Thursday, 30 June 2011

Katie Wech interview

Here's a great talk with screenwriter Katie Wech, who has just broken into the biz with her feature Prom, having worked as a staff-writer on TV show The Dead Zone and as an assistant on Prison Break.

The vid annoyingly starts automatically when you load my blog, so go to MakingOf to watch.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Chocolate fart

Disclaimer: please excuse a young man's right to giggle.

Picture the scene.....

You're an innocent, twenty-something female out shopping with your boyfriend. You are also rather attractive (but this is irrelevant). You enter the local chocolate-selling establishment and peruse the shelves of sugary goodness. After a while, you choose your poison and head to the till, where the dashing, devilishly-handsome young gentleman (artistic licence taken) carries out his mind-numbing job.

What you don't notice is that your boyfriend has suspiciously positioned himself curiously close to the exit. He glances around, scanning the surrounding area like a casual Terminator. And then, just as you are about to hand over your money to the aforementioned devilishly-handsome young gentleman behind the till (artistic licence quota fulfilled), you hear this:


A fart. So loud a fart, so obvious a fart, that it cannot be mistaken for anything other than a fart. And you know, at that exact moment, that your boyfriend, whose suspicious self-placement by the exit you failed to notice, has done the unthinkable. And then, to make matters worse, you turn around (no doubt to die of shame) only to find that your beloved has rabbited - he's already out of the shop and out of sight.

What do you do?!

The fart was so unmistakably a fart that it's impossible to accuse it of being anything else. And the devilishly-handsome young gentleman behind the till (artistic licence quota exceeded) has an expression that says "Your boyfriend just farted. I am now judging you. Yes, YOU!!!"

The point is - how a character reacts in this situation can tell you a lot about them. Do they say nothing? Do they burst out laughing? Do they pause.....then leg it?

Arnold Schwarzenegger would say something along the lines of "My giiiirlfriend farded! This is an ambarrasing! I must teach duh giiiirlfriend a lesson. I shall farder a child wid anuther female!"

Michael Bay would say "My god, man! That was, like, the most amazingest explosion ever, man! I gotta put that in a film. Man!"

Bruce Willis would say........nothing, cos he's way too cool to go out with someone who farts!

So what would your character do? What would you do?

For those interested, this is what happened in the story told above -

Attractive Female: My boyfriend just farted.
Devilishly-Handsome Young Gentleman (artistic licence quota shattered): Erm....yeah.
*Awkward silence*
Attractive Female: Here's your money.
*Awkward silence*
Devilishly-Handsome Young Gentleman: Here's your change.
*Awkward silence*
Attractive Female: Good-bye.
Devilishly-Handsome Young Gentleman: Yep, bye.
*Awkward silence*
Attractive Female: Sorry. He farted!
Devilishly-Handsome Young Gentleman: Right.
Attractive Female: It's going to smell.
Devilishly-Handsome Young Gentleman: That's not improbable.
Attractive Female: I'm going to go.
Devilishly-Handsome Young Gentleman: Ok.....
*Attractive Female walks away. Throws up a hand on exiting*
Attractive Female: Enjoy the smell!
Devilishly-Handsome Young Gentleman: Cheers.
Attractive Female (off-screen): You twat! You farted in there! And left me! Prick!!!!

The end.

Monday, 20 June 2011


A lesson, boys and girls, from one Mr Luc Besson - this is how you shoot a suspenseful, awesome action sequence:

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Why you should all watch Ink (2009)

Ink is a 2009 US Indie film written, directed, edited and composed by Jamin Winans (no, I hadn't heard of him either). It's tricky to sum up, but IMDb says:
As the light fades and the city goes to sleep, two forces emerge. They are invisible except for the power they exert over us in our sleep, battling for our souls through dreams. One force delivers hope and strength through good dreams; the other infuses the subconscious with desperation through nightmares. John (Chris Kelly) and Emma (Quinn Hunchar), Father and Daughter are wrenched into this fantastical dream world battle, forced to fight for John's soul and to save Emma from an eternal nightmare. Ink is a high-concept visual thriller that weaves seamlessly between the conscious and the subconscious. Ink has been hailed as the new "it" movie and compared to cult classics Brazil, Donnie Darko, The Matrix, Dark City and Pan's Labyrinth.
Here's the trailer:

Looks good, right? So while I was really looking forward to it, I was also worried - the new Matrix? Really?! I was half-expecting one of those poorly-produced rip-off movies with no heart ,and style over substance. I was wrong.

Ink is probably one of the smartest films I've ever seen. Rather than being completely detached from itself, like No Country For Old Men (I liked that film, but the ending was just too anti-climax for my tastes), Ink cleverly straddles the line between realism and fantasy. No answers are given to you (as would probably be the case in a Hollywood-ized version) and you're made to work your arse off to keep up. You're constantly trying to work out the motivations of three characters (including the character Ink from the title).

There's definitely a low-budget feel to the film and some of the acting is a little hit-and-miss. But not only is it visually stunning (pay very close attention to some clever editing), with awesome special effects, the film tells a gripping plot with compelling characters. Forget the dream-warriors and scary monster people - at the heart of Ink is a story about a man who has become detached from his daughter.

So that's substance taken care of. And then comes the style (which is why most people are going to watch this film, let's be honest!). There's a bit of a Harry Potter feel to opening - ordinary world being invaded by the unusual, with dream-weavers appearing from nowhere in the middle of suburban streets. Then there's a stunning action sequence that makes sure you don't even think about turning off.
If you're so inclined, you might like to write an essay on it - I'd recommend an existentialist reading of the film (just to be poncy!). Point of view is very important and one character says something along the lines of "it's all about how we perceive ourselves." Exactly right in this film. Time is also a factor - what happens when etc. Indeed, does it happen at all? And while you're at it, might as well throw in a free will vs. determinism debate too.

There's loads to talk about, so if you like analysing films, it's for you. But despite its various levels, Ink never preaches to the audience. It says "here's a idea....a question....we're not saying what the answer is, but we invite you to take a stab at it."
I don't describe many films as beautiful (to name a few - A Beautiful Mind, 2001, Blade Runner) But this one is, both visually and in its story. It's not for everyone, but I think you should all go off and watch it. It's a great example of what Indie film makers can do on a limited budget with just a strong story. Also make sure you check out the DVD commentary.

So if you give it a whirl, let me know what you think. Even if you hate it. Even if you think it's more brainless than Michael Bay's Recycle Bin and less entertaining than The Phantom Menace.

Stay shiny!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Review - X-Men: First Class (2011)

Let's forget about the comics - I love them, but this is a film. Obviously the biggest complaint is "this isn't Xavier's First Class at all! Grr!!!" Yes, I would love to see the origins of the X-Men with Cyclops, Beast, Ice Man, Angel and Marvel Girl. But I'm ignoring that completely. Alternate timeline, in a way.

So....X-Men: First Class. For the record, I'm a big fan of the first two X-Men films - I thought they did a good job of balancing comic book action with real-life, realist situations. I really didn't like X-Men 3 (too many characters not doing anything, too many issues not dealt with enough). And I hated X-Men Origins: Wolverine (absolutely terrible!). First Class is a mixed bag.

The film opens using segments from the first X-Men film - Young Eric in Auschwitz during WWII. Some clever editing shows evil mastermind Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who sees Eric's abilities and investigates further. The way Magneto's powers are explored and developed from then on is fascinating and compelling, with some dark shocks to really show the good-to-evil transition.

So it's a strong opening, the only downside being that it's a little disjointed, darting from one location to the next. But if you're half awake (and you will be any time Michael Fassbender's Eric Lensherr is on screen - he owns everything!) it won't be a problem.

Once the film gets into its stride, there's loads of fun to be had - Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) struts around Oxford chatting up the ladies by reading their minds and regaling them with facts about mutations (remind me try that one in a bar!). Meanwhile, Eric goes from country to country on a revenge mission (I won't reveal why). And it's dark - being able to control metal, ripping fillings out of people's mouths and diverting bullets is child's play. It makes for great viewing - you understand Eric's choices, but can easily see the seeds of Magneto trying to get out.

We get to see the meeting of Charles and Eric, which is nice. My only issue is that, whilst significant, it seems to be played down. And from that point, the film isn't quite as good. Eric's revenge mission takes a back seat. Granted, it's probably necessary to tell the story, but you can't help thinking there's a more compelling story to be told by following Eric all the way.

You'll probably notice that I haven't mentioned the X-Men at all. That's because they take a long time to enter. A montage shows Charles and Eric recruiting mutant after mutant. And it's in this scene where the film hides its shiniest moment - amongst these mutants, there is a cameo. I'm not saying who, but you will smile when s/he appears.

Once Charles' First Class is assembled, Sebastian Shaw's plan for nuclear war (after which mutants will stand victorious) moves swiftly along, as he manipulates both US and Russian military forces to get what he wants. So Eric and Charles leap into action to save the day.

Essentially, this is two films. The first half is about Eric and his revenge against Shaw, with Charles finding a bigger purpose in life. The second half focuses more on the young X-Men, with Havok, Mystique, Beast, Banshee et al getting some screen time. 

Mystique's story is probably the most compelling as we learn why she decided to throw in her lot with Eric. Beast's is obvious and a little cliche, and would have worked a lot better had Hank appeared earlier in the film. But it works. Havok, however, is completely irrelevant. He could easily be removed from the film without consequence and seems only there to make up the numbers. The same goes for Banshee. They both take up valuable time which could have been devoted to Beast's story.

Shaw's mutant henchmen are made up of diamond-edged telepath Emma Frost and teleporter Azazel. Azazel really is there to make up the numbers. But that's fine - he's cool and has some decent action scenes (he's the first film's Sabretooth). Frost however, is a wasted opportunity. Zero screen presence and none of the jazz the comics gave her. A huge shame, since she could have been a great addition.

So it's a mixed bag. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are both excellent and Kevin Bacon is fun too (maybe a bit more humour would have been good?). I was about ready to give this film a 4/5 rating until the younger cast appeared. They do their best, but unfortunately, they're not given enough screen time to do their jobs.

The most fun definitely comes from seeing Eric's transition to Magneto (complete with retro costume). Had the film focused solely on that (and forgotten the First Class), it would have been much better. A vast improvemet on the last Wolverine movie, but could have been better I feel.

Of course, there's huge sequel, so hopefully the new X-Men will be properly developed there. And they're missing a trick if they don't put Emma Frost centre stage!

3.5/5 - go see it, then wait for it to drop to £10 in HMV.

X-Men (2000) - 4/5
X2 (2003) - 4/5
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - 2/5
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - 1/5
X-Men: First Class (2011) - 3.5/5