Monday, 29 December 2008

2008 End of Year Review

It's an unnecessarily long multi-media extravaganza end of year post! Yay!

The most standout thing about 2008 for me is how quickly it went. January to April was taken up by Ten Dead Men excitement leading up to the premier.

There was a bit of a limbo from mid
-April to mid-May where I finished off a couple of scripts I'd been working on for a while and considered the possibility that Ten Dead Men could be my first and last produced feature (still a possibility).

I then became too busy to think abo
ut it as I took on two new scripts at the end of May and then a third I wrote with Brother Pete. For two solid months my life was day job then writing all evening til one or two in the morning, with extra writing at weekends. When the scripts were done it calmed down a bit but I did a lot of rewriting, on those scripts and on a couple of other people's.

As this was going on Andrea and I also moved to a new flat when the old one started raining inside and in September we went to New York with Brothers Pete and Tim.

October I wrote a script that was completely my idea and moaned about it a lot on here.

November one of the scripts I'd written back in June started to get a lot of interest, and December I started rewriting it (which I'm still doing). Fill the gaps with various time wasting projects (this blog, my short-lived podcast) and drinking and that's pretty much my year.

In the style of many a writing blog, here are the highlights (however, in the style of many a non-writing blog I am also including non-writing highlights):

- The Ten Dead Men premiere (April). Yesterday as a kind of a New Year cleansing thing I went through five years worth of old e-mails and deleted almost all of them. One of the ones I kept was one from July 2006 asking if I'd be interested in working on Ten Dead Men. It seems like a very long time ago, but in film terms roughly 18 months from concept to finished product isn't very long at all really. However, there were so many times I felt it may never be finished and there was so much hard work put in from everyone involved that seeing it on the big screen felt like a real achievement. And it was great that my friends who'd been hearing about this thing that whole time finally got to see it too.

- Spending a week in New York with my favourite people in the world (September):

- The Phantasmagoria Festival in Swindon (July). Firstly because we got to see Ten Dead Men on a big screen again with better sound and an audience of people with no connection to the film or the filmmakers. Secondly because I got to spend a whole weekend watching genre films. Thirdly because I made some cool new friends.

- Seeing my favourite band ever, The Residents (December). This was something I thought I'd never get to do and as I said at the time if they'd come out onstage, waved then gone again I still would've loved it. As it happened they put on a really great show that made some interesting comments about society and the internet whilst also being a rather excellent performance. And the fact that they've maintained anonymity all this time still amazes me.

- The Amanda Palmer gig (October). In some ways it wa
sn't the greatest gig in the world - the place was only half full so the atmosphere was a little off, there were loads of annoying people talking through the whole thing at the back where we were standing and we had to keep moving around so we could see. Despite all that it was still one of the best gigs I've ever been to. The performance was amazing and as well as the music there was a sense of artistic freedom and creativity and an excitement about those things that inspired me to start working on my own stuff again. Her album Who Killed Amanda Palmer is also the best album I bought this year and is something I highly recommend.

- The Moviebar screening of Ten Dead Men (July). This has justified the existence of my whole blog - in my draft version of this post I wrote that the Moviebar screening happened after the Phantasmagoria one - I thought it was in August for some reason. Luckily I checked and narrowly avoided rewriting history and creating some kind of space-time continuum paradox. Anyway, in some ways this was the most pleasant of the screenings as it was the only one I wasn't nervous about. I knew the venue, I knew the people, it was in a pub so I could get nicely drunk and thus be able to receive criticism - a good night was had by all.

- The midnight screening of The Dark Knight (July). The Dark Knight is the first time ever I've been excited about a big blockbuster film and had my expectations not only met but exceeded. It's also one of the few films I've seen at the cinema that's instantly become one of my favourite films ever. I did wonder if this was partly due to the manner in which I saw it, but having seen it two more times at the cinema since (another first for me) I am convinced that it's just an excellent film. You don't have to agree (a lot of people didn't), I've been told I get a bit evangelical when talking about the film, but I enjoy liking a film this big. It doesn't happen very often. Anyway, the midnight screening was ace with loads of people dressed up. People cheered at the pencil bit and when Gary Oldman reappears and we all clapped at the end, which would usually be annoying b
ut in this case was all in the spirit of the thing. It was nice sitting in a cinema packed full of people who really wanted to see the film and other than the above no one chatted or made general noise - they just watched and listened, which is what you're supposed to do but again doesn't happen very often. To be fair the IMAX screening was just as good, but didn't have the people in fancy dress or the band playing the Batman TV show theme on repeat for hours on end:

- The Ten Dead Men US deal. When I was told about this I was so busy working on other stuff I didn't really take it in. It was only when we got the R Rating and saw press releases like this one that it really started to sink in. It's going to be a proper film now, out there in the world for anyone to watch. Unfortunately as a result of the release I've also found out what it's like to be on the other side of both piracy and spiteful imdb comments - something I've yet to get used to. Despite that, I'm really happy it's been released in the US and in the other territories it was sold to - I just hope a) they include all the cool special features we did, especially Brother Pete's hour-long documentary and b) that we get a UK release next year.

Right, onto films. I debated over whether to include all the cool films I've seen this year regardless of their release date, but the list was massive so I stuck to those that were released this year:

Be Kind Rewind - a nice little film and the kind that doesn't really get made too much these days.

Rambo - did exactly what it was supposed to do, only did it far better than it was supposed to do it and for me is far superior, in terms of the script and the tone at least, to the previous two sequels:

Doomsday - the 80s action film the UK never had:

Rec - Watched this again last night as I got the DVD for Christmas from Brother Pete. It is perhaps more terrifying watching it on a TV screen - I was scared to turn the lights off afterwards which is always the sign of a good horror film. It also has an ace trailer:

The Mist - amazing horror film. Anyone who criticises the CG monsters is missing the point. One of the best endings in cinema history:

Kamikaze Girls - this one isn't out until this January but I saw it in 2008 after I got sent a press copy to review for Combat magazine. It's a very cool film, a kind of Japanese Ghost World, and it got me excited about Japanese cinema again for the first time in ages:

Taken - Anyone who criticises its portrayal of all Europeans as evil is missing the point. It never bothered anyone that the Bond films essentially do the same thing. But on the surface this is perhaps the most accomplished straight action film I've seen in a long time. And another good trailer:

Cloverfield - a Hollywood monster movie as seen through the eyes of the extras. A great script well-executed and a publicity campaign that managed to keep the details a secret until the film was released, which these days is nearly impossible:

Vampyr - So it was released in 1932 and not 2008, but the DVD I saw was released this year. Very odd, very imaginative and very creepy:

I only read one book this year. I even spent a good couple of hours yesterday reading just so I could say I read one book this year. I am rubbish. What happened? I started doing this blog on my lunch breaks. I also got an ipod and got addicted to podcasts. I've also been super-busy. This has to change. My first New Year's resolution is to read more.

Anyway, the one book I read was The Grin of the Dark by Ramsey Campbell and it was really good. Very creepy and the real monster of the piece was the internet in the form of a particularly nasty message board poster who stalks the main character on the imdb forums - I can relate to that.

So that was 2008. All in all a good year, which is great as this blog would've been fairly dull otherwise. If 2009 is even half as exciting as 2008 was I'll be happy. I might at some point post some over-ambitious targets so I can depress myself this time next year, but first off I really need to get back to that rewrite!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 24

Okay, my 'Merry Christmas!!!' at the end of the last post may have been a bit premature, as it sort of made it look like that was the last one. It's not - this is the last one! Am now feeling properly festive having put up the tree, listened to lots of Christmas music and stayed up until the early hours of the morning wrapping presents. And watching Tobe Hooper's Masters of Horror episode, which was not festive at all.

I am planning an end of year post which I will do next week. Until then I'll leave you with this, perhaps my favourite Christmas thing ever (how many times have I said that over the last 24 days?):

Merry Christmas everyone. No man is a failure who has friends.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 23

So Andrea and I happened to both be in on the same night for the first time in ages and managed to finally put the Christmas tree up. Cutting it close, I know! Here is the tree:

Here is the monkey angel. He's supposed to go on top but he's too heavy for this tree:

This is scary Santa on a swing:

Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 22

Black Snow by Ten Benson. Another suggestion from Brother Pete and shame on me for not thinking of it ages ago. Ace song, ace video, ace band. Perhaps the best Christmas music video ever and not in the least bit disturbing:

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 21

Went on a family outing to the garden centre in Stafford to look at Christmas stuff. This is what we saw:

Brother Pete touched the glass as instructed but nothing happened:

This scary House of Death was among the more terrifying of the festive displays:

Here is a festive Jedi:

Here is Santa with an evil spinning monkey:
Here is Santa on his motorbike:
Here is Santa with a radioactive face:
Here is a dancing Santa which is strangely creepy without sound. The change in light occurs when I told Brother Pete to stand next to me to hide the fact that I was filming the products in the garden centre, in case they took me for a spy from a rival garden centre and had me killed:
The garden centre also had fish. Which are not festive, but here is a video of them anyway including a monster fish which you can see in the back if you look closely:

My camera doesn't record sound, which makes this video a bit daft, but imagine the video below with three of us asking 'are we nearly there yet?' for an hour and you will get an accurate depiction of the journey:

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 20

Wrestler Bill Goldberg as Santa:

Friday, 19 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 19

Here is the family cat, William (named after star of Greatest American Hero and House William Katt):

Here is a close-up of William after I realised that although he is scared of most things he is apparently not scared of cameras:

Here is William's pyramid where he stores his toys. On the right you can see the toy he took out specially for the season:

Yes, it is a Christmas tree - a few days ago William went through his toys and took out the Christmas tree for display purposes, proof that cats enjoy Christmas.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 18

It's a Wonderful Life on stage was cool, I am now at home in Stoke and feeling slightly more festive. I also have a cold, which is rubbish. Maybe I need some of these:

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 17

Okay, back to proper Christmas stuff now. This one needs no explanation really. I've seen it every year since as long as I can remember, although this year a theatre in Brighton is putting it on as a play so, my annoying cold permitting, I'm planning on seeing that instead:

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 16

This isn't really festive at all but I just got back from Moviebar where I saw this and met the bloke who made it, and I need an excuse to post it because it's ace:

Monday, 15 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 15

Brother Pete also recommended this one. It's Korn doing a cover of Kidnap the Sandy Claws from Nightmare Before Christmas:

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 14

A cool little animation Brother Pete did:

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 13

Best adaptation of A Christmas Carol ever:

Friday, 12 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 12

Bob Clark again, being ace and presenting a rather different treatment of Christmas to the one in A Christmas Story. The trailer is really long, but it is a pretty cool trailer and the voiceover at the end is brilliant.

'If this movie doesn't make your skin crawl, it's on too tight...'

My favourite thing about this film is that when they tap the phone line you actually see a guy at the phone company running around chasing the call. Makes it much more exciting and it's educational too.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 11

'I'm David Bowie, I live down the road':

Hold on! What scarf is he wearing? That's not the scarf the REAL snowman gave him! Oh I get it, now he's friends with Bing he's forgotten all about his old friend the snowman. That's what being friends with David Bowie gets you.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ten Dead Men IMDB User Comment Appeal

So we got our first negative IMDB comment before the DVD has been released, from someone in Greece (where I'm not even sure it's legitimately available) who only watched ten minutes of the film. This was inevitable - everyone is entitled to an opinion and the internet gives everyone the chance to publish their opinions, like this blog. Unfortunately not all those opinions are positive. However, I was hoping the film would actually make it to the US release date before this happened.

I do sometimes comment on IMDB titles, and when I do it's to point out the films I really like and that may otherwise be missed because of comments from people who couldn't get through the first ten minutes. I've made a point of doing it for low budget genre films that I've enjoyed - films like Soul Searcher, Infestation, Dead Wood, and Contour that should be seen but won't get the exposure they deserve due to incredibly low budgets. I've never commented on a film that I didn't like - I don't have the time and I don't see the point. But as I've seen so often on IMDB, other people clearly do. Sometimes it seems that IMDB exists solely for the enjoyment of people who would like publicly express their dislike of the films they see.

At the same time it is an important resource for film-makers, particularly for low budget films that won't get the usual press coverage. I often check the IMDB user comments when choosing a film to watch if I don't know anything about it. And it doesn't matter if there are a hundred 'worst film ever reviews' - as long as there are one or two intelligent views of the film that suggest there is at least something to enjoy, then I'll watch the film. 

A film like Ten Dead Men is one that people are likely to want to check out first before taking the risk. This is why what I'm about to ask is important.

We need more user comments. So far we have two - one bad one from our friend in Greece, the other posted by our producer (admittedly it is a reprint of a review from an outside source, but it has still been posted by the producer of the film, which makes it almost useless). We need user comments from independent viewers who have no direct involvement with the film but have attended one of the various screenings we've done over the past year. If this is you, then keep reading. If you were directly involved with the film that obviously rules you out, but please do refer this on to friends, family...anyone you know who came to see it.

I'm asking for as many people as possible who have seen the film to add a user comment to the IMDB page here. I realise this is a big ask and may take a chunk of time - there are guidelines you have follow and the comments have to be coherent and be a certain length. I'll put full instructions below. But once it's done they stay on there and you need have no further involvement.

Also, I'm not telling you what you have to say about the film, or suggesting that everyone goes on there and says it's the best film ever. Please do be honest otherwise there's no point. Feel free to point out its flaws, don't pretend the film is something it isn't and if you really didn't like it then please criticise in full. What I want is intelligent criticism - otherwise we'll be overrun by people saying it's the worst film ever because they watched ten minutes and it wasn't anything like the last Michael Bay film they saw and loved. Perhaps that sounds unfair, but people do seem to have a hard time giving low budget genre films a chance and I don't want to let those people stop our film from being seen before it's even been released.

If I can make one suggestion it's that at some point in the comment you mention where you saw the film, just to give it a bit of legitimacy (and to make it look less like the writer of the film begged everyone to do it!).

At the risk of sounding desperate, the reason for this appeal is that a great number of people (myself included) gave up a lot of free time and more importantly put a lot of hard work into getting this film out there. That doesn't automatically make it brilliant, or even any good, but it does deserve a fair chance to be seen. If we get too many comments like the one we have so far then it won't get that chance.

Here's how you can help.

First off, you will need to be registered on IMDB. Just go to and click 'Register' in the top right-hand corner. It won't take long and they pretty much leave you alone once you've registered - you won't start getting loads of junk mail or anything. Once you've registered you need to do the following:

1) Go to the Ten Dead Men page by either searching for the title or clicking this link.

2) Scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says 'User Comments' and click the link in brackets next to it where it says (Comment on this title).

3) Tick the 'Contains spoilers box' if you're giving away any plot points in your review.

4) Give your review a title in the 'Summary' box.

5) Give the film a score out of ten in the 'Vote' drop-down menu.

6) Write your comment. The comment must be a minimum of ten lines long within the box provided and can't be any longer than 1000 words. There are further guidelines here but most of it's pretty obvious - no swearing etc.

7) Click 'Preview' at the bottom of the page and you get to see what your comment will look like, plus any spelling errors will be flagged (apologies if this is really patronising but I don't want to take any chances).

8) Click 'Submit' and you're done!

You should then receive an e-mail in the next day or two letting you know whether your comment has been approved or not.

For everyone who does this, thank you very much in advance. I shall try to track the progress of the user comments on here and will also endeavor to create some kind of Facebook group. Be warned, I will also probably be sending out e-mails to people I know have seen the film.

Also, if anyone reading has made or been involved with a low budget film that is available in the UK and would like me to add a user comment on IMDB let me know and I will rent it and return the favour.

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 10

A classic:

I miss Bob Clark. It's a shame his career came to an end with The Karate Dog and Baby Geniuses 2.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Rated R


If that's not a recommendation I don't know what is.

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 9

Ziggy's Gift - This ties into what I was talking about in The Residents post. Brother Pete and I saw this animation early one Christmas while we were waiting for everyone else to get up (yes, most of my Christmas memories are based on watching stuff on TV - I am Bill Murray in Scrooged). So then we'd look out for it every year but it was never on again and it became a vague memory of something cool we saw one Christmas. Now you can watch the whole thing on YouTube (or buy it on DVD as I think Pete did eventually). Here is the intro, complete with weird Nilsson song:

Rewriting something good...

First off, Doug Bradley mentions Ten Dead Men in an interview for Fangoria here.

My plans to not write anything until after Christmas went out the window fairly quickly, but for good and potentially exciting reasons. This leaves me in the odd position of having to rewrite a script that a lot of people really liked. Unlike The Dark Room which so far has been generally liked but some rather large issues have been flagged, the feedback on the script I'm working on now was divided between people who really liked it and people who generally liked it but thought some parts needed more work. This is good - I know which parts need work at least. What's difficult is amending those bits without changing anything the other people really liked. For example, everyone agreed the pacing is good throughout, which is great but as most of the proposed amendments involve adding rather than taking away the pacing could be in jeopardy. Bit of a balancing act - I guess I'm just worried about ruining it.

Not much time to worry though as it needs to be done by Christmas, which as my blog countdown keeps reminding me is actually not that far away.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Residents

So I went to see The Residents last night at the Forum in Kentish Town and it was amazing. This was a big deal for me as The Residents were the first band I ever properly liked. And I mean first as in when I was about ten years old. I still have my first ever compilation tape with a couple of Residents songs on there - 'Never Known Questions' and my favourite 'Constantinople':

I tried to come up with an adequate explanation but failed so here's what Wikipedia says about them instead:

'The Residents is an American avant-garde music and visual arts group who have created over sixty albums, created numerous musical short films, designed three CD-ROM projects and ten DVDs, and undertaken seven major world tours. Throughout their career, spanning nearly four decades, they have successfully maintained complete anonymity.'

I honestly never thought I’d get to see them live. They still produce an album every few years, but with every tour there are rumours it will be their last and I’d missed them in London once before. I also had no idea what to expect – in my lifetime I’ve only met about two or three other people who’ve even heard of The Residents before. So I was quite surprised to see the audience made up of a really broad range of people – some younger than me, some older, most around the same age. It was also sold out and there was a queue running all the way down the road.

The band had been delayed getting into the country so it was a late start, but it meant they pretty much went straight into the show once we got inside. The show was part music, part video, and part theatrical performance and told the story of the Bunny Boy – a rabbit-obsessed man who’s lost his brother Harvey and tries to find him by posting videos on the internet. It was just as weird and brilliant as I wanted it to be, although I think I was so excited about actually seeing them they probably could’ve come out on stage, waved, and disappeared again and I still would’ve been happy. Anyway, I won’t keep raving on about how good the gig was – there are loads of videos of the Bunny Boy tour on YouTube if you’re interested. You can also watch the full Bunny Boy video story on their website where there is a series, currently up to 43 two-minute episodes. It's a cool story with some neat twists and even if you're not into the music it's worth watching the videos. Here's an example:

People who have been to my flat will know why I chose that one. 

As well as the story of the Bunny Boy himself who may be crazy or may be the only person who can save the world, there is an interesting subplot about modern communication and the internet. If taken as a story about a man going through a mental and emotion breakdown, it's certainly a very public one. At one point he gets an e-mail suggesting he make the videos more entertaining and puts on a rabbit suit to oblige, even though he objects to the idea. Later he dreams of a vast room lined with thousands of mirrored balls with a dead rabbit in the centre. I wondered if perhaps the mirrors represent all the people on the internet watching his breakdown on YouTube, but typical of The Residents there is no final answer, no real resolution to the story. But it opens up some interesting ideas about the internet and the nature of information and made me think, which is what all good art should do.

The amazing thing about The Residents is how they've kept up the mystery all these years – not even the internet has managed to cut through their identities. There are no scandalous stories, no manifestos or declarations of brilliance, there is only what they’ve chosen to put out there. Not only that, they've embraced the internet and used it to heighten the mystery even more. I think that’s maybe something we’re missing these days. It's like I was saying about Slipknot a few posts back. As soon as they started talking and taking their masks off, which they did after about six months of being famous, the mystery was gone. 

But it's not just about masked bands. I remember the days before the internet where you’d have to do serious research if you wanted to find out about the origins of something. That’s what kept me interested in The Residents all these years. It was the same with films too – I had this one VHS of early Clive Barker short films and I used to watch the interviews at the end over and over because it was the only clue I had to where all his stuff came from. I used to hear about books and films that were banned or lost or even just rare and still scour the shops of Hanley looking for stuff like that. Now it’s all just a few clicks away. And mostly that’s good – I like that I can hear about something cool and have it come through my door a couple of days later. But it’s maybe a little too easy. I have a shelf full of films and books that I once thought impossible to track down - most of them I haven't had time to watch/read yet.

I also think there’s something to be said for The Residents refusing to do interviews. We know too much about everyone these days. I’m a huge fan of director’s commentaries and DVD special features but I also appreciate the filmmakers and musicians who try to avoid giving away all their secrets. I’m also a great believer in blogs, but sometimes I wonder  - do we actually need to be this close to the artists we admire? The other night Amanda Palmer did a live webcast from Neil Gaiman’s house. So it was 1am and suddenly I'm looking into Neil Gaiman’s kitchen where lots of cool people are making dinner. And I had something of an existential crisis that reality TV fans probably got over long ago – it’s 1am and I’m watching people do something I do every day. For an hour. Only they’re not just people like us, they’re Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman – do I want Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman to be real people?

I can’t imagine The Residents as real people. I can’t picture them making dinner, or sitting watching TV or waiting for the bus. Even after seeing them live, they’re still as weird and mysterious as they ever were – maybe even more so. And I like that. I'm not saying that non-disclosure is better than full disclosure, I'm just saying it's a rare alternative.

So here I am writing my blog and at the moment I'm obviously on the side of full disclosure, or as full as it can be without getting me into trouble. Even at this stage, with my limited audience, I can relate to the Bunny Boy putting on his bunny suit when he thinks he’s not entertaining enough. And maybe one day, when there's a bit more material out there and what little this blog does to help promote my writing is no longer required, maybe I’ll consider hitting that big, shiny delete button on the settings page. There should be more mysteries in the world.

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 8

Me and Brother Pete recreating the excitement of this photo last Christmas:

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 7

When I was growing up there would usually be an old serial on TV over the Christmas holidays, usually shown really early in the morning - things like Flash Gordon, Batman and the one with the bloke with a jetpack on his back. They haven't been shown on TV for years but one of us will always track one down on DVD at some point to watch over Christmas. The Crimson Ghost is my favourite. Not only does it have the coolest villain ever (whom The Misfits adopted as their mascot) it also had the best action set-pieces:

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 6

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Self-explanatory:

Friday, 5 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 5

This one is cheating and not really Christmas related at all (although it does involve wrapping paper). But I'm going to see The Residents on Sunday, the first band I ever liked, and I am super excited. So here's my favourite Residents video:

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 4

Claymation Carol of the Bells. Quasimodo's humming reminds me of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, but I'm not sure if that's intentional:

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Ten Dead Men in French...

Here's the French DVD cover:

Personally I prefer it to the US one, possibly just because the French text makes it look like an ultra-cool French thriller.

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 3

David Bowie and his scarf. This led to child me believing that a) David Bowie was only famous for getting a scarf from a REAL snowman and b) the classic animation was actually a real life incident in Bowie's childhood:

(ignore the daft bit at the end - it was either this one or a rubbish quality video with someone filming a TV)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Painter of the Agonies...

Still not anything to report on the writing side of things and probably won't be for a while so there are yet more film rants. Saw Changeling last night which I really enjoyed. It's too long and three films in one, but it's nice to see a properly made film these days and Clint Eastwood really does know how to make 'em proper. It looks amazing, the story is compelling, Angelina Jolie is great but the best thing in it for me was Jeffrey Donovan who plays Capt. Jones. If you do see it, it's also worth looking into the back story a bit afterwards - I don't want to talk in depth about the plot here but I get the impression the good Captain had a much more morally ambiguous and completely unfilmable role in real life. Anyway, Donovan is great, and though it's a little early for Oscar speculation, if this does end up being one of those Oscar films that dominates every category I'd be happy to see him get a Best Supporting nomination.

Speaking of Jeffrey Donovan, he's probably more familiar to Americans as he's been in loads of TV stuff but I only recognised him from Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, in which he is also very good. I recommend that anyone with any interest in films or film-making go out and buy (or preferably borrow) Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows immediately. Not because it's good - it's a terrible film. But it's terrible as a direct result of studio intervention and has one of the best and most honest commentaries you'll ever hear from director Joe Berlinger. Seriously, it's one of the most interesting and damning examples of how the film industry and art don't mix I've ever come across and it's great that someone actually tells you how it is. I've a feeling I've mentioned this before, but I've yet to meet anyone who's taken me up on the recommendation so until that day I'll keep going on about it.

Also this week I watched House of Laughing Windows, which was also overlong but at the same time amazing. It's actually a film I'd consider re-making as there is some very cool stuff in there but it's not quite a brilliant film overall. I recommend watching it, if only for the genuinely scary ending. Also, the scene that gives the film its title has now become one of my favourite scenes in horror film history. It evokes my favourite kind of horror - no jumps or scares, just a sense of creeping dread. Someone obviously felt the same way and put it on YouTube. Don't worry - it won't spoil anything, but it might make you want to see the film, and it may give you inexplicable nightmares:

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 2

Me and Brother Pete looking ecstatic with our He-Man toys on Christmas morning. I took Snake Mountain very seriously.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Xmas Blog Countdown Day 1

I like Christmas. Christmas is ace. I will endeavor to post 24 cool things about Christmas in a kind of blog advent calendar. Starting with He-Man toys:

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Adventures of last weekend...

...finally got a minute to finish off the post I started in the week, but first off there is another Poundland entry here with a good observation about Michael Crichton that had never occurred to me.

Also, here is the Ten Dead Men US DVD artwork made bigly:

I guess it's not as bad as I first thought, and it is mainly the fact that it's not Brendan's body that makes me think it looks weird. I would've preferred something more subtle but I know, subtle doesn't sell DVDs.

Anyway, this happened last weekend when Brother Pete came to visit. Saturday we watched films and I recommend the hat system when choosing which film to watch when there are a number of you present. This was developed during a similar weekend in Cardiff with Geraint where we were overwhelmed by the selection of films available on-demand and required a fair and efficient selection process. I tried to make it more exciting with a kind of Russian Roulette element, choosing only films that sounded terrible. So I suggested the same tactic on Saturday night. This lead to the bizarre yet enjoyable triple bill of Contour, Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Death Sentence. Perhaps not the most consistent in tone but I think at least everyone present got to see something they wanted to see and a good time was had by all.

Sunday I’d got tickets to see The Dark Knight on IMAX and since it takes about three years to get anywhere by train on a Sunday I decided we’d make a day of it. Rather do the usual touristy things we went further afield to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. It’s a weird little place full of stuff you’d expect to find in the attic of a mad scientist’s house, but it’s also clearly had a lot of money spent on it so the weird displays are quite well-kept. I recommend it to anyone who likes pickled dead things in jars. Other highlights were the oversized insect models, the wall display of stuffed dog heads and a rather well-preserved fake mermaid. It’s not quite as good as the Booth Museum in Brighton though – doesn’t give you the same sense that the Ark of the Covenant could be sitting in a box in a backroom.

Then we went to see Dark Knight which was awesome, although cheats a bit as only the sequences shot with the IMAX camera are projected in IMAX. That sentence makes me sound thick, but what I mean is the aspect ratio is all over the place because it’s 4:3 for the IMAX shots then goes back to widescreen for normal shots. This is fine when lengthy sequences are shot in IMAX, but less good when there’s a brief IMAX shot of a cityscape that then cuts back to widescreen, like you’ve got your TV on the wrong ratio setting and it keeps flipping back and forth. Anyway, it’s still my favourite film of the year and it was cool seeing it massive with decent sound. Also, it's the only film I’ve ever paid to see three times.

So we head back to the tube only my London geography is way off as I haven’t been for ages and I walk in the wrong direction. When I realise this and we get to the nearest station we find that there’s no trains going anywhere near where we want to go. So we decided to walk to Victoria, despite it being 9.30pm on a Sunday and freezing cold. It turned out to be a good decision – we saw all the sights lit up and the streets were practically empty. It made London seem like really nice place full of cool big things, instead of a crazy, busy place full of annoying angry people. Not sure I’d recommend sight-seeing on a Sunday night in winter as I don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting mugged, but if circumstances allow it is a cool way to see the city.

Monday Andrea was off work and we all went to a Garden Centre. We don’t have a garden. However, we thought it might be like the magical Christmas garden centre in Stafford where there are crazy lights and animatronic Jedi. But it was just a normal garden centre and therefore a bit rubbish. We did find a cool country pub though, and sat listening to two posh-sounding old ladies talking about ghosts and headless babies.

The only other thing of note was watching Dead of Night when we got home – an excellent film that I’ve had on DVD since last Christmas and completely forgot about until now. It’s probably the best portmanteau horror film, probably the best English horror film and certainly has one of the best and genuinely horrifying endings in horror film history. You have to ignore the comic relief in the middle though – an unfortunate side-effect of being produced by Ealing Studios.

Since I’m rambling, I’ll mention writing even though I haven’t been doing any. Various scripts are being sent out to various people so I’m waiting for various responses. There are potentially exciting things on the horizon but until they come close enough to become actual things I’m deliberately not getting excited at all. And I have been taking in some of the Dark Room feedback and think I’ve found a few ways to sort it out in the next draft. The writing it as a novel idea actually really helped as it made me stop thinking about the script as the definitive version of the story which made it easier to contemplate losing some of the things I’m attached to. So a second draft is more of a possibility now, but there is also a rapidly expanding document on my computer with notes for the novel.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Von Trier rant hijinks...

Loads going on at the moment. Not much I can talk about. There is more Ten Dead Men news which I will blog about properly when I get chance and am on a computer that lets me add pictures and stuff. But for now you can check out the details here.

My blog may have to do some time travelling shortly. I drafted an entry about my weekend adventures with Brother Pete, but didn't have time to finish it and it's saved at home. I'm now at work and have blogging withdrawal symptoms. And I've fallen into the trap of thinking if I don't update this every few days I will cease to exist. Or something.

Anyway, just got back from a dubious 'business' trip as part of the day job. Our mission was to pretend we worked in another office in another part of the country (yes I am being vague on purpose) for reasons too convoluted and probably top secret to mention here. So four of us from Brighton took a four hour train journey to the other office, stayed overnight, perfected our best accents, memorised some local knowledge and went ahead with the ruse. Hijinks ensue.

Except hijinks didn't ensue - it was rubbish. Our efforts to mislead were not even tested. But it was one of those moments where real life almost becomes a film. It reminded me of the recent Lars von Trier film The Boss of it All where the manager of a small company can't face telling his employees any bad news so hires an actor to do it for him. Hijinks ensue. It's actually really funny, although suffers from von Trier's usual habit of not filming anything properly so all the framing is off. I have a love/hate relationship with von Trier's films - loved Element of Crime, hated Breaking the Waves, loved The Kingdom, hated Dancer in the Dark, loved Europa, hated Dogville, loved The Five Obstructions, hated The Idiots...although funnily enough The Boss of it All was the first one I didn't have an extreme reaction to. It was just okay.

Special mention must also go to Dear Wendy which von Trier wrote and is ace.

Once again I'm saved from an end to my internet existence by a random film rant.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Some films...

Being a bit less busy means I get to watch more films, and I've seen some pretty good ones this week. This having a break from writing thing does make it difficult to maintain a writing blog so it may become a films and random stuff discussion blog for a month or so.

Wednesday night I did a bizarre double-bill of Dragon Wars and The Tracey Fragments, and I really enjoyed both. Dragon Wars should be terrible, and from what I've heard most people think it is. It has lots of imdb comments titled 'worst film ever made' and so on (I'm not looking forward to the day they start appearing on Ten Dead Men). But I really enjoyed it. It is rubbish - the characters are pretty much given names and some vague motivation then get on with it - but I still found myself getting into it, and the effects aren't bad. Plus there are some epic battle scenes in Downtown LA - for a South Korean film this is impressive because no one films in LA these days. And at the end of the film (which takes place in a random CGI desert with no explanation as to how they got there) I realised that despite the obvious rubbishness, I'd actually quite enjoyed watching it.

The Tracey Fragments could not be any more different, except for also having lots of 'worst film ever comments'. It's one of those miserable teenager films, and has the added bonus/annoyance of being shot mostly in split-screen. The split screen is annoying at first (it's either the same shot from different angles, or the same moments repeated, or just random shots of sky or body parts) and it had a horribly pretentious feel to it. But in the end it won me over. It's a film that starts out as if it doesn't have a story and it's just going to be a rambling, miserable mess. But actually it does have a story, and quite a good one. So after the split screen becomes less annoying and more fun, I really wanted to find out what was going on and the final revelation does not disappoint. I am, however, scared by how good Ellen Page is in everything. I think she may well have sold her soul in exchange for acting talent and is making the most of it before the deal runs out.

Finally, I think part of my current disillusionment about writing may have come from watching Ivansxtc in which Danny Huston plays an agent who gets cancer and realises nobody in Hollywood cares. Directed by Bernard Rose who also did Candyman (good) and more recently Snuff Movie (bad, and unfortunately not a Scary Movie type spoof of popular snuff films), it's as miserable and nihilistic as it sounds, but Huston is brilliant as always and there's good support from Peter Weller. But yeah, it aims to put you off a career in Hollywood for life and does an excellent job, particularly with the writer/director character in the film who is the most manipulated of them all and at the same time comes off as the most pathetic.

So that's all I did this week. Brother Pete is coming to stay this weekend so we'll probably end up watching lots of daft films. Am also planning to go exploring in London which I haven't done for a while.