Tuesday 31 May 2011

Flavours of the Month: May 2011...


Treevenge - after their contest-winning Hobo With A Shotgun grindhouse trailer, Jason Eisner & Co sought to make a short film to prove they could handle a narrative, and they did just so quite nicely with a witty little short that could have sat nicely amongst all those themed horror movies you used to see as a kid scaled high up against the wall in the video shop entitled "Horror". Knowingly over-the-top, this takes the notion of getting a genuine Christmas tree for Christmas in a whole new gore-ific direction. If you're easily offended though, you might want to skip the last five minutes, otherwise get yourself onto YouTube and have a look for yourself.

Scream 1-3 - the original movie was a decided breath of fresh air for the genre which, in the mid 1990s, had descended into the torturously dull. It's a shame therefore that Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson's meta-thriller with a horror outlook was picked upon like a vulture's roadkill lunch in the proceeding years with a series of self-aware 'slasher thrillers' which dispensed with scares and, ironically, originality and smarts, in favour of sub-Scream copycatting.

The first sequel had something to say, commenting on both itself and the first movie simultaneously. There was still life and ideas in the franchise, particularly in Williamson's scripting (although the line in Aliens is most definitely "Get away from her, you bitch!"), and while it lost momentum in the final act, it was a solid entry.

Sadly, the second sequel - a Hollywood-set trilogy-closer - royally jumped the shark. Williamson was fed up, and it shows painfully in the quality of the final script, which contains none of the crafted 'who dunnit' intrigue, nor the sexy and playful self awareness. Dull, boring, lame, witless, with little in the way of redeeming features - at least they gave Neve Campbell something of substance to bite into, mind.

This all coming on the heels of seeing Scream 4 at the cinema last month, my thoughts on which you can find HERE.

The Losers - not as enjoyable the second time around, but still softcore action fun nonetheless. Chris Evans remains the highlight of the movie for me. His tech guy Jensen was easily the best character out of the lot.

Get Him To The Greek - I had a mixed response to it in the cinema (I much preferred Forgetting Sarah Marshall, from which this was a spin-off), and I must say that the second time around wasn't much cop. A few funny bits here and there, but for me it was a damp squib this time.

Jean Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors - I don't really 'do' reality TV, but I ended up watching this show about The Muscles From Brussels, and it was curiously intriguing. On the one hand it's a bit strange in a good way, and on the other the makers turn every minor incident into an epic drama when they say apprehensively "coming up next" as dramatic music and editing works it's magic (kinda).

Campus - I never got into Green Wing. I tried to initially, but I was at uni at the time and had a hard enough time remembering what day it was (because they all blended together, not because of booze or whatever, you cheeky monkeys), let alone when the show was airing. Now though, thanks to the wonder of the Hard-Disk-Recorder, I made sure I cued up the entire series of this follow-up from the makers of Green Wing. It's essentially the same show, but at a university, with the same brand of askew humour and general sense of oddity.

Doctor Who - the latest series is underway, and it's a mixed bag for me. They continue to 'do' the Doctor well, but some of the episode plots are a bit underwhelming - not least this Island-esque two parter about some sort of white gloop that can generate clones. Plus, for goodness sake, if you're going to keep referring back to a developing series-long plotline (the Postive/Negative thing, the appearing/disappearing slide window thing), actually develop it each time we see it. At least they finally gave us something more at the arse-end of that rubbish two-parter.

The Sopranos - I'm now into the second season, having totally missed this show the first time around, and I continue to thoroughly enjoy my weekly dose of New Jersey mafia business.

Machete - a second viewing of Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse spin-off has elevated my opinion of it. Not that I didn't have a blast with it at the cinema, it's just that I was so insanely looking forward to it that I could only end up feeling a twinge of disappointment. However, a few months down the line and I could enjoy it on its own terms, and it was damn enjoyable - even if it remains about 10 minutes flabby around the edges.

Scary Movie - I gave this spoof another spin as it was on one night and it's okay. It's no Airplane by any means (but the scattergun pattern of gags and parodies is decidedly similar), but then it's no Scary Movie 3/4/Meet The Spartans/Disaster Movie/whatever load of old utter-and-total crap either.

Wild At Heart - I haven't seen David Lynch's incendiary road trip flick since I was a teenager, but I think now that I'm much more familiar with his work (and cinema in general) that I 'got it' much more than I did way back when. The tale of two young runaways (Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern) seeking a better life is a typically dark and twisted offering from Lynch - most notably in its clash of 1950s Americana and the era in which it was made (1990).

U-Turn - it's been years since I've watched Oliver Stone's telling of Sean Penn's indebted loser having the worst day of his entire life, but it's still good. It's what I'd call "an everything just keeps getting worse" movie. It just goes to show what Stone can do with the right script, but it also makes me wonder what on earth has happened to him of late with the likes of World Trade Center, and W.

The Black Dahlia - working the homicide desk in Team Bondi/Rockstar's L.A. Noire got me in the mood to re-watch Brian De Palma's novelistic film adaptation. It's impressively stylish and the stuff closest to the titular case is the most interesting, but it's when it strays from that central path and attempts to explore various interconnected sideplots and back stories within its two hour running time that it runs into trouble.

Short Circuit 1 & 2 - I had a bit of a nostalgia trip with these two flicks. I used to watch these constantly as a little kid, and they've not lost their charm. I dearly hope they don't do a remake, and quite frankly, with WALL.E essentially being a re-incarnation of Johnny 5, what would be the point?


The Black Angels "Directions To See A Ghost"

Daft Punk "Tron Legacy"

Moby "First Cool Hive", Dillon Dixon "I Don't Care", Birdbrain "Youth America", SoHo "Whisper To A Scream" (from the soundtrack to Scream)

HIM "Venus Doom"

White Zombie "Super Sexy Swingin' Sounds"

Rob Zombie "American Made Music To Strip By"

45 Grace "Partytime" (as heard in Return of the Living Dead)

Airborne "Runnin' Wild" and "No Guts, No Glory"


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - I finished Philip K. Dick's book, which later became Blade Runner, which was a decidedly different telling of basically the same story in mostly the same sort of world (bar the distinct difference in population numbers from one to the other). I really enjoyed it.

New educational DVD - the editing cap is back on for a new DVD project, this time on the issue of Abortion. Considering the topic we've had to think a bit harder about how to approach it visually, and so far some of it is moving in a more metaphorical, even mystical, direction which has proven successful so far. Finding footage and photographs has even extended to me digging through all my old sketch pads from my days of GCSE and A-Level art for any drawings, paintings or photographs that could possibly be of use somewhere. Plus, when talking about things like when does "life" truly begin, I've been able to get a little bit 'out there' with some of the visuals too - so this should prove to be a good creative opportunity.

L.A. Noire - Team Bondi's sandbox detective thriller, published by Rockstar, has really grown on me. I've been intrigued by it ever since I saw the very first teaser trailer years ago when the project was first announced, and the last few months have really cranked up the anticipation. While it's imperfect in some respects, the fresh approach is a welcome change of direction - and who wouldn't want to play as a 1947 L.A. detective? Cruising the detailed period streets of Los Angeles, scouring crime scenes for clues, and interrogating suspects to discover the truth has led to some genuinely exciting chase sequences, and genuinely tense interrogations (that piercing note that hovers in the background as you decide whether you do or don't have evidence to prove someone's lying has inspired the odd sweaty palm gripped around the controller, I have to say). It's a bold step in a different direction, and an extremely stylish and involving one to boot. At the time of writing I'm onto the second case of the Vice Desk, situated in the Hollywood Division, and I can't wait to get even deeper into the twisting tales and devious crimes that need deciphering and solving. It's like a videogame version of L.A. Confidential, and what's not to like about that?

Monday 23 May 2011

Hextuple Bill Mini Musings: Art, Ponciness, Hard 10s, Mowers, Aliens, and Speeding...

The Stendhal Syndrome:
Another season of Dario Argento movies is running on The Horror Channel, which has improved a hell of a lot over the last 12-18 months. The eponymous syndrome is that when the victim suffers a collapse after being overwhelmed by artwork, after which they suffer the effects of a split personality. It's an intriguing concept, but for my liking it isn't explored quite enough. It needed to go into darker and stranger territory for me, but it felt somewhat lacking and - oddly - in need of some classic Argento flourishes. A great idea at heart, but the execution is disappointing. Definitely not one of his best works, but even still, it's one of his most interesting ideas.

The movie about a killer car tyre - who the hell wouldn't want to see it?! Well, half of it anyway. The half that follows the tyre discovering its powers and exploding heads is enjoyably daft ... but the other half is an eye-rollingly pretentious load of old bollocks, that is so self aware it's not in the slightest bit funny, witty, or entertaining. If all that wasn't in the movie, it'd be a spiffing 40 minutes - or personally, I would have gone in a different direction with such an idea as a killer car tyre.

The opening monologue, about "no reason", is apparently supposed to be ironic. Now, is that because none of the examples given demonstrate "no reason" at all, or is it ironic for another reason and the annoying monologue is actually being serious? I enjoyed the silliness of the cop arriving in the trunk of a police car, which knocked over a series of chairs in the middle of a road, but for goodness sake I didn't need the poncy-arsed bullshit that came afterwards and was dotted throughout the movie. So it's a very split flick - one half of it is total crap that thinks far too much of itself, and the other half is an enjoyable askew idea of a killer car tyre blowing up people's heads in and around the desert motel that was memorably featured in Rob Zombie's wonderful The Devil's Rejects.

She's Out Of My League:
A nerdy guy who works for TSA (a "5") meets and gets into a relationship with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous girl (a "hard 10"), and nobody can quite believe it. I really enjoyed this somewhat raunchy comedy, which packed a perky and funny script populated by entertaining characters. Not much to say about it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Straight Story:
Another dose of David Lynch with this tale of an OAP who treks across state lines on his ride-on lawnmower to visit his ailing brother with whom he hasn't spoken for a decade. It's a simple story - a straight story if you will - but at the same time, it's an odd one. Lynch's film, a typically idiosyncratic ode to rural America, finds the curious in the normal, and the normal in the curious. It's a meandering yarn with a gentle, laid back feel, and despite being quite different from the likes of Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive, you can feel Lynch's hand at work throughout - indeed, the same can be said of long-time Lynch composer Angelo Badalamenti, who scored the flick.

A lot has been made of this film - mostly down to the micro budget and that Gareth Edwards (the Writer/Director) put the visual effects together "on his laptop". However, the pace is too slow and the male lead is too annoying for too long ... but on the other hand the subtleness of the fact that South America is now a quarantine zone populated by giant alien squids provides some nice tension. The plot is a bit sparse, and it doesn't quite convince at certain points (most notably the reason the two leads have to trek through the zone), but the low-key-yet-involving spectacle of the finale is impressive. It's also an impressive feat technically and stylistically, but it's a bit lacking at points throughout the uneven script. That said, it's a solid debut from a fellow Brit, and I look forward to seeing what Edwards can do with a bigger budget and a tighter script.

Gumball 3000: Coast To Coast:
I'm a bit of a fan of Gumball 3000 (and Bullrun), keeping up with them through the DVD releases and TV shows made about them over the years. This one I've only just discovered, and it's about the L.A. to Miami rally in 2009. It's nowhere near as good as Gumball 3000: The Movie, nor 3000 Miles, so it's a disappointing effort. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #15...

The first version of Act II is now complete, so I've still got to do a re-draft of it before I move onto Act III, but as it stands the page count is now 88 - so I've got some wiggle room when it comes to re-drafting to actually add-in content, which will be nice.

Indeed today's session involved me adding in a couple of pages worth, to stuff I'd written in the last few days. There was an addition to a flashback featured in Miller's end-of-Act-II scene, but most notable of all was a series of intercut 'flashes' of back story for town teens Mark and Stephanie. These 'flashes' help break up the dialogue (of which there is a fair amount) at that point in the script, and it provides the first-of-three big moments that close-out Act II.

At this point I'll take a temporary break from writing, in order to focus on the previously mentioned educational DVD project in order to get it going and on its feet. The topic of the DVD is Abortion. It'll be three films covering the issue, and considering the topic, I think my creativity in the edit will be particularly called upon. I'm thinking of going a little bit more abstract with some of the visuals on this project.

However, once the new DVD is well underway, I'll return to the writing by doing a re-draft of Act II (just like I did with the first Act), which will allow me to head straight into Act III afterwards with an even firmer grasp on Allen Bridge. So far though, I think it's coming together quite nicely, and it's certainly the most complicated and in-depth script I've done to-date.

Monday 16 May 2011

Hextuple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: May 2011...

Attack The Block:
It was never going to live up to the dizzying and unique heights of Shaun of the Dead, so Joe Cornish's debut - a mixture of sci-fi, horror, comedy and grim council estate realism - was always going to suffer a bit, like several flicks before, and no doubt several more to come. It's a shame that the best parts of the movie, and indeed the best laughs, are mostly crammed into the trailer, however this was no doubt beyond Cornish & Co's control ... but someone needed to do a better job of not giving away all the good stuff.

Visually it's a nicely put together film - particularly the eponymous intimidating and monolithic block (which I'm sure I saw in a Nissan advert on TV when I got back from the cinema) - home to a cross-section of London's populace. Included in this cross-section, indeed the protagonists of the entire movie, is a gang of hoody-wearing, knife-wielding petty criminals and soon-to-be-gang-members ... and herein lies the biggest problem with the movie. Our introduction to this gang is them intimidating and mugging a nurse as she walks home (another main character), and come the third act, there just isn't enough made in terms of reparations. This gang of teens show little remorse beyond 'if we'd known you lived here, we wouldn't have mugged you' - and as such, it's hard to cheer them on, let alone empathise with them throughout. They're not cheeky cockney gangsters like you'd find in a Guy Ritchie movie (a cartoonish version of reality), they feel very real, so when the aforementioned nurse berates them for their harmful actions, you're totally on her side.

It's sure to be a divide for audiences - you'll either not mind and go with it, or you'll have no sympathy for most of the characters throughout. I struggled to support the central gang, and only warmed to them slightly towards the end after some cursory backstory information and some light condemning of their actions by their female peers. It's better than nothing, sure, but it's a big ask to be a part of their fight against the big black furry aliens with glow-in-the-dark-teeth (a nifty low-fi creature design that uses CGI appropriately) considering their introductory actions.

However, some of the other characters are easier to get along with - particularly Nick Frost's cowardly pot dealer "Ron" - and there is a witty sense of nicely balanced comedy to go along with proceedings. The funny lines don't feel forced, or out of place in the context of this alien invasion, and the direction is strong throughout. It's just a shame that there aren't some bigger laughs and a better development (and introduction) of the central cast. Good, but not great. It is though, a solid debut from Joe Cornish, and I look forward to seeing what comes from him next. It's strange, in a way, to think that in the late 1990s I was watching him, and comedy partner Adam Buxton, get up to their hilariously inventive antics (and their "toy movies") on The Adam & Joe Show, and now Joe's out there making his own movies.

Basket Case:
So crap it's kind of good. It's a grotty old horror from the 1980s, filmed cheaply in and around the down-at-heel areas of New York. Basically, there's a guy going around with a wicker basket under his arm. Inside is his hideous, half-formed, and murderous brother - a monstrous anomaly that was once attached to him, but was removed by force by a group of surgeons. It's pretty damn silly, and fairly gross, but there's a despicable charm to it nonetheless.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans:
Werner Herzog's 'remake' of Able Ferrara's brutal original is a huge step in a different direction. The 1992 original was viscious, sleazy, extreme, and extended into the deepest depths from which redemption is almost impossible for the titular pro(anti)tagonist (played by Harvey Keitel). Herzog's 'remake' takes the basic idea - a Lieutenant gone bad - and goes in his own direction. Nicolas Cage plays a cop, smacked out on anything going to ease his back pain, as he attempts to find a killer and cope with his spiralling addictions. It's an odd flick, but in a good way, with a decidedly different tone to Ferrara's original. Herzog's film tackles the dark side with a bright eye and a blackly comic undertone. Ferrara's film, for me, will be the most memorable version however. On the other hand, Herzog's is much easier to watch.

The Bounty Hunter:
There's a certain type of "movie" that some in filmmaking sneer at, and no doubt it's just this sort of old twaddle. An action comedy that's lacking both, and indeed totally devoid of any real spark between the two leads - Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. The only reason I watched it, quite honestly, is because I think Aniston is fit ... so her ending up in a water hazard was the best bit ... if I'm totally honest. In general though, it's just a load of old rubbish, the sort of old crap that, as someone trying to break into filmmaking and be a writer/director, really winds me up - that such a dud script could be produced pisses me right off.

The King's Speech:
Great direction. Great script. Great acting. Great cinematography. It really is damned good and well worth viewing. That about sums it up, because surely you know plenty about it by now. If you've not already seen it, give it a look.

Trick 'r Treat:
It's the middle of May, so naturally it was the perfect time to watch an anthology horror about Halloween! Despite the completely inappropriate time to be viewing such a seasonally-specific movie, it was gleefully entertaining. Four main tales are interwoven on one Halloween night (such as a High School Principal who moonlights as a serial killer, and the tale of a school bus driven into a quarry), with the inventively creepy figure of "Sam" appearing throughout. It bounds along at a nice pace and doesn't outstay its welcome, it's got a deliciously black sense of humour, and it'd be well worth viewing on the spooktacular night in question.

Saturday 14 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #14...

I'm fast approaching the end of the first version of Act II, with one more 'chunk' left to do for it, and the current page count is 84. I've got room to breathe in Act II, which makes a nice change from the very first version of Act I, which was overlong by 14 pages originally (it's now overlong by 4 pages). I plan to extract some stuff from there and put it into the beginning of Act II, as well as trim further, however with Act II - in addition to tightening - I'll be looking to explore some more, particularly adding in lots of small details and nuances along the way. The sort of things you can't always weave in when you're doing your very first pass.

For the first time on this project, I did a writing session at night. So far I've only written in the afternoons, and I used to always write at night - which is when my mind is at its most open, and when I'm not going to be interrupted by anything - however for this project I haven't been doing that for some reason. Anyway, it was a key scene for protagonist Miller that I wrote last night, part of a double-whammy (even triple-whammy) closer for Act II, and I'm really pleased with how it came out. I'm especially pleased with how I was able to translate very specific body language and actions from what I saw in my head, onto the page. It ended up being a very dramatic sequence, and it features the only time we hear a voice on a phone.

Until this point, any phone conversations have been totally one-sided - I intended it to be this way, because we are within Allen Bridge, and I wanted us to have a sense that we're trapped there, and it also adds another layer of mystery ... what are the people on the other end of the line saying? However, in the scene I wrote last night, we finally hear a voice coming from outside of the town - that of Susie - and we hear it for a very important reason.

I'll stop there though, lest I spoil anything. Suffice to say, I'm very pleased with last night's session and aside from basic tidying, I can't imagine I'll do much re-writing to that particular scene.

There's just one more 'chunk' left to write before the first version of Act II is complete - at which point I'll have a brief pause in proceedings, as I'm starting work on a new educational DVD project, and all the files for the first of the three planned films are ready to go. So it'd be a convenient time to have a brief pause, before resuming with a re-drafting of Act II, in the lead-up to the Act III sprint to the finish line.

Thursday 12 May 2011

Septuple Bill Mini Musings: Grue, Grit, Voids, Joneses, Girls, Dynamite and Hordes...

Saw VII:
After the relatively decent entry that was Saw VI (heavy emphasis on "relatively"), comes a blundering mess of a closer in the shape of the seventh, and supposedly (hopefully) final instalment of the annual torture gore-fest. Common sense is out the window. Characters who don't just scream and refuse to listen to anybody offering to save their lives are non-existent. Tenuous links to the original movie (the only highlights of Saw VII) are scattered desperately, and the plot is practically identical to Saw VI, and V, and IV, and even III (which should have been the last Saw flick).

Totally devoid of even a whiff of tension, it's nothing but 90 minutes of dimwitted cannon fodder cobbled together in the exact same way most of the movies have been, only worse. They've hardly strayed from the established visual and aural stylings of the original - pretty damn awesome and stand-out - movie, and that's a bad thing. You're shown a trap, which is impossible to escape from (what's with the 60 second time limit every time?), and you know it's going to "be teh awes0m3st!!1!!!1!" if they fail - which they invariably do. Dull, boring, uninspired, and the inevitable twist is predictable and kind of annoying ... Saw VII is a flick that preaches the view that redemption doesn't exist (surely going completely against the original purpose of Jigsaw's method). Indeed, there's little to redeem this movie, and I loved the first ... and the first two sequels weren't half-bad either.

True Grit (1969):
Straight off the bat, I can understand why this film is held in such high regard by those that love it, but without further skirting of the issue, I definitely prefer the Coen Brother's version. As has been oft-said in reviews, John Wayne was John Wayne with an eye patch - to each their own and fair enough - but Jeff Bridges became Rooster Cogburn. This first interpretation of the source novel is slow to get moving, and Mattie feels a tad sidelined by comparison to Hailee Steinfeld's, if I'm honest, superior performance. I still enjoyed it, but it was overlong, and while I can see (and respect) just why it's so beloved by many, the Coen Brother's interpretation is my preferred version.

Enter The Void:
A visual and aural experience unlike any other. While it lacks subtlety at times (the prefacing of the Tibetan Book of the Dead is blunt, to say the least), it's quite the experience. It's the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when we travel through the Monolith, smacked out on DMT. Gasper Noe's film is an hallucinatory vision that follows the disembodied, drugged-out soul, of a two-bit drug dealer working amidst the neon-lit back streets and cramped apartments of Tokyo who is shot by the cops after he's ratted out. Filled with sex, drugs and a spritzing of violence, some elements leave you cold or distanced, but the "Love Hotel" sequence simply has to be seen. Noe's hallucinogen-fuelled version of Tokyo houses a screed of undesirables, many of whom you feel nothing for, however the saving grace are the central brother and sister - a rather damaged pair who you pity, rather than sympathise for, most of the time. Definitely worth watching.

The Joneses:
It would be cool to see this movie with no prior knowledge of it, as the first Act plays out intriguingly to say the least. However you'll probably watch it knowing of the central premise, which is quite original and decidedly interesting. It's just a shame that come the final act, it goes out with somewhat of a whimsical whimper, rather than the gut-punch you might be expecting. That said it's certainly not devoid of interest - I quite enjoyed it, even if it did peter out a bit towards the end. Plot wise though, it concerns The Joneses - a family who apparently live the ideal consumer lifestyle - but they're not a real family. They've moved into the neighbourhood to sell the products in their supposed family home to their neighbours. Interesting to say the least.

Universally derided when it was originally released in 1995, I can see exactly why it was dumped on. It's filled with total bastards from start to finish, Elizabeth Berkeley's protagonist (Nomi, a troubled transient who wants to be a Vegas show dancer) is either overflowing with sudden joy, or storming out of the scene in a strop. Indeed, it's hilarious to see just how many scenes see her character make a sharp u-turn into vitriol mid-way through and close with her storming out of a room. One minute she's laughing, the next she's having a right old strop. Everybody shouts and sneers at each other. The black humour feels misjudged. It's overlong. It's sleazy in an uncomfortable way, everybody is - as I've already said, but must emphasise - a complete bastard in it, and good God it's gaudy. It could have been an enjoyable bit of exploitation, but oh dear, it's just cringe-worthy and ill-judged.

Black Dynamite:
Half-spoof, half-loving-homage, this modern day blaxploitation flick (made using period equipment) is pretty damn fun. Pinching plot devices, characters, and style from all the best blaxploitation flicks, it features the eponymous hero kicking ass all over Los Angeles to stop a conspiracy that aims to take down Black Dynamite ("Dyno-mite! Dyno-mite!") and his entire race. The shifts between homage and spoof are occasionally clunky, but the authentic look and feel wins the day. If you dig grindhouse cinema and/or blaxploitation flicks, you should definitely check it out.

The Horde:
Imagine if the videogame Left 4 Dead was turned into a movie. That's what this is. It's a mixture of that, 28 Days Later, Demons 2, and the (crappy) Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake. The 'zombies' scream like raptors and run like a wild river. A bunch of cops seek revenge on a gang in a run-down high-rise apartment block, but things quickly turn nasty and they find themselves having to work together to get the hell out of there alive. Filled with solid action and lashings of blood-splattering gore, it's a solid action horror flick with a nice look - particularly in the scenes that suggest, from afar (trapped in the high rise), that an entire war is raging in the city of Paris. The script is a bit lacking (why do they refuse to shoot them in the head, especially when they accept that they're surrounded by zombies so quickly?!) throughout, but the action and stylised grue makes up for the failings. It's not a landmark flick by any means, but it's ideal fodder for you and your mates.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #13...

Another very fruitful session today - 13 pages - bringing the page count to 79.

Today was a big scene for Ryman, Mark and Stephanie, where we get to the bottom of who Leonard Mumper was, and see Ryman come further off the rails.

Again, like yesterday, it was more a case of character interplay - of banter, if you will - and that usually comes to me quite quickly, as I see the characters trade lines back and forth in quick succession. I just have to keep up.

Naturally this will all get a good polishing when it comes time to do a Draft 1.2 version of Act II (just like I did with Act I recently), and I'll be able to play much more subtly with the information at hand, and with how it comes about, and finally I'll be able to weave shading and small details throughout these scenes to keep the whole plot ticking along. It's hard to do that at this stage, you've just got to get the foundation set first before you can think about really crafting something more intricate than the writing equivalent of a concrete block - it's strong, but it ain't subtle, however you've got to start somewhere.

So it's all moving along nicely.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #12...

After yesterday's somewhat stunted session, I resumed today and managed to barge out 11 pages - so the page count now stands at 66.

I finished off the initial version of the conversation between Miller and Harland at The Black House, although I did a few bits of re-drafting here and there before I completed that scene ... and then it was onto a scene at the cafe featuring town teens Mark (Harland's nephew) and Stephanie (whose dark past is going to be explored pretty soon), who get into a bit of a war of words with The Bancrofts - an early retirement couple who are newcomers to the town. Furthermore, Ryman's struggles are beginning to worsen, and Miller is approaching a halting realisation.

Confirmed my thoughts yesterday about dialogue that involved having to impart lots of information (and invented history), compared to character interplay, I think the flow of pages today was down to the latter - a war of words between a handful of characters which came forth with a swift burst that left me racing to keep up. An explosion of crisscrossing dialogue.

Today was the first time that has happened on this particular script, which has been a little bit of a struggle to get down onto the page (in Draft 1.1 form anyway - as I've mentioned previously, Draft 1.2 work proved enjoyable and fruitful on Act I). I think this is down to me having so many ideas, and some characters having such a deep amount of research into their motivations - you know you can't, but you still try to get every idea and nuance onto the page on your very first pass ... but it's an impossible task, and one that you shouldn't allow get you down. As I've said several times before, that first draft - for all writers - is a cruel mistress.

Monday 9 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #11...

The page count is now up to 55 after a weekend full of distractions, I would have written for longer today but an impending storm (that has thus far not materialised) scared me away a bit - I didn't want to be writing and then be on the receiving end of a power cut at the wrong moment, because knowing my luck Final Draft would be auto saving when the power went out, thus no doubt corrupting the file, thus losing any progress I'd made. So playing it safe and not tempting fate, I left it mid-way through a lengthy conversation between central protagonist Miller, and curious character Harland, at The Black House.

The conversation in question goes into a fair bit of depth about the town itself and it's dark history - both past and very present - some of which comes into play in Act III.

So if it wasn't for the threat of a storm (and therefore power cut, which in our area is common when even a snifter of thunder and lightning looms overhead) I'd have bashed out the entire conversation in one sitting - but better to split the sessions and not need it, than to not split the sessions and run the risk of a power cut at the exact moment you don't want one, and then lose all the new content due to a corrupted file.

Even still, when I've completed the conversation, I'll go back over it to add a few things in that I will have no doubt forgotten ... indeed I had assumed I'd have been flying through the pages today, but even a lengthy dialogue scene doesn't necessarily flow freely from your fingers. Perhaps because this one is mostly from Harland's mouth, and it provides a lot of town history, rather than character interplay - the latter I can rattle through quite swiftly (particular if it's comedy, due to my 'banter style' sense of humour), while the former takes a lot more attention, and invention. Harland's talking about the town's history - and that history has to be invented in the first place. You have to write a fictional history before you can even retell that history through one of your characters.

Friday 6 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #10...

Act II is coming along nicely and the current page count is 50. So far I've rattled off a few scenes, which have moved with purpose and speed - one of which was perhaps a little too brief, so I ended up extending it, which is quite a nice opportunity, especially after tightening the first act's belt by 10 pages recently.

I'm about to get to a lengthy dialogue scene between central protagonist Miller, and a curious character called Harland Mumper (whose brother has recently been murdered), at a location called "The Black House". That scene will get into some real meat concerning the town itself, as well as set up lots of stuff that'll come into play afterwards, particularly during the climax.

However, that's still to come, the stuff I've been working on these last couple of days has involved Miller finding himself positively affected by a muse, discovering some odd goings on behind his back, and Ryman entering a real struggle.

The flow has been a little stunted these last couple of days, but then again there's been a lot of descriptive action - which takes just as long (if not longer) to write than dialogue, but takes up a lot less space vertically (hence a lower page count after a writing session). However, I'm rather pleased with what's ending up on the page - that time re-drafting the first act has really helped improve my confidence with the central story, as well as my approach to how I tell that story, and even in the simple practical terms of getting it from my head onto the page.

Act II is where the meat and potatoes of the story come together, whereas Act I requires you to establish a hell of a lot in as brief a time as possible, so Act II finally affords you the chance to really sink your teeth into the motivations and characterisations, and indeed history, that you created during the planning stages. Act III allows you to bring everything together and go out with a bang (be it positive or negative), so really, Act I is the toughest act to write - and I'm beyond that now, so it's proceeding along nicely now that the plot has room to spread its wings.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Pentuple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Thor, Billy, Romans, Gangsters, and Randy Teens...

Thor 3D:
First off the bat - the 3D is pointless. Each time I see a movie in 3D now, I become even less bothered about the whole thing, and I wasn't particularly fussed beforehand. The last time 3D was any real fun was Jackass 3D, and that revolved around poking stuff into the lens. Even Drive Angry 3D wasn't all that in 3D. Indeed, despite knowing of it, and somewhat noticing it on other 3D flicks, the 'dimming factor' of 3D glasses was very evident with Thor. Particularly during night scenes and anytime we're in Thor's home realm, the image was ridiculously dulled.

The movie itself is basically thus - it's no Iron Man, that's for sure, but it's much better paced than Iron Man 2, however I'm much more looking forward to Captain America. There's a decent amount of humour splashed throughout, Natalie Portman is likeable as ever, Hemsworth does a solid job playing the hammer-flinger himself, and it's a generally impressive movie visually. However, I wasn't especially looking forward to this movie - hardly in fact - and while I did enjoy it, it wasn't particularly memorable for me. Good, but not great. One final thing though - it's possibly the loudest (and bassiest) movie of the year.

Billy Madison:
I've never understood why some people like these particular Adam Sandler movies so much. The scripting is rarely polished, never mind vaguely tight or organised, and Sandler seems to do the same schtick from one to the other. He was really good in Funny People, but I just don't get why some people dig these Adam Sandler comedies from the 1990s so much. Like with Happy Gilmore, which I saw for the first time a little while ago, there was only a few chuckles to be had. It's just a random load of old nonsense cobbled together.

I loved Dog Soldiers, The Descent was terrifyingly claustrophobic, and Doomsday was a gleeful mash-up of 1980s genre cinema. I dig them all and own them all on DVD. However, Centurion never struck me with much interest and so, long after its cinematic release, I come to it on Sky Movies. It's okay - a Roman army find themselves at the mercy of the Scottish Picts in 117AD Britain, and one-by-one the survivors of a bloody encounter are picked off as they make their way home to the nearest Roman outpost. The main battles are bloody, but there are few characters to really root for, as pretty much everyone is a bloodthirsty bastard or part of a vicious empire. The scenery is fantastic, but it doesn't elevate the movie to any lasting status for me.

Once Upon A Time In America:
When I originally saw Once Upon A Time In The West, I didn't like it. However, that was several years ago, and a recent second viewing changed my opinion entirely. This time around, it's another Sergio Leone epic - this time about the rise and fall of a group of gangsters in New York, following them through the streets of early 20th century life, Prohibition, and the dying days of the 1960s. It's epic, to say the least, although I preferred the first half of the movie to the second. Perhaps a second viewing would improve my response to the movie - which was a bit cold and distanced - like what happened with Once Upon A Time In The West. Or then again, maybe it wouldn't. Perhaps I prefer Leone's westerns. America was certainly grand and sumptuous, but I wonder why the first half interested me much more than the second half.

National Lampoon's Barely Legal:
Two years before the superior (obviously) The Girl Next Door (which was essentially Risky Business for the 2000s), came this - an unfocused, only slightly amusing, American Pie wannabe about three randy virgins who decide to make a porno. There's some cheekiness throughout, but few chuckles, and the script in particular is a let down. I know for a fact I could have written something better (and I say this not from a position of arrogance) - indeed I have written better things than this - so it's grating to see such a half-assed job get made when I spend so much time focusing on character, motivation, and banter-style humour. Then again, if you've got the connections, and someone is willing to stump up cash for the project - in this case an American Pie-a-like - then you're set. So it's doubly grating as someone struggling to get into the business.

I look at a script like this and think "I could have done so much more with this idea, I could have really gone for the meat and served up some actual yucks" - I can do gross-out comedy, I can do comedy/drama, and right now I'm in the midst of doing a drama/mystery. If only I could get a paid gig, even on something like a cash-in comedy such as this, I would bloody well make it worthwhile seeing ... or at the very least give it some bloody good chuckles, like Miss March, another American Pie-a-like which wasn't great, but it sure had some bloody good laughs and a bit of style.

This, on the other hand, was cheap and mostly dull, and never delivered on the comedic promise of the central premise. National Lampoon has fallen a long way since the likes of Animal House, Christmas Vacation, and even Loaded Weapon.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #09...

Act II is underway and the current page count is 43. It was initially slow going, getting back into writing for the first time, rather than re-drafting existing stuff, but I quickly got going and soon found that the time re-drafting Act I really did help. Particularly in terms of focusing myself on making each scene important, and to end them on a useful piece of information, or a look that may or may not mean something - for example - to keep you moving onto the next scene. That'll be a key thing for me to refine when I come around to Draft 2.1 later on.

I'm now moving into some more of the meat of the backstory to some of the characters - particularly what a woman called Jeanie and a teenager called Stephanie have in common, and how it pertains to what Ryman seeks to figure out. Also the main character, Miller, finds himself slowly tumbling further, ever willing, into the rabbit hole after he witnesses the aftermath of a car crash which closed Act I.

I'm being careful not to give anything away, but I figured it was about time I dropped a few teeny bits of info.

Monday 2 May 2011

"Allen Bridge" blog #08...

The re-drafting of Act I is complete - so that first act is now at Draft 1.2 standard - and the page count is currently 34. So it's still a little heavy, but considering that I hacked out 10 pages worth of extraneous fat, that's pretty good going ... so it's no over yet. When I return for Draft 2.1, I will be seeking out those 4 extra pages.

I'm now ready to proceed onto Act II - but of course that means we're back to that unknown territory where nothing but an empty expanse lies before you. However, this brief time re-drafting Act I, has helped me get a yet stronger grasp on Allen Bridge - and I hope this bodes well for the continued writing process.