Friday 31 August 2012

Flavours of the Month: August 2012...


Napoleon Dynamite - we watched this movie so many times in the final semester of uni, to the point that we could practically recite all of it, but I haven't seen it since, until now that is. It still evades a summary as to why it's so unique and enjoyable.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - the first time I saw it I wasn't at all keen on it. A few years later and I grew to like it a lot more, despite its flaws, and seeing as Sky Movies haven't shown it (despite frequently showing Friday the 13th one-through-seven routinely), I fancied another dip into it. Yes, there are some problems, but I've come to really enjoy the flick.

Breaking Bad: Season 3 & 4 - the catch-up with Vince Gilligan's excellent drama (with pitch dark black comedy) continues apace. That moment from the final episode of season four was so good I had to watch it several times. Roll on season five!

Beaver Falls: Series 2 - not overly serious, but not overly silly, and a great antidote to the self-involved and totally unrealistic nonsense that is Skins. You've gotta love Barry too - what a state, but he gets all the best lines.

Click "READ MORE" below for sounds, vibes, and an in-depth look at the Pros and Cons of Assassin's Creed: Revelations...

Monday 27 August 2012

Pentuple Bill Mini Musings: Aliens, Murder, and Business...

Apollo 18:
What's it about?
A 'found footage film' about a classified mission to the moon after the last official landing of Apollo 17 (hence the title), in which American astronauts are sent to apparently erect some sort of Russian missile detection system. However, amidst the craters on the surface, they discover the Russians have at some point landed on the moon and suffered a terrible fate. Better be careful which moon rocks you pick up then...
Who would I recognise in it?
No 'big names' here, but it was produced by Dimension Films and Timur Bekmambetov, and edited by Patrick "Drive Angry" Lussier.
There's creepy crawly moon monsters out there in the cold silence of space, and while it's not an exceptional shocker, Apollo 18 does prove to be a pleasant surprise nonetheless. The claustrophobia of a lunar module or a space suit unsettles you from the back of your mind, while the isolation of the moon's surface creates genuine chills. There is a tendency towards LOUD NOISE jumps from time-to-time, but when you descend into a pitch black crater with nothing but a camera's flash for guidance, you know that sooner or later there's going to be an explosion of popcorn before your eyes. Stylistically the film is a real success, with contrast, colour, grain, and even aspect ratio and framing, all seamlessly matching the real-life NASA footage. What's less convincing is the inconsistent low gravity experienced by the two (out of three) astronauts who land on the moon - sure, this would have been a fairly low budget production, but to see them walk across the surface, rather than bounce like Neil Armstrong (may he rest in peace) and his moon walking brothers so memorably did, does strip away some of the believability, which is otherwise pretty strong. Atmospheric, chilling, and proving to be a rather enjoyable mixture of found footage frights with period-set Apollo moon missions, it's surprisingly good.

Click "READ MORE" below for corruption, assassinations, pool men, and Bowfinger...

Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Problem of Evil (2012)

This five-part series of educational films, aimed at 16-18 year old students of theology and religious studies, discusses some of the complex ethical issues surrounding one of the biggest questions: if there is a God, why is there evil in the world? Examining various theodicies linked to the topic, The Problem of Evil has one central evil at the heart of it – to help tie everything together – and that is the Holocaust, represented sensitively-but-honestly with stunning archive film.

The main four films (which I shot and edited) provide the in-depth starter knowledge to help inspire and sustain informed and passionate debate within the classroom, while the fifth film (for which I wrote the script and edited) provides an optional brief history of the Holocaust, from the election of Adolf Hitler, through the end of World War II, and beyond to the present day.

Editing this series provided some interesting creative challenges (as evidenced in the third video clip below), not only in continuing to produce visually-arresting educational films that didn't resemble the staid affairs I remembered from my own high school days, but also in sensitively dealing with tragic subject matter – most specifically the Holocaust. The main four films all exhibit sequences relating to the subject, but the key was to not push too far with the footage, while maintaining an honest and educational approach to the material.

However, we also felt that it was important to provide an optional extra on the DVD – the aforementioned The Holocaust: A Brief History – which fully lays bare the horrors of those events in a truthful manner that avoids audience manipulation. It isn't required viewing in a class room, but teachers have been provided with the choice to show it, or alternatively utilise the script (provided on the DVD with comprehensive teacher's notes).

Once again, by working on an educational DVD, a challenge was offered to create strong and interesting visual representations of the complex theological issues and ideas being put forward by the narration. I was able to tweak and improve upon previously used techniques, as well as try out some new ideas across all the films, to keep the presentation fresh and absorbing.

Click “READ MORE” below to watch preview clips of all five films featured in The Problem of Evil, and see what people think of the films themselves...

Monday 20 August 2012

The Expendables 2 film review...

What's it about?
Head-crushing sequel to 2010's muscles-n-guns festival-of-awesome The Expendables, which gathered practically every big name in action cinema under one tent pole extravaganza of explosions and flying lead. This time around, Jean Claude Van Damme's "Vilain" (with Scott Adkins in-tow) wants to get his hands on multiple tonnes of previously-hidden uranium to sell to the highest bidder - naturally, our band of gun-toting heroes must save the day, with punching, kicking, and just a little bit of shooting and blowing shit up.
Who would I recognise in it?
Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Scott Adkins, Chuck Norris, Liam Hemsworth, Charisma Carpenter.

Click "READ MORE" below for the full skinny on Stallone & Co's latest action-fest...

Wednesday 15 August 2012

You know what movie should be remade? Drive-In Massacre...

Remakes. They've been dime-a-dozen for years, and the success rate isn't exactly high. Generally they've brought in box office bucks, but money doesn't equal quality – nor genuine purpose. The problem with remakes remains thus: beloved icons of cinema history (some of them bonafide franchises unto themselves, many of them within the horror genre) are re-heated to simply trade on an established name. Cynical business sense in abundance, but artistically and from a fan's perspective, it's frequently devoid of true merit. Add to this the fact that we horror fans possess a particularly potent brand of curiosity, a curiosity that convinces us to spend money to see these remakes simply to see how they compare to the original films, even though the result is typically that the original remains to be the best. Remakes today almost never produce a greater film than the original.

A quick perusal of my DVD and Blu-Ray collection that's weighing down my walls, reveals numerous examples of films that have been remade, of films that are themselves remakes.

Some of these remakes are decent (or even pretty good), but simply don't touch on the power and status of the original films. Night of the Living Dead 1990, Halloween 2007, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 are all examples of this level of the remake strata.

Far below that we have turgid and even quite cynical rehashes, such as Dawn of the Dead 2004 (vapid, devoid of intelligence, all mouth and no trousers), Day of the Dead 2008 (no, just no), The Fog 2005 (again, no, just no), A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 (a poorly paced and pale imitation of the film that gave life to New Line Cinema, cobbled together from badly executed sequences pinched from Craven's original), and The Thing 2011. The last one is technically a “prequel” (and a pointless one at that as we know exactly what will happen to the Norwegian camp), but it attempts to re-tread John Carpenter's 1982 footsteps so often (while completely ignoring the alien's modus operandi in the process) that it's clearly a remake that wants to hide inside an imitation.

Click "READ MORE" below for more remakes, and why Drive-In Massacre would be a worthwhile candidate for another going-over.

Monday 13 August 2012

Trailer Fest: "Berberian Sound Studio"...

Fans of Italian Giallo flicks should find this film to be to their liking. I know I'm looking forward to seeing it!

"Peter Strickland, the director of Katalin Varga, returns with a very different tale with Berberian Sound Studio. Set in 1976, Toby Jones plays a documentary sound engineer who finds himself employed by a notorious low-budget Italian horror studio. Uneasy in his new environment and surrounded by a world he finds alien, he throws himself into his work, failing to notice how life is slowly beginning to imitate art. An homage to the classic Italian Giallos of the period, Strickland's film is another triumph.

In cinemas nationwide from 31 August 2012

Wednesday 8 August 2012

"The Problem of Evil" - a new educational DVD...

Joe and I recently finished a new educational DVD titled "The Problem of Evil", which deals with one of the most fundamental ethical issues relating to theology and the philosophy of religion. The clip below (which we referred to as "the Russian sequence") from The Irenaean Theodicy (the third of five films to be featured on the soon-to-be-released DVD) was my favourite experience while making this DVD.

I was given a quote from Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" and had to design, shoot, and edit the whole sequence from the ground-up to match it. Shooting in rural Herefordshire - independently, on a low budget and with few resources - we had to make our idyllic surroundings fill in for the wilds of Russia.

You can view more sample clips from the upcoming DVD release of The Problem of Evil by visiting the Ethics Online YouTube Channel.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Adam Buxton's "Bug"...

If you've not been watching Adam Buxton's "Bug" show on Sky Atlantic, here's a taste of what you've been missing...

Check out some more at Buxty's YouTube Channel.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Triple Bill Mini Musings: Lanterns, Strippers, and Helpers...

Green Lantern:
What's it about?
Comic book adaptation by Martin "Goldeneye/Casino Royale" Campbell about Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot who ends up becoming The Green Lantern, part of a league of superheroes who protect their respective sectors of the universe.
Who would I recognise in it?
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Tim Robbins, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong.
Considering Campbell expertly rejuvinated the Bond franchise not once, but twice, it comes as quite a surprise that Green Lantern feels so conflicted and flat. It is at once lumpen with awkward and unfocused pacing, and yet unsatisfyingly light on plot and character. The big bad - in the form of Paralax, a big fart-cloud of dust heading for earth that feeds on fear and consumes all in its path - never feels threatening, and is rarely glimpsed ... although there is only so much you can do with an evil space cloud. Sarsgaard's bulgy-headed back-up-baddie Hector Hammond is likewise under-developed, his character amounting to little more than a pissy 'failure' in life. Hal Jordan is about the only one who gets enough screen time to develop a solid back story and character arc of discovery (even if it is predictable and generally a bit "meh"). I've never read any of the Green Lantern comics, and have no interest in doing so, so purely in terms of it as a movie - only alright.

Click "READ MORE" below for Kristen Stewart's stripper-sass-mouth, and Emma Stone telling the tales of 1960s house maids...

Friday 3 August 2012

Trailer Fest: "Cockneys vs. Zombies"...

It could be bloody awful by the sounds of the title, however by the looks of the trailer it could be a bloody good time. Naturally, it doesn't pretend to be in the same league as the enduringly brilliant Shaun of the Dead, but nevertheless, with a good handful of British character actors and known faces, combined with lashings of gore, plenty of shooters, and some good chuckles along the way, Cockneys vs. Zombies looks like it could be a ruddy good watch.