Monday, 26 October 2009

More Ten Dead Men stuff...

Yeah, there is still more Ten Dead Men stuff to talk about.

Is it really sad that I rented my own film from LoveFilm just to see how long it would take to be posted to me as if that were somehow a measure of popularity (and completely ignoring all the really bad reviews we got on the LoveFilm website)? Well I did it anyway, and the answer is almost exactly six months.

Luckily there is other Ten Dead Men news that means I don't have to fill up a whole post with me renting my own film.

This rather pleasant review appeared on Screenhead which is perhaps the most positive one we've had so far.

And we had our first video review, meaning I got to see my name on a TV in someone else's house (albeit very briefly):

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Boris Karloff Blogathon...

Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog is holding a Boris Karloff Blogathon next month to celebrate his 122nd birthday. Being a massive Karloff fan I've signed up to take part, as has Brother Pete.

It took me a while to decide what to write about. I was going to write about my favourite Karloff film, Targets, but I figured it's a pretty obvious choice and I wouldn't really be saying anything more than 'watch Targets right now - it's awesome!'. I also considered The Raven which was one of my favourite films as a kid and has what I remember as one of the best wizard battles ever filmed. But it's been so long since I last saw it I'm not sure what I'd say, other than 'The Raven is awesome, go watch it'. Instead I've picked a subject I'm hoping no one else will cover, although it involves watching a number of films I've never seen before.

Anyway, look out for that and check out the other blogs that will be doing the same - there's a full list on the Frankensteinia blog.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bad games...

As I've often mentioned before on this blog I am a fan of gathering groups of friends to watch spectacularly bad films and recently I've attempted to apply the same principle to games. This weekend I took Brothers Pete and Tim on a quest for bad games. We came home with X-Men 2: Wolverine's Revenge and Deadly Strike for the PS2, and Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon for Xbox. All three were really bad games, but as with films it's sometimes difficult to find ones that are so bad they're funny.

Wolverine's Revenge was the one we thought would be a fairly safe bet - the equivalent of getting one of the later Seagal films for a film night - entertaining with some unintentional laughs. You'd expect such a high profile film licence to be fun and playable if not particularly imaginative. It turned out to be painfully frustrating to play, full of glitches and for the most part incredibly dull. Not even the vocal talents of Mark Hamill and Patrick Stewart made playing past the 3rd stage worthwhile. That was a definite fail.

Deadly Strike certainly fulfilled the comedy requirement. Essentially a two-player scrolling beat-em-up, you play one of six futuristic, gun-toting martial artists hoping to compete in the 'Cyberaction' tournament. You never get to fight in the tournament. Instead you fight across various countryside locations that have names like 'Field of Death' but actually look rather pleasant. The enemies are all samurais and monks which a) makes shooting them with rocket-launchers seem a little unfair and b) suggests you've travelled back in time, although there is no mention of this in the plot. At the end of the game you scale the rooftops of the 'Castle of Mystery' where you fight the shogun who apparently organises the tournament. He helpfully comes out onto the rooftops to fight you so you never have to go inside. Once you've defeated him you are told the outcome of the tournament with a little bit of added story that bears no relation to anything that has occurred up to that point. The whole thing feels like someone took an existing rubbish game and added their own characters. Luckily it's very short, so all of the above is still very funny. Plus the opening sequence is hilariously bad.

Quest for the Dragon was definitely the best of the three. The gameplay is terrible, but easy enough (you can beat any of the bosses by crouching and punching repeatedly). And it's worth playing through to the end for the amazing cutscenes. The voiceover work is fantastically bad and all accents, from Irish to Russian to British, are mauled without discrimination.

The British cutscenes are the best. On arrival in the UK Bruce gets a note from a contact telling him there is a drug lab hidden in a mansion at Trafalgar Square. So you fight your way through this huge stately home in the middle of the countryside then run out onto Trafalgar Square afterwards - the geography is perfect. At this point the police arrive in minis and I'm not sure when the game is supposed to be set but at one point the lead police character directs you to a submarine which he knows about because he fought in World War 2. So the depiction of the English is that we all drive minis, we were all in World War 2 and every other word is 'bloody hell' or 'whoa bollocks'.

But none of the other countries you visit come off any better. I really hoped there would be a clip of one of the better cutscenes somewhere online, but have had to make do with this one:

Friday, 16 October 2009

Life imitating Hitman...

As a result of no writing, lots of films I'm now stupidly busy, although mainly because I have an exam for the day job next week. Not looking forward to that, and spending my weekend studying exam material isn't anywhere near as interesting as spending it writing. And I kind of need to do both. And Brother Tim is visiting whom I haven't seen for months so I may end up not doing either.

Anyway, yesterday I had a meeting at lunchtime which I had to cut short to get back to the day job. As everyone involved would be at a party later that evening I agreed to go along and meet them there to finish up the meeting.

What followed closely resembled a level from the game Hitman (later made into a rubbish film), in which you often had to infiltrate parties in order to assassinate someone important.

So I go into this huge, labyrinthine post-production building (it was their launch party/networking thing) and give my name at the door. Unfortunately I didn't have time to beat up a waiter and steal his clothes (the usual method of entry in Hitman) so I had to go with just being me rather than coming up with a secret identity. Obviously I'm not on the list so I then give the name of the person I'm there to see who is on the list and is already there. This isn't challenged and I'm in.

But then I'm given a series of complicated instructions. This party has 'levels', much like a game would. As I go round the building various people will take me into various rooms and explain what they're doing. But I don't want to do any of that, I'm just here to see people I already know and finish off my meeting. So I put in a cheat code, which basically involves me shaking my head and vaguely pointing upstairs whenever someone comes out of a room to show me something.

This works fine until I get lost at the end of the first level and can't find the stairs. I'm then faced with an end of level boss whom I suspect has been sent by the bloke I met when I came in. I imagine their conversation went something like:

'I think you'd better keep an eye on that bloke. He wasn't on the list and says he's just here to "meet up with friends".'

'Don't worry,' says the other bloke, 'I'll cut him off at the end of the level'

Anyway, I explain myself to the end of level boss and he agrees to take me to level two. Awesome, but once we're on level two he tries to take me into a screening room. I don't want to go into a screening room, I want to find my friends! Luckily the screening room door is shut and he isn't sure if there's a screening in progress or not, so I take the opportunity to sneak away and carry on up the stairs to level 3, thus skipping level 2 completely.

On level 3 I find the people I'm looking for, have a chat, eat some free food and leave. Mission Successful. Although I don't think I'd get the Silent Assassin rating.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

No writing, lots of films...

So last week I didn't get too much writing done, but I did play more Yakuza 2 (in which I'm now running a night-club as well as trying to unite two warring Yakuza factions. Which leads to situations where I'll be doing one thing that seems fairly urgent, like rescuing a friend who's been kidnapped by a rival gang, and will then get a call from my club meaning I have to stop off there on the way and choose new wallpaper or something. It's starting to mirror my real life day job/writing job situation...) and watched lots of films.

The best was Went to Coney Island on a Mission from Back by Five which I came across while randomly looking at Jon Cryer's filmography. It's essentially a buddy road movie - two old friends set out in search of a third friend who's gone missing but discover a lot more about themselves along the way. Same as every other road movie, only this one takes place entirely at Coney Island. It's a great idea as Coney Island looks awesome on film and provides the perfect backdrop for a story about going in search of happy childhood memories in a place that has it's own memories and has since fallen on hard times. It's also shot in the winter season so Coney is empty and desolate. When I was there last year we went on the last weekend of the summer season so it was much more vibrant and buzzing by the afternoon. But in the morning we arrived way too early and it looked much like the Coney depicted here, only sunnier. It's a nice little film anyway and worth checking out if you come across it.

So I was going to just mention a good film and leave it that, but I also watched Body of Lies at the weekend and while I don't usually like to rant about films I didn't enjoy I think this one deserves it. Plus I don't think Ridley Scott will be scouring random blogs for feedback.

On the plus side it looked amazing and the performances were good (if you can handle Russell Crowe doing extreme-accent acting at least). But the pacing and structure were so dire I found it almost unbearable to watch. There's a moment almost exactly 1 hour in where the characters come up with a scheme that should really form the main plot - everything prior to this is set-up. In a two-hour film, they spend the first half on what should really be dealt with in the first twenty minutes. And once the plot does kick off, they spend most of it playing out a tacked on love story that if it were necessary should've been set up at the beginning.

Ultimately that was the worst thing about it - for all it's contemporary politics and impressive visuals it wasn't anything more than an old-fashioned 'rogue cop who risks it all for the love of a woman' film, and it didn't even do that very well. Even if they did, aren't we beyond these films now? You know, the films where the tough guy manages to get a woman to fall for him despite the fact that he's an antisocial loner who hates everyone? Then said woman gets herself into trouble because even though tough guys are willing to give up everything for them the women in these films are always pretty rubbish at doing anything except being pretty and getting into trouble? But despite this the tough guy will risk his own life and the lives of hundreds of others for this one person he only just met, which is an extremely romantic notion but comes from an entirely unromantic character? Haven't we moved on from there? Haven't we?

No, we clearly haven't.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Good Journey...

I've noticed a lot of my recent blog posts have been tinged with bitterness, mainly due to writing-related things I can't really talk about here. I did at one point draft an epic post about the things that really bugged me about writing, and specifically writing for other people, but decided not to post it in the end. The process of writing it all down had really helped and I didn't feel so angry about it all afterwards.

To be honest things are going pretty well at the moment. I've had a couple of frustrating experiences that have taken up a lot of time unnecessarily, and I've got more to work on than I can possibly do. But as a result I've learnt to stop saying 'yes' to everything in the fear that it might be the next indie hit, and I've come to accept that I'm just not going to finish everything before the end of the year and that this is okay.

Still, to offset the bad vibes here are a few things that have cheered me up this week.

- The fact that the literal translation of the Japanese cover of Ten Dead Men is Machine Gun Punisher.

- Playing Yakuza 2 in which you are part of a world where all problems, no matter how complex, are eventually solved by hitting someone. However, it has made me never want to go to Japan as it seems you can't walk anywhere without someone saying 'I don't like your face' or 'Who do you think you are walking around like that' and then attacking you.

- The following line from the 1987 film Masters of the Universe, or more specifically the fact that this line comes from Masters of the Universe:

'Live the journey, for every destination is but a doorway to another.'

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

House of Voices...

Just watched House of Voices (or Saint Ange) and I've come to the conclusion that Pascal Laugier may well be my favourite contemporary director after only two films. As mentioned previously I was blown away by Martyrs and feel pretty similarly about House of Voices. The films are actually quite similar too, to be honest, but that didn't bother me too much. There are two things Laugier does in both which I think is amazing and not done enough (because from my experience when you try to do it someone shoots you down and says 'no, that's way too out there, just play it safe' - there are clearly advantages to directing your own scripts. Sorry, got onto a side rant there).

First, he always manages to surprise me. There's a whole sequence at the end of House of Voices where I had no idea where the film was going or what was going to happen next. I find that experience awesome and exhilarating, especially in a horror film. And it sadly doesn't happen enough these days.

Second, he clearly believes that just because you're making a horror film doesn't mean you can't make a film that's thought-provoking and interesting. Neither film provides a neat little wrapped up conclusion - they are intended to make you join up the dots with full knowledge that everyone will come out with a slightly different idea of what the film is about. This again is not done enough and too often frowned upon. If I may go off on another mini-rant, I've always believed that genre films are to be taken seriously and that there's meaning in the trashiest horror film whether the filmmakers wanted it there or not. It's all art at the end of the day, although I do prefer it when filmmakers accept that, and prefer it even more when they embrace it as Laugier clearly does.

There are a lot of other things to enjoy in Laugier's films - they look amazing, the performances are good, he creates a brilliantly creepy atmosphere - but those two are the things I appreciate most.

Not so long ago he was attached to direct the Hellraiser remake. If there was anyone I'd be happy to see remaking one of my favourite horror films...ah well, it was not to be in the end.

Anyway, here's the trailer for House of Voices. If you're sick of all horror films being made from the same template then I recommend you check it out:

Boredom post...

It's raining outside so I'm stuck in the office on my lunch break instead of wandering the mean streets of Brighton listening to music as I usually do. I could be doing something productive. I have loads of things I'm working on at the moment so could really be doing something towards one of those projects, but was out at Moviebar last night and am not fully functioning yet.

Speaking of which, yesterday I wrote a a whole scene on a lunch break - a really tricky opening scene for a new script that had left me staring at a blank page for hours the night before. Finally cracked it, then my rubbish work PC crashed. Luckily I'd managed to hit send before it actually died, but it wouldn't show up in my sent items so I spent most of the day trying to remember it word for word. Turned out it had been sent after all.

That was an incredibly dull story - memo to myself, never blog out of boredom again.

Moviebar was ace - not a great turnout at first but it improved as the night went along. Brother Pete showed Jonny The Pessimist which went down really well and he did a good Q&A afterwards. I promised/threatened to ask a question in case no one else did but by the time I had chance he'd answered everything I could think of so I ended up randomly asking about the music, which he turned into a pretty good answer. Pete has good Q&A skills - I should probably have taken notes.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Cannes Day 8

Last one...

21/05/09 - 5.15PM

Packed up and ready to head home now. Last day was a bit hectic, but fairly positive. Saw the last few people I needed to see and one company who proved me wrong about no one wanting to develop anything new. I've got some leads to follow up when I get back at least.

No time for films today, but I did catch a couple of shorts which were good, including this one by Ten Dead Men's Projects Manager Keith Eyles:

Had a final lunch meeting then one last circuit of the Marche, mainly to say goodbye to a few people. It was a bit weird as most of the booths were empty due to people packing up and leaving.

Definitely ready to go home now...

It looks like I was going to write more but gave up, probably because we had to go (and it's weird that it's so long ago now I can't even remember why I stopped mid-sentence). Something else happened on the last day that was pretty exciting - I fulfilled a lifelong ambition by appearing on Newsnight Review. I didn't realise it at the time but my dad pointed it out when I got home and I took some screen captures. That's me creeping up on the right - I vaguely remember seeing someone filming but was in a bit of a rush so wasn't really paying attention:

Cannes Day 7

The last two entries are pretty short so thought I'd get them done...

21/05/09 - 02.50AM

Had a more positive today. A meeting I wasn't in but that did concern some of my projects apparently went very well. Also one of my original pitches got a lot of interest which is good news. Just hope we get to follow it up later.

Saw Edgar Allen Poe's Ligeia in the morning:

It had a great cast and looked promising but the script was a bit of a mess. After that we had a wander, and spotted Jean-Claude Van Damme (managed to get into his office a second time with a different friend under a different pretense). Had lunch then went to a screening of 31 North 62 East:

There were some major script problems here again (this goes back to what I was saying about privately funded films - there is this idea that anyone can write a script so mostly the writer/director/producer will do it themselves and it shows) but a few poeple I know worked on the film so it was good to see it.

Had dinner (I don't know why I didn't mention this in the diary, but while we were having dinner there was a fight outside the restaurant between two Frenchmen which culminated in one of them throwing a baguette at the other) then realised we didn't have invitations for any of the remaining films we wanted to see so wandered between screening rooms until someone let us in. Ended up seeing Soldiers of Peace:

It was a pretty good documentary and featured a segment shot in Brighton, which was a surreal reminder of home.

After that we went for drinks and bumped into a few friends. I had a long conversation with a German film-maker about the films of Werner Herzog, then we headed off in search of late night ice-cream.

I think at this point I'd started to give up on the diary as I was thinking about going home. But that last night was a pretty good one and I managed to chat to and say goodbye to most of the people I'd met while I was there. Plus it's the only time I remembered to get an actual photo taken:

Cannes Day 6

So a few people I know are going to MIPCOM next week in Cannes, which reminded me how long it's been since I updated my Cannes diary. Also, last night I was up until 4am finishing off a script for a project I've been working on since the end of last year. I'm not sure it's going to go anywhere, but I co-wrote it with Brother Pete who put a lot of work in and I kept putting it on my to-do lists so I wanted to get it finished. And that put me in the mood to finish off some other stuff.

Just a couple of days to go so I'm going to try to finish posting the diary over the next few days, despite the fact that it was now months ago. If you want to read the previous entries click the Cannes label. Also, part of the reason I put off writing this one up is that it went a bit dark at the end, but that's kind of the point of keeping a diary.

20/05/09 - 10:45AM

Yesterday was a bit up and down. The meeting we went in early for was a bit of a waste of time from my perspective, although it couldn't really have been helped (I didn't write it in the diary at the time but this was me sneaking into Jean-Claude Van Damme's office with a friend who was actually supposed to be meeting him about acquiring his latest film. He wasn't there.)

Had another walk around the Marche speaking to companies but generally got one of two responses - either a) we're not developing any new projects right now or b) you need to talk to our development team but they're not here. Or occasionally c) we have our own people who do that. I did pass my samples and CV onto a few people though so you never know. And I met Hong Kong cinema legend Godfrey Ho who was one of the most approachable and nicest people I've met so far.

Then we caught a screening of Black Dynamite, a very funny blaxploitation spoof:

After that we tried to get into the screening of District 13: Ultimatum but the cinema has its power cut by random protesters (something to do with the electricity suppliers in France) so the screening was cancelled. Left at a bit of a loose end we ending up seeing The Legend is Alive, an interesting if overlong martial arts drama. It was very similar to Chocolate but not as good.

A couple of us then rushed over to another screening room to see I Sell the Dead an innnovative and really effective black comedy.

Stayed out much later in the evening than planned but met some interesting people. This goes against what anyone with any money had been telling me all week, but I found the nicest people to meet were the short film makers. Generally all the people I met who had a film in short film corner were great and had an enthusiasm that seemed to to be missing from most of those higher up in the business. An enthusiasm for creativity at least, unlike the majority of other people I met who only really seemed to be enthusiastic about money.

Warning - I went on a bit of a rant here...

At one point I was involved in a discussion about private investment being the way forward, and the main point of the argument seemed to be suggesting that the next batch of new films across the board will be really interesting because they'll be made outside studio control. But thinking about it I'm not sure I entirely agree. I think at some point it comes down to experience. The studios have been doing this a lot longer than some bloke who just won the lottery and wants to make a film so he can walk down the red carpet. Yes, a lot of the big studio films are flawed but they at least know how to make films and usually how to tell a story (this is obviously before I'd seen Transformers 2). I'm dubious about relying on rich film fans without the same level of experience to produce the next batch of great films (I know more about private investment now, I realise that it funds more films than you would think (i.e. all of Uwe Boll's films are funded privately), and I realise that I too am relying heavily on money coming through from pirvate investors. But I wanted to leave this part in as I still think it's a valid concern).

I wish films didn't cost so much to make. I don't think the creative people should have to be involved with the money people. To me it's so obviously two separate worlds that don't mix. I get that films are expensive and talking to the money-driven people has made me question why I'm bothering. At the same time, speaking to the creative people, the short film makers in particular, reminds me exactly why I want to write films.

I did kind of lose my patience with the late night networking thing in the end. There's an element of Cannes that's a kind of work night out for the whole of the film industry. And I mean work night out in the binge-drinking, straight down the pub after work on a Friday, doing things you'd rather not remember the next day kind of thing. Most of the plans being made here seem to be dinner plans, drinking plans, party plans - I've not heard anyone make any plans about moving a project forward. I realise now that Cannes isn't really about films, it's about making money so you can come along next year and spend another week getting pissed with the other investors.