Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sabrina & the Engineer...

http://www.severnproject.com/home.html

Having helped shoot the Sturgeon Moon project in 2007, I returned to help shoot the new Severn Project performance - Sabrina and the Engineer, taking place in September and October 2008.

Don't try and ask me what the story of S&E is about, because when you're covering it, that's one of the last things you're focussing on - instead you're concerned about the sequence of events, and timing, as well as camera placement and who goes where and when.

On all the Arts Council projects I've covered thus far, there seems to be a bit of a running theme - they're always filming challenges, providing real coverage conundrums to solve, and of course - lots of chaos.

Fortunately the day wasn't as lengthy as some have been before (so no 'up at the literal arse crack of dawn and down plenty after midnight' this time ... which was nice). That said, it wasn't a cake walk either - we got a walkthrough of the events, which I initially struggled to grasp - but then again, it's a bit tricky when you're new to the project (as in, you're not one of the creators), you're new to the location and you're trying to learn choreography and in turn translate it into your own practical choreography...aye, tis complicated.

Throw in a near-last minute change of filming possibilities, a bit of confusion over the timing of certain events, and then another as-you're-in-it change of filming possibilities and you've got a hectic time alright ... oh and my filming position mid-show was interupted by an unexpected cart used in the performance which I wasn't expecting...but it's all part of the fun and chaos of filming such an event.

I don't enjoy the build up, the time spent waiting for it all to get underway, but once it gets going - it's done in a flash. During the performance you're almost fighting your way through, like a safe and artistic-based version of war photography. Things happen around you, you've gotta think fast and act quick and adapt immediately ... all the while being mindful of your white balance settings, your focus, your exposure, your zooming, your framing and your input volume ... among other technical issues.

So aye - chaotic, but during the performance, when it's "go time", that is what I enjoy ... like I said before, the waiting and building tension beforehand isn't something to enjoy but to endure - the actual performance being the prize, and then hopefully after the dust settles you can sit back and enjoy some quality footage as you debrief ... then the weary journey home.

So what stuff was on show? Well, a steam engine leading one procession, another procession with the show's Sabrina on-board a decorated cart meeting the first at the main performance area, live music, fancy lighting, a boat on the river adorned with lights, a bunch of fireworks and then a load of waterjets either side of a woman rigged with hoses up her back and along her arms firing more jets of water (which was actually quite spectacular, very well performed and a joy to film in itself).

All in all it's probably not the sort of thing I'd usually go and see of my own volition ... but is if I was living in a city that did such things, with a group of friends (but I'm not as I certainly can't afford that just yet) ... but that said, while I didn't quite "get" it all, I certainly enjoyed the spectacle of it all and thought everyone did a great job. The audience were certainly all behind it, so that too, in itself, was a pleasure to witness.

The only downside - my back decided to play up throughout the day, and I woke up the morning after with my back a little better, but still a bit 'hung over' and stiff.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tropic Thunder, the lads & I, and The X-Files...

Another week, another six-fifty, and another comedy laugh riot...well, I probably laughed more riotously at Pineapple Express the week before, but TT has me roflcoptering and lulzing on numerous occasions, with many of the chuckles-a-plenty coming from RDJ's superb 'dude playing the dude disguised as the other dude'.

It's this sort of flick that really is ideal for a lads night out at the flicks, and it's indeed how comedy works best - viewing with others - you end up spurring each other on, inspiring each other's laughter to continue. A prime example being three of four weeks before TT, when we all went to check out Step Brothers. We figured it'd be funny, but not as funny as it ultimately was - it had us in stitches, and the long-winded moment of butt-trumpet glory had me and one mate roflchoppering each other onwards deep into the next scene or two ... a good fart joke goes a long way. Heck, we got our six-fifty out of that moment alone.

So, back to Tropic Thunder, were there as many classic lulzor moments to be had? Personally, a few less than Pineapple Express ... but that's not necessarily an insult, I just found Pineapple to be insanely funny (death by Daewoo, anyone?), whereas I felt TT did have the odd moment where it steered a tad wide of the mark, or occasionally didn't pack the largest punch that it could have.

The send up of Hollywood is certainly present, but not merciless, but then again the target is less satirical and more targetted at giving your ribs a good tickle - Black's strung-out, fart-comedy, dope-fiend's man-on-man-oral bribe to be untied is purile, but for us lads - hilarious - and quoted at least four times on the drive home.

Much like "big muthafuckin' titties!" (or was it "big fat titties!") ... regardless, 'that guy from Pineapple Express last week' stole one golden moment for us lads, as did the trailer-worn-but-still-punchy flinging the stabby toddler off a bridge (the subsequent look on the kid's face even managed to raise a wide variety of "awws" and "lulzorz" in equal measure from the audience alone.

The comedy swings between riotously funny, to mainstream satire-lite, and purely out there (Tom Cruise not freaking everyone out on YouTube for a change was one of the high points). The action also - this essentially being an action comedy - is handled with aplomb, and even dishes out a totally unexpected shock that stunned the entire audience, before an "eww"-laden eruption of hilarity.

All-in-all, yet another successful round trip to the flick-factory for myself and the usual suspects ... so usual that one's other half reckons we're actually all off to a strip joint, rather than the movies, hah!

Next up? Quantum of Solace no doubt - a definite must-see (roll on the 3-disc Casino Royale too)...but for now, back to itching and fidgetting as I wait for season five of The X-Files to rock up on the door mat (I'm so properly hard-core back into that show, since fondly watching the final episode back in 2002). Like a fine wine, it's just gotten better with age - both that of the show, and my own appreciation of it.

Friday, 19 September 2008

DeadShed.com updated!

Aye you read right. I updated the "About Me" section to a simple one page, all-compassing biography that gives the low down on me, my goals and my inspirations ... rather than the reams of text that I'd originally put up in 2005, so it was time for an update regardless.

Also, a project page for Memories of Falling Ash, as well as an Official Projects page update for Sexual Ethics with a full run down and screen shots.

Have a goosey at that lot then, why don'tcha.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Pineapple Express...

Yep ... Apatow strikes again, and it's actually rather spiffing too. Drillbit Taylor was neutered and merely fairly decent, Forgetting Sarah Marshall was oftentimes hilarious but just missing a little something extra golden. Perhaps the Apatow flavour is beginning to pale a bit now, the dude is certainly shelling out 'produced by' credits like the British government shell out departmental reviews. Oh yeah, then there was that Zohan movie ... I have absolutely no interest in seeing that at all.

Likewise Rogen has been flapping back and forth from movie to movie with gay abandon, and continues to leave me baffled that he's pretty much my age (perhaps a smidge older - even though he looks thoroughly thirty plus). Then again, he is a funny fucker - so Pineapple Express (obviously sans censor neutering like Drillbit Taylor - despite one UK-specific trim) is a continuation of form for Rogen (he hasn't dropped form, so there's no need for the "return to" precursor).

Again it was myself and the lads off on a trip to the cinema - which, as we all live in a (semi) rural area is a good old distance away ... hence movie choices have to be informed and considered. If you're splashing out six-sodding-fifty for a ticket and a fiver in fuel (if you're senoir designated), then you want to be seeing something of quality. Fortunately, the lads and I have rarely been let down (en masse at least) and once again Pineapple Express failed to piss us off - so huzzahs all round!

Who wouldn't love a stoner-action-comedy? Boring people methinks, either that or people over thirty (generally). You've got weed jokes, you've got creative swearing, you've got stoned randomness, you've got fiesty comedy-battles, classic moments to chuckle about on the drive home (death by Daewoo, for example) and James Franco NOT playing Harry Osbourne. Don't get me wrong, I really dig the Spider-Man flicks and have them all on double-disc-DVD, but I just feel Franco's having a lot more fun when he's uncut and let loose.

Needless to say, as a big fan of the likes of Superbad, there'll be a pre-order for a double disc extended uncut super-duper-lots-of-other-exciting-words DVD from me post haste!

All-in-all, wickedly hilarious fun. Ya-boo-sucks to the hatin' minority...go direct your ire in the general direction of 'Disaster Movie' and its ilk of putrid ass expulsions.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Frieze Film 2008 - "Memories of Falling Ash"...

So I'm perusing around the internet, as you do, last night and came across this thing about Frize Film doing a thing about short, experimental films related to The Road, a book by Cormac McCarthy.

http://www.friezefoundation.org/film

I find this out on September 13th, and the deadline to get your films uploaded to YouTube is September 15th. I ponder over night what I could do for it, and revisit the site today - the 14th - and decide to have a go. So I went away, looked through a bunch of my previously shot, but as-yet unused footage, and put together a short experimental piece, in high contrast black & white.

I used music previously provided to me by Brian Wright (I've used his music previously on a few of my shorts) and just dived right in and put it together quite quickly as I was quite enjoying the immediacy of it all - especially getting to use footage I'd shot ages ago for projects that either went nowhere, or shots that were simply never used on other projects, or simply footage that was shot to just have - just in case they were needed, such as now.

So, with the project being about a post-apocalyptic road journey, I decided to follow the 'ashen landscape' route (which is one element of the visuals mentioned in the book - so I've read about anyway, I haven't read the book - but now certainly plan to do so, as it sounds right up my street).

I took footage of driving along a road, which was fortunately mostly empty (so I cut out any passing vehicles) on a rainy, dull day and combined it with footage I'd shot a good couple of years ago now of when we last had snow - which, in high contrast black and white, looks like falling ash upon an ashen landscape.

The notion of the film, is that we're seeing the perspective of a passenger who is journeying through a barren landscape, but keeps having flashes of memories (that appear almost like photographs) of the ashen landscape - these memories denoted by quick fades between the road and the memories, to signify the person blinking in and out of reality.

So indeed - that's what it's about, and I'm currently uploading it to YouTube - so check it out there within the new few hours (it's September 14th at 6pm as I'm writing this).

I've certainly rarely put something together so quickly, and rarely had as much fun and sense of freedom as I have done with this little experimental short.

*Additional*

Just thought I'd mention the tractor with trailer at one point, in case anybody thinks "er, post-apocalypse with a tractor, you wot?" - well, for one, it's not an apocalypse where everyone has died, and for two it's a reference to an idea in the videogame STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, in which they have "death trucks" that bring dead men out from the centre of the zone - so the tractor and trailer in my little experimental short, that's supposed to be a sort of death truck if you will - that's the idea behind that shot, so just in case you were wondering, there you go.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A review of Uwe Boll's Postal...

Shock horror - it's shit.

RocknRolla...

Ritchie's returned to what made him a hit in the first place, 'Lahndahn' thugs up to no good. RocknRolla (the first in a proposed double/triple act) returns to the humour and colourful characters of Lock Stock, and Snatch - but importantly, with the sense of maturity illustrated by his last major outing Revolver, which while stylish and occasionally quite good, was generally shoved up its own arse with pseudo-intellectual, chess-related delusions of cleverness and grandeur.

RocknRolla on the other hand, is a step above Lock Stock (in terms of scale, but LS remains in place as Ritchie's best film), and a good few steps below Revolver (in terms of shoved-up-arsedness). Sure, at times it does drag its feet, but when it gets to the point it's classic (or technically, recent) Ritchie through and through.

The pounding intro displays Guy's reasserted confidence, his sights re-aimed on the correct target to make a twisty, always entertaining piece of movie making that's ideal for the lads to get together to have a sit down to (as I did with some of my mates).

Suffice to say, I'll be there when sequel The Real RocknRolla, rocks up with its cheeky bravado and ballsy swagger.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Speed Racer...

Oh dear indeed ... the Wachowski's have strayed far and wide from the brilliance of The Matrix, all the way back in 1999. I remember checking that movie out at a local cinema with my Dad as a teenager and being blown away, getting quite struck by the promo material beforehand, and then raving about it after seeing it.

Then the second and third Matrix movies came along - saw them both in the cinema - they were visually jaw dropping at times, and had their fair share of kick ass action...the problem was the poncy-arsed pseudo-philosophical stance(s) getting thrown around. The Architect sums it up really, but that sort of smug-faced "oh this is so terribly complex and long-worded, we're so clever" attitude that pervaded the quieter moments of Reloaded and Revolutions were wide of the mark, by a good margin. Such philosophical pondering was handled well in the original - but sadly the Wachowski's got completely carried away.

Fortunately, for Speed Racer, they ditched the philosophy 101 stuff ... with generally rubbish, seen-before family dynamics, childhood passions brought to realisation, sibling-death-based-motivation, and "corporate bad ... friends good" dimwittedness obviousness.

Mind you, it's a kiddier film this time round (far more so, in fact), but what a shame the script was toned down to a far younger level of thinking (no kiddy/adult story duality going on here, which is precisely what we got in the superb WALL.E recently).

The first hour is standard set-up, and generally boring so it is, but we do cut to some car racing now and then - it's just a shame that it's all so stupendously colourful and all over the place that we've got absolutely no idea what's going on, where anybody is, nor any real sense of 'car meets road'. The CGI motors just slither around and occasionally "car-fu" each other about the bonnet now and then, but even in a candy-land fantasy, you've got to have some sort of grounding in reality to sell it.

Nobody's in danger, the cars don't have much grunt, the colours are either far too distracting, or completely baffling, the story is boring and it all feels not at all adapted from television to film - sometimes you've gotta kick it up a notch for a jump to a new medium, but there's none of that here - seemingly so, anyway.

Then, hazah, after the first hour things pick up a bit...the story isn't so dull, the car racing not so "eh?", and then finally - in the last act - shit starts to pay off (mostly). But what a slog to get there. You see what they're trying to do, and it's generally admirable, but the film is so devoid of any real soul or passion (instead just attention to specific details - the anime style blurred action backgrounds, and headshot screen wipes for two).

If they don't buck up their ideas soon, they'll completely descend down the rabbit hole into obscurity. They're capable of so much more, so what on earth is going on?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Contempt @ The Milano Film Festival 2008...

The Milano Film Festival 2008

I'd spoken about this earlier, but at the time their website hadn't updated, but now it has - so click the above link and check out the page for Contempt of Conscience, which is showing as part of the "State (t)error" segment, described as such:

"This out-of-competition season, now at its fourth edition, has increased in the number of works screened and in the audience's interest.

The documentaries tell little know stories or stories whose best-known versions are doctored. Stories about the violation of human rights and democratic principles, that highlight the iniquities and crimes committed under the banner of great concepts like "the export of democracy", "freedom of worship", "war on terror" and "peace missions".

The topics and countries featured in the documentaries try to offer an image of the world as accurate and varied as possible. But of an upside-down world. A world in which many areas haven't been mapped out yet.

In 2007 it was Chechnya, Belarus, Iraq, Italy, Palestine, Bosnia, and the USA."

And there I am in the credits:

Fotografia - Cinematography: Nick Thomson

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Happening...

M. Night Shyamalan - PLEASE STOP WRITING, PRODUCING AND DIRECTING IMMEDIATELY.

Yep, late to the party on this one, but surely that's a good thing, would you want to be on time to a really shit event? Would you? No you wouldn't, not unless it meant you could leave again within 60 seconds and have the memory purged from your brain and then get handed a bundle of compensation cash.

Seriously - people literally run away from the wind. I thought that was just a vague summary of the movie, but it literally happens and is at least twice as daft as people running away from flash-freezing in that other enviro-botherer flick The Day After Tomorrow...but at least that was somewhat decent...somewhat.

Lets back track for a moment shall we:

The Sixth Sense - everyone raved about it, I wasn't at all fussed and thought it was far too slow paced for what is ultimately a movie about Bruce Willis being a ghost, and Haley Joel Osment preserving his childish innocence on screen before his expected descent into ex-child star debauchery and sleaze.

Unbreakable - I liked this better than Sixth Sense, but again, it was only alright. By the end, we're now ALWAYS expecting "what a twist" endings from this guy.

Signs - decent...until the attacking aliens are found to be killed by water...they invaded a planet that is 70% water, populated by people who are similarly composed. FUCKING STUPID! FUCK YOU, SHYAMALAN!

The Village - absolute garbage, the "what a twist" ending is of no surprise, nor of any interest. Similarly slow paced and restrained, but in a bad way, rather than a prestigious way.

Lady In The Water - didn't even bother watching it as I knew it'd be pish.

The Happening - heard it was awful, therefore wanted to see it so I could join in with the universal mockery, plus was actually curious to see how bad MNS has gotten at filmmaking.

...

So let's see, gripes with the film? Oh yes, in abundance...so here's a few off the top of my head (thinking about it, I should have done a bitch list from the off...nevermind eh?)

* 95% of the performances are poorly directed and envisioned, I was alright with Marky Mark (in fact he was one of the better aspects of the film), and the dude with the fake-looking beard and wonky eye who absolutely loves plants and hot dogs seemed like a nice bloke. Otherwise, everyone was anywhere between "meh" and absolutely fucking shit. Preposterously named Zooey Deschaniel was on the latter end of the scale with a performance that was so uneven, and at times downright robotic and uninterested, I really did wonder if she was having a secret joke with someone.

* Yes, by all means, leave your beloved child behind so you can run off to a partially poisoned zone to look for your wife, therefore orphaning your child, you stupid, heartless bastard.

* Holy crap - it's Brian O'Halloran ... what's he doing in this movie? We see a bit of his face, he says nothing, then he undercranks his jeep into a tree at about 20mph and kills himself...*sigh*...the man deserves better than this by far.

* Wasn't at all creeped out by the mass suicides, couldn't have given a single turd about all that - which just reeks of epic fail.

* Crazy lady in the old house - rubbish.

* Seemingly, every apparently abandoned-for-years house is populated, and actually in use.

* Literally, they all run away from wind. By this time the suicides are actually boring!

* Constant, ham-fisted "save the environment" messaging ... you're not winning anyone over with this sort of shit. In fact, I might go outside to fart a few times and hyperventilate while burning plastic for a laugh. (Obviously I won't, cos I'm not a shit, unlike this film, which IS shit).

...

Seriously, it's so-so-so-so-so-so-so-so-so-so-so-so-so-so, super-super-super AWFUL. Admittedly Day of the Bulgarian Zombie Name Raping Remake ('Day of the Dead 2008' a la Steve Miner) is worse than this, and took the title of worst film of 2008 long ago, but The Happening is the closest second place in the history of second-to-lasts.

Jesus Christ swinging a candy cane around, this is an absolutely pish excuse for a film. I mean fucking hell ... geez.

Monday, 1 September 2008

200th post spectacular!! ... Step Brothers...

I'd quite enjoyed Talladega Nights, but wasn't roaring with laughter (but then again I watched it alone, and such comedies are best viewed with others I've found, for the most visceral reaction) ... so I figured that Step Brothers would be solidly entertaining at least.

And what was it like? Absolutely fucking hilarious to the point of hysterics. Seriously, my mates and I were gasping for breath, much like the audience was.

Clearly McKay, Ferrel and Reily were having an absolute blast making this film (they all wrote it as well), and it shows in abundance. Two stand out, gasp-for-breath moments came in the form of ... in the least spoilery way possible ... nutsack meets drums, and "onion & tomato ketchup". The latter had me and one mate chuckling throughout the entire next scene, one or other of us spurring the other on with our continued, unabated laughter.

Absolute, sheer fun. No doubt the DVD - like those of other Apatow-involved projects - will be a cornucopia of extra features heavy with ad-libbing and on-set guffawing. An absolute laugh, it really and truly was.

...

So aye, here we be, 200 posts in after however long it's been ... a bit over a year I think if I'm not mistaken. Ah well, off to see another episode of The X-Files!

Death Race 2000...

With previews of the Paul WS Anderson 'crafted' rehash getting out there, I decided to go back to the campy 1977 original for a second viewing (it was years ago that I first saw it). No doubt I'll stick with the original, especially by the sounds of the 'remake' - which apparently ditches the trans-continental road race, the corrupt government, the running-over of pedestrians and the tongue-in-cheek silly satire.

So really, how on earth is it a remake? It looks soft-as-shite, sounds like it's got a rubbish plot, and from the previews just looks far too polished for something derived from such daft source material.

Paul WS Anderson destroyed the credibility of the Resident Evil franchise with a series of constantly shit movies, and then as if that wasn't enough, decided to name-rape two classic (and adult rated) action horror icons with the kid-friendly Aliens VS Predator, a suck-fest of the suckiest degree. AvP2 was equally dreadful.

So I think I'll be sticking with David Carradine, the 70's haircuts and interior design, the cheap production values, the undercranked car race footage, the utterly silly vehicles of death, the OTT satire and the general fun of the original - Death Race 2000.

Guaranteed the remake is complete pish.

Okay, rant over, move along...move along.

Two effed up flicks...

Teeth:

It's just one of those fucked up movies, and obviously you freak out with eek-eyed shock everytime a male member gets lopped off - but then again, all such members get severed as a result of some form of sexual violence, disrespect or just plain old perviness.

Otherwise, I wasn't particularly fussed by the rest of the movie at all, and ended up skimming a magazine at the same time between the shock parts of the movie. Basically that's it, I found it to be generally "meh/alright" with moments of intense "WTF" mixed in.

Funny Games:

Finally got around to checking this one out, and yet again another fucked up film. Mind you, there's barely any violence on screen. Apparently the director is harping on at we the viewer because we should be ashamed of ourselves for watching movies like SAW and Rambo.

Ugh - roll eyes time - fair play you could say, but I think all movies have a purpose (whether it's worth while or not is a per-movie assessment though).

For example, Rambo is a great film and the greatest slice of old school, hardcore action blokery since the 1980s. Yes, it's exceptionally violent and gory - but importantly, you're shocked when said violence is descended upon the innocent, and then you're cheering when it's dished back out against the vile, scum-sucking military junta who conduct themselves in an excessively sickening manner. Plus, it does highlight the Burmese plight while at the same time providing action entertainment - what's wrong with that?

As for SAW, it was the set-up that hooked me in first of all, and then the twisting of the story. The gore in the first one is present, but far from excessive (so I'd say anyway), and it was the plight the character's faced that captured my attention - and indeed the twist had me slack-jawed and WTF-ing for a good while after the end credits. SAW II, which was based on a non-SAW script, wasn't cracked up to much. A naff story and often cringe-inducing gore gags didn't leave a good impression, but then SAW III - with it's back-tracking plot and better story - redelivered the goods. Mind you, the gore gags were far more gruesome than the first film ... and it becomes less about entertainment, than shock cinema survival.

Then came SAW IV ... which was a total load of garbage, no doubt SAW V and indeed VI will continue in the same vein as IV.

But anyway - Funny Games, which is what I'm supposed to be on about. Superb performances throughout by all involved, and as a result the simple story often keeps you gripped (even if at times the pacing felt a bit sluggish at certain points). That said, some of the quieter moments - like trying to raise the alarm seemingly after the worst is over - feels real and honest, and indeed the off-screen violence does up the power of the action, but then again so does using a target that is rarely used in film (you'll see what I mean about half way through).

So a generally impressive film, but I do object to the eye-roll-inducing, somewhat holier-than-thou preaching regarding on-screen violence ... I mean, chill out - you're making a fictional movie, sheesh.

Also - I'd much rather have mankind work out their inner turmoil, violence, hatred and all other nasty goings on in a safe medium - such as videogames, or film - rather than do what the vast minority do and take it out on real people, on the real streets and in the real homes of our real, actual world.