-parody and it didn't have anything to say anymore and indeed it had quickly become old hat.

Now, more than a decade later, we have Scream 4 - and the good news is that the Scream franchise finally has something worthwhile saying again. Inspired by an endless succession of remakes, reboots, and the derisively-termed "torture porn" movement, Scream 4 still isn't all that scary - it's still more a murder mystery thriller than anything else - but it takes its trademark meta-smarts to entirely new levels, best summed-up by the opening pre-title sequence.

There's perhaps too many characters thrown into the mix - the original trilogy survivors, the new kids on the block, a succession of new cops, and a handful of side roles - but even still, the sense of re-invigoration permeates each successive act of the script. On the down side though, I had a little trouble with the final act reveal - for me, there needed to be not only more exploration of motive, but a certain key player couldn't quite sell their character's about-turn. Furthermore some of the red herrings are a little undercooked and/or overplayed, and some of the smaller roles lack enough screen time to really make an impact that's anything beyond fleeting.

However, there are plenty of knowing, self-aware gags along the way - yet amazingly, it doesn't become eye-rollingly dull or predictable - it's an entertaining ride and it really benefits from the nostalgia factor, and more than a decade of development in the horror genre, upon which it could structure its motivations.

Is a fifth, and even sixth, movie necessary however? I really don't know ... it might be best to leave the franchise on a high note, rather than end up closing a second trilogy with another Scream 3, you know?

The Darjeeling Limited:
Quite recently I'd never seen a Wes Anderson movie before - now I've seen four of his flicks - and they've all been wonderfully quirky and idiosyncratic works that have satisfied me from start-to-finish. This spiritual journey of three disconnected brothers through India retains all of Anderson's charm and unique outlook, focusing almost entirely on the three leads played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. They're a believable band of brothers whose journey attempts to take them from a position of distance and distrust, to one of the close bond that seems to have escaped them over the years, especially with the death of their father and the desertion of their transient mother. A most satisfying viewing experience.

Whip It!:
If this was the 90s, the poster for this flick would be covered with slogans relating to "girl power!", because it is indeed a movie about the Hurl Scouts - a roller derby team of gals (Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore and Zoe Bell among them) who recruit fresh meat in the form of Ellen Page's 17 year-old high schooler who is seeking out her own identity. Alienated by her mother's old school fascination with beauty pageants, she is awed by the world of Texas roller derby in nearby Austin - a huge gear change from her small rural home town.

The material feels fresh, with a script and direction that is full of just the sort of vibrancy and excitement that the world of roller derby must elicit for those involved. It really hooked me in, and I could easily see myself watching it again sometime soon.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #04...

The writing continues apace with 4 'chunks' down, 15 to go, and a current page count of 29.

At the moment, Act I is running a bit long, so I'll have to cut it back a bit and possibly rearrange a couple of small things, but it's coming along and the writing flow continues to - gradually - open up with each new session.

Since I last blogged on the script, I've involved yet more characters and have been able to include a few longer exchanges between a handful of them - but with the very first draft, the main objective is to lay down the foundations and basic structure. It's only when you come to re-draft that you can see exactly what you're missing where, and what can be chopped out or moved elsewhere - and indeed, in your very first draft you often 'write long', so when it comes to re-drafting, you might not change big portions of a page in terms of information, but you might entirely re-write what's there in terms of how many words you use to get the point across ... if that makes sense.

My plan is to get to the end of Act I, which will probably be about 10 pages too long at this early point in the screenwriting game, and go back to page 1 and perform a 'Draft 1.2' (as I like to call it) tidy up of what's there so far. Then, by the time I'm ready to get cracking on the Draft 1.1 version of Act II, I'll have a clearer and more focused idea of what the script is going to be 'long hand' (when compared to my, extensive, notes) so-to-speak.

So it continues to come along nicely, although I still feel a bit 'clunky' with the process itself (it takes me a while to really settle back into the process and get my brain sufficiently into 'writing top gear') ... as for the script itself, like I've said, the very first draft of what any writer produces isn't up to their own personal target of quality, and this is no different ... but if I was a person capable of writing the perfect draft straight-off-the-bat I'd be the only one on the planet ... or a total lying bastard, ha!

Sunday 17 April 2011

Pentuple Bill Mini Musings: Nerds, Dates, and the Summer of '73...

Revenge of the Nerds II, III and IV:
In "Nerds In Paradise" the gang are back (although not so much from Gilbert as Anthony Edwards is the does a 'one day of filming' appearance) and they're off to Florida to represent Lambda Lambda Lambda at a gathering of various fraternities. Cue the Alpha Betas seeking revenge for being booted off the Greek Council at the end of the first movie and silliness ensues. The comedy in this series never came thick & fast ... it didn't have the machine gun yuks of Airplane, and it wasn't in the era of gross-out gags of which American Pie is the most representative. Basically - Nerds in Florida, Alpha Beta's seek revenge, wins & losses occur, the Nerds win.

"The Next Generation" sees a fresh batch of geeks arrive at Adams College (from the first movie), which is now run by the nerds, but an old Alpha Beta alumni isn't happy, so he recruits Ted McGinley from the first movie and makes him Dean in order to cause trouble for all Nerd kind. Wins and losses occur, Louis has to rediscover his identity, and the Nerds win ... although part of the final act was missing for some strange reason after the DVR decided to skip 5 minutes.

"Nerds In Love" finds Booger getting married to the chick from that episode of Friends where Joey couldn't have sex, so he was repeatedly "there for her" (due to a paid fertility study). Hot chicks seem to have entirely come around to the idea that "once you go Nerd, you never go back", so the geeks are fighting off the ladies with sticks. A baby is on the way, a soon-to-be-father-in-law and his son-in-law attempt to sabotage the wedding for the sake of the 'blue blood' family tree, wins & losses occur - Nerds conquer, and everybody lives happily ever after.

At least the second had some of the edge of the first, because unfortunately the third and fourth were PG-rated TV-Movies.

Date Night:
Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are a "boring married couple from New Jersey", and somehow they find themselves chased by the mob in the Big Apple. Silliness ensues, with a few good gags and a likableness from the two leads. Comedy cannon fodder for a brain-off night.

Cemetery Junction:
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's coming-of-age comedy drama is a skilled balance of romanticism and realism set during the summer of 1973 in Reading, a place the 'Swinging Sixties' seemingly passed-by. Filled with well-observed slices of period history (e.g. social attitudes to sex, race and class), it's well worth having a look at. Thoughtful, enjoyable, but also real, the characters are grounded and satisfyingly complex and the plot moves with a considered and controlled sense of pace. Definitely worthwhile seeing.

Friday 15 April 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #03...

The writing is starting to flow a bit easier now, and another 'chunk' is done to Draft 1.1 standard - speaking of 'chunks' - Act I contains 6, Act II contains 9, and Act III contains 4 ... so that's 19 chunks in total ... 2 down, 17 to go, before Draft 1.1 is done.

This recent chunk of writing has introduced several more characters (both subtly and up front), a new location used throughout the script, and has allowed me to get into a nice bit of back-and-forth dialogue between the two main characters.

Furthermore, each time I go back I tend to fiddle here-and-there throughout what I've so far written - placing little pieces of action or dialogue that relates to something further down the line ... like adding some decoration to the basic structure of the house that you're building ... ... but rather than force this metaphor anymore, I'll leave it there with the news that I'm beginning to ease back into the writing process. Like I've said previously, that initial start to writing is a bit of a bitch - but once you get over that sense of trepidation, it quickly starts coming together.

Thursday 14 April 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #02...

The writing process proper has begun, and I'm now onto Page 7.

It might not necessarily sound like an awful lot if you're not a writer, but a day's work of writing on a screenplay is supposed to be within a target of 5 to 10 pages. Plus the first session of writing on a new screenplay sucks - you've built up this head of steam during the planning stages, but that was with the mindset of mapping it all out ... not actually having to put fingers-to-keyboard and actually include detailed action and actual dialogue.

Much like during my school and uni days when I would start on a new essay, the first session is always a real slog to get the juices flowing - with an essay it was always that first page, with a screenplay it's always that first 10 or 20 pages, particularly the first 5 when everything you write feels - to you anyway - to be a real let down, and you're struggling to translate your detailed notes into an actual scene with a tight flow.

However, come writing session two, you're beginning to feel it a little bit more as you revise portions of what you'd written in that first, nervous and uncertain session. While it's still decidedly first draft (and first drafts are always going to not live up to a writer's own expectations, nor should they), it's starting to gain a suitable shape.

As such I now stand with the first 'chunk' written to a very first draft ("Draft 1.1" as I call it) standard ... 'chunk' referring to a particular portion of the mapped-out plot of the entire script. It's not an individual scene, rather it's a collective term (in this case the term for this chunk is "Opening") for a collection of scenes which follow a particular task for a character at a certain point in the script, or a certain sequence of events. This is how I personally think of it in my head anyway, and it's what works for me.

The early stages of writing a new screenplay are always fraught with start-stop typing, an uneasy sense of forward momentum, and a sense of disappointment - purely because it's the very first draft, and the very first draft is never exactly what you want it to be ... you only attain that sense of satisfaction when you're onto your 3rd, 4th, or even 5th draft. But of course, it's during that 2nd draft that the real elbow grease gets broken out, and an unsteady first draft begins to shape into what you'd always imagined in your head ... like a child learning to ride a bike with the stabilisers off, you've got to get off to a shaky start before you can get to the point where you're zipping around corners and popping wheelies.

But that's all to come - chunk number one (to draft 1.1 standard) is done ... now for however many more chunks there are on my script layout.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #01...

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was planning on doing a series of blog posts about my next screenplay - Allen Bridge - during the process of actually writing it, and so this is post #01 in the series.

For the past several weeks I've been obsessively mapping out the script, and in the above picture you can get an idea (albeit a tidier one than normal) of what this process looks like for me - indeed not pictured is a bunch of research that had already been processed, set aside, rejected, and/or boiled down. Dozens and dozens of pages of research, drafts of script and scene layouts, character breakdowns, and so on - and that's not including the hardback journal featuring the in-depth information (pertaining to the final draft script breakdown), further research, and indeed the earliest ideas I had for this project back in June/July 2010.

During the intervening months my progress on the planning of Allen Bridge had been patchy at best, and indeed until just a few weeks ago I hadn't even broken the back of the original idea. However, during these last few weeks I was able to break the back of the entire project and really get into the characters, the premise, the mystery, and the eponymous town itself - discovering what was important, what was extraneous noise, and who the characters told me they were going to be (if that makes sense).

The script itself will be a mixture of drama and murder mystery, with a curious bent throughout ... but to suggest more might be a bit too revealing. It is a mystery after all ... so expect plenty of vagueness during this series of posts, but a few tidbits too.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Double Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Groundhog Action and Hollywood Dreams...

Source Code:
Duncan Jones didn't half make an impressive splash when he touched down with his wonderfully intriguing and charmingly produced 70s-vibe, existential sci-fi debut Moon, so it's great to see he hasn't suffered difficult second album syndrome with sci-fi actioner Source Code.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays military pilot Colter Stevens who mysteriously finds himself within the titular code, committed to repeat the last 8 minutes of life afforded to a passenger on a train that was just blown up by a terrorist madman who plans to go all-out in the centre of Chicago, which is hurriedly being evacuated. The source code is all to do with residual memory ... or something like that ... the sci-fi element is a touch woolly, but being that the film moves with a swift pace and talented direction, the plot holes and "but what about?" questions don't particularly get in the way.

While some recent movies that repeat a period of time for dramatic effect got a bit grating (Vantage Point), Source Code fortunately keeps things fresh throughout with new ideas to explore. It's an interesting flick that could have easily, in the wrong hands, become a silly paranoid sci-fi direct-to-DVD venture ... but in the hands of Jones, with committed performances from the key players on screen, it's an enjoyable ride with some nifty ideas to keep things fresh and moving along - even if you're left with a few plot holes come the end.

Mulholland Drive:
A decade might be pushing the term "fashionably late", but I know for a fact in January 2002 (when Lynch's mournful Hollywood dream first came to the UK) I wouldn't have been prepared, let alone suited, for viewing it. So I'm glad that I've come to it with an entirely different outlook on life and cinema than what I possessed a decade ago.

Picking it up on the recently released StudioCanal Collection Blu-Ray, it's a regret-fuelled dream/nightmare for the most part, backed up by a scattered reality. Inspired by the golden age of Hollywood, the mysterious charm of the eponymous road, the difficulties of getting a film made, and even the Black Dahlia case, Lynch's film is a haunting neo-noir mystery.

You can't half-watch this film, you can't skip bits, and you shouldn't dismiss it. Fair enough, it's certainly not for everyone, but all you need to do is pay attention and decipher what information you're provided is key and what is extraneous - indeed Lynch released a list of 10 clues to help you understand more about the film. Furthermore, as illustrated on one of the disc's special features, some French fans of the film - using the 10 clues - pulled together a convincing deconstruction of the film's plot. I'd have to agree with their findings (but do see the movie before you watch that featurette) and was well on my way to a similar conclusion after my first viewing - however it's most certainly one of those films you need to see more than once in order to appreciate the myriad of information thrown your way, and how the seemingly disparate mysteries and symbols tie together.

Furthermore it's a beautiful film, both visually and aurally, and it's haunting atmosphere is one that sticks with you afterwards. It rewards, like most of Lynch's projects, active participation and attention from the viewer. You've got to be in the mood, and you've got to have the time set aside (thanks to the lack of a traditional scene selection), but if you're willing to invest in it, and dive into the beguiling atmosphere, you'll remember it for a long time - and quite possibly become obsessed with it.

Double Bill Mini Musings: Kid-friendly frights...

The Gate & Gate II:
A while back now I recalled a couple of very hazy images from my childhood of a film I had seen a glimpse of on television, and after a long time pondering those vague visions and viewing many trailers from American PG-13 horror and fantasy flicks, I discovered that - to the best of my knowledge - the brief glimpses I could remember more-than-likely were from Gate II. Specifically it was what my 6-to-8 year old mind made of an early scene in the flick where Terry (and a rabble of rough teens) re-open the gate in the burnt out remnants of the house, which was the location of the antics in the first movie. I recall the house, its dilapidated state, a group of teens, a pinkish-purple colour and something to do with a portal having to be dealt with ... so like I said, to the best of my knowledge, the flick I was searching for all these years was Gate II ... although for some reason I'd gotten the impression there was a model version of the house involved that was somehow linked to the actual house, but I'm assuming that was a crossed wire in the old noggin.

The first flick, starring a very young Stephen Dorff, is a pretty darn fun time. It's decidedly 1980s, but in a good way, and it's a charming little horror flick suitable for the family. Most impressive however, are the practical special effects which mix stop-motion animation and forced perspective to a very impressive degree. It's like Poltergeist for kids, albeit with demons and hell rather than spooks and limbo.

While the first movie focusses very tightly on the house itself, which is subjected to a barrage of demonic goings-on in the second half (after a slow paced build up during the first half), the second movie goes for a much wider spread of locations - and explores a different approach to the titular portal to hell, namely the teens trying to use the power of the gate and of demonology for their own gain. The sequel is very different for the most part, and isn't as focussed as the first movie - although it does feature Pamela Segall as Liz (the actress later changed her name to Pamela Adlon, and can be found, 20 years later, as Marcy on Californication).

It was a weird experience coming to these movies from an incredibly vague snifter of a memory of one scene of the sequel, but it was nice to finally connect a full movie (or rather two movies) to that long-standing, yet very hazy memory. To see how an impression from childhood could suddenly come back after being forgotten for essentially 15 years, and then lead to an unguided search that eventually, a few years later, bore fruit.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Bonkers Action and Quirky Chuckles...

From Paris With Love:
Pierre Morel's film prior to this bonkers shoot 'em up, Taken, kicked arse in a serious way. This flick on the other hand kicks arse in a silly way. Travolta lets himself off the leash and promptly upon arrival on-screen paints the town red and white with blood and cocaine respectively. Again from the Luc Besson stable, it's not about a particularly deep or complex plot - there's some stuff about terrorism and covert government operations, but it's not extremely important as long as the gun play, car chases, and bickering comedy duo fun keeps on coming - which it does, so it's ideal bloke fodder. It's one of those films which is best viewed with a gang of mates, a steady flow of cans, and a take away.

From Mike Judge, who also brought us (aside from Beavis & Butthead, and King of the Hill) the excellent Office Space and the under-praised Idiocracy, this is a gentle comedy more akin to the former. Jason Bateman plays the boss of a company that specialises in extracts, and he plans to sell the company on ... but his cash-out plan is derailed by a workplace accident, a con-woman, and a bizarre plan to entrap his distanced wife with the help of a gigolo. It's not a film about uproarious guffaws, rather more considered chuckles and gentle pacing, and while it doesn't live up to the high standard of the 'everyone can appreciate it' Office Space, it's well worth seeing if you enjoy Judge's particular brand of laid back humour.

Thursday 7 April 2011

More of those fake trailers from the Hobo With A Shotgun contest...

These entries didn't make the final in-competition Top Five, but they're considered the best of the submissions that didn't make the final cut. You can view them via the following link:

Viewer discretion is advised.

1) I Am Not A Superhero, This Is Strictly Revenge (Scott Staven)

An interesting direction to take - rather than serial killers, or Nazis, or sexploitation, or zombies, or what-have-you - this trailer is like a mix between a revenge flick and The Dark Knight, with a boozed-up, coke-snorting Irish tough-guy cleaning the streets!

2) Pet Seminary (Luke Hickman)

The tongue is firmly in-cheek for this one about tooled-up priests taking on a whole shedload of evil pets. Impressively silly with some nifty gore effects.

3) Max Force (Richard Adams)

Played-seriously-but-for-laughs, this trailer is like what you'd see for a direct-to-video cheap action movie produced by a very low budget independent outfit. Full of brute force moments and cheesy-good action, it makes for an enjoyable watch.

4) Mister Fister (Bill "Bloody Bill" Pon)

"A psycho-sexual killer with an insatiable appetite for women", so says the trailer, sums it up nicely. Pure, unadulterated, exploitation sleaze is offered in this trailer. The constant repeating of the title is nicely true to genuine grindhouse trailers.

5) Suicide Strip (Matt Mercer)

Going for an approach different to the traditional hard-sell, this one features a series of glimpses - campers, roads at night, cheesy-good special effects, skulls, all sorts.

6) Fight Night Fright! (Thomas Hackett)

Going for a 1930s/40s/50s vibe (only with vastly more gore), it's a mix between religion, underground boxing and vampires.

7) Teen Girl Violence: Vol. 5 (Nicole Holland)

Well there's a title for you! Religion factors in again with this one where a "twisted Sister" gets her kicks from making fight videos (think Bum Fights) and selling them on the black market - until a gang of wronged girls team up to extract their revenge!

8) Undead Revenge (Andrew Bussey)

A man seeks revenge for the murder of his family - except that he's also dead! Filled with gore, and some nice moments of action, this one really goes for you with gusto.

9) Skin (Steven Shea)

Featuring one of the best voice overs out of all the trailers I've seen submitted to this contest, it's all about a madman on the loose with a penchant for stripping his victims of their flesh. There's some really nice moments in this trailer, both visually and in terms of just having fun.

10) Garbage Man (Max Schwadchuck)

You know those movies about an honest cop looking to take down dirty cops? It's like that, only with garbage men. Cue lots of kick-arse action and gore with a spiffing presentation!

11) The People VS. Christ (Chris Murphy)

Another rather interesting idea - it's like a mix between a legal thriller and a horror flick as the battle between good and evil is taken to the modern day streets after Jesus returns and is framed for murder.

12) Pan-Tea (Angelo Womack)

Presented like a grubby old video nasty from the early VHS rental era, this has to be one of the most interestingly titled entries. A sexual pervert finds a new way of making his tea. Quite an odd one.

13) Street Hell (Ian Matheson)

Illegal bare-knuckle boxing is the name of the game here as a tough guy looking to get out of the game is forced back into it after the only person in the world that he cares for is taken hostage.

14) Machine Gun Cop (Jeremiah Durian-Williams)

The most impressively presented trailer on this list (or at least tied with Mister Fister), this one pays particularly close attention to the dreadful audio quality that many grindhouse movies had once they'd been around the block a few times. Filled with gun-toting action, this one also stands out by bringing in the infamous Zodiac killer as one of the antagonists. Love the title cards at the beginning too - nice touch.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

"Script To Screen" at Borderlines...

I attended an event at the Borderlines Film Festival last night called "Script To Screen" at which a couple of professional screenwriters discussed their craft, and showed some clips from some of their work.

It was an interesting evening, but personally speaking it was most useful to talk to one of the event's speakers in the bar afterwards to get a few tips, but also gain further encouragement in that I'm definitely going in the right direction and to keep on going, from a professional in the business, and not just going purely on my own belief ... if that makes sense ... as in it reaffirms your committment to writing, and your own belief that you really do have stories to tell that are worth reading/hearing/seeing. It's always nice to get a little bit of encouragement as you doggedly trudge forth, you know?

Saturday 2 April 2011

"Hobo With A Shotgun" trailer contest...

No, I'm not involved, I just figured I'd make a few comments on what I dug about the Top Five entries which are now eligible to be voted for in the Hobo With A Shotgun fake trailer contest.

N.B. Hobo With A Shotgun won a contest to create a fake trailer to appear alongside the original version of Grindhouse (the 3 hour and 10 minute theatrical version), and it can be viewed on the Grindhouse Blu-Ray that was released in October 2010. The feature length version (starring Rutger Hauer) has been filmed and is now available as Video On Demand in America before it gets a theatrical run - apparently it'll launch in the UK on the 22nd July, but whether that's theatrical or direct-to-DVD, I'm unsure of. It looks batshit awesome and I cannot wait to see it.

Now - on to the fake trailer contest's Top Five that can be voted on via the link above.

FYI, viewer discretion is advised - these are fake trailers for grindhouse exploitation movies after all (don't worry, there's no nudity, as these videos are all freely available on YouTube). But don't watch them if you're at work, have kids in the room, or are easily offended.

1) Daddy Cross

A British entry that creates a trailer for a flick that exploits religion and sexuality about a psychotic Priest. While more could have been done to hide the digital look offered by the camera that was used to shoot it, it does have a nice seedy little vibe going for it, with a convincing use of voice over and fake certificate information at the very end.

2) Van Gore

Taking grindhouse to the art house, this gleefully bloody trailer was very impressive indeed. While it does stick very close to the established aesthetic of the fake trailers seen in Grindhouse, the central premise is quite enjoyable (I'd certainly watch it as a movie), and the tagline is rather catchy.

3) Earwigs

They perhaps missed a trick by not calling it, as one commenter on the video noted, "Fearwigs", however this trailer stands out from the crowd by presenting a faux 1950s sci-fi horror shocker from the age of atomic fear (although considering the context, Earwigs would have more likely been a title chosen at that time). The dutch angles, atmospheric lighting, impassioned voice over, creative titles and use of stock footage all make this quite authentic - however some fake 'print damage' (particularly on the pristine titles) would have further hidden the digital look.

4) Charlene: She Wolf of My Heart

Partly inspired by the VHS trailers of the video nasty era, this Nazi-ploitation spoof kicks off with a totally convincing fake video company ident (replete with VHS tape damage), and features a comedic voice over that must have surely been inspired to some extent by South Park's lampooning of voice overs for bad movie trailers. Carefully made to look like a Troma-released, shot-independently-on-video exploitationer (think along the lines of Redneck Zombies) it tells the tale of a guy who falls for Charlene - a sex-crazed Nazi. Bonus points for the catchy and humorous music.

5) Care Center Slaughterhouse

This one is particularly inventive, in that it's about a murderous care home populated by sexy nurses and grumbling old geezers - and they're all tooled-up with guns. Again, the digital look slightly distracts you from completely allowing yourself to believe that it could be a real trailer, but the relentless pace which crams in every possible ounce of violence and drop of blood works nicely with the darkly comic premise.


So there you have it, be sure to cast a vote for your favourite one of the five videos by going here -

In case you're wondering, yes I do know what I'd do for a fake trailer - indeed I had a version of the idea before Grindhouse was released, and that just made me think even more that it'd be a nifty idea for a fake trailer. Not to give too much away it would be called "Flying Bastard Zombies" (a reference to various conversations over on Homepage of the Dead in the past) and it would be a spoof of flicks like Oasis of the Zombies.