Saturday, 31 March 2012

Flavours of the Month: March 2012...


The Walking Dead Season 2 - the second half of season two has been a storming success with Glenn Mazzara as the new showrunner. The scale of the look of the show has expanded, the pacing has been perfected, the drama has been ramped up even more, and boy-oh-boy did we zed-heads get some amazing zombie action too. I absolutely cannot wait for season three!

Deadwood - spotted it on sale, so figured I'd give it a spin and now I love this show. The first season is superb, as is the second (even if the dialogue became overly complicated and verbose ... as if the writers ran every word through a thesaurus), and while the third season lacks some of the propulsion and intrigue of the first two seasons (until the final three episodes when it gets nail-bitingly tense), you're so invested in the town and its residents, you don't mind that the final season has been a slower-paced affair with several vague subplots that never really developed. An excellent show all-round and I dearly hope we can finally get the much-talked-about, but never realised (thus far), TV movies that were intended to wrap up the storylines properly.

The Evil Dead - I've got it twice on VHS (cut & uncut), once on DVD (the 'Book of the Dead' edition), and now I've got it on Blu-Ray. It's a bit of an annoyance that we in Region B didn't get the original aspect ratio and a few other additional extras (as found on the now out of print limited edition that Region A got), but it's a spiffing way to catch up on some missed extra features from releases past, and get a remarkably good-looking spruce-up of the print.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Get In There: Glove & Boots...

I posted about these guys at the beginning of the year (they did a series of excellent New Year's videos), but I figured I should highlight them properly as I have been gradually doing for various things elsewhere on the internet that I'm rather into. Recently, the Glove & Boots duo of Mario and Fafa have been fighting to win "best video blogger" for the Shorty Awards, in-part seeking to take down Justin Bieber's DJ. While they fought valiantly in the public portion of the Twitter vote, they didn't beat him (they came 4th and 5th in the public vote), and yet because there was judging to be done afterwards, they ultimately came out victorious - and below is their celebration video - sliding down a snowy hill in Wyoming in a portable toilet!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Triple Bill Mini Musings: The Weird, The High, and the Other...

Weird Science:
I caught some flack (in-jest) from some of the folks over on Homepage of the Dead for having not seen John Hughes' bonkers teen-sci-fi-com, and seeing as I'm a big fan of the Hughes catalogue of films, I figured it was about time I caught up with it. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith play two high school nerds (and social rejects to boot) put 1980s computers, phone-modems, and lax military security to good use as they create - Frankenstein style - the woman of their dreams (Kelly LeBrock). Taking them on a zany journey of self-discovery that involves all sorts of bizarro flights of fancy, it's a bloody entertaining ride. Lessons learnt include standing up to your bullying older brother (played by Bill Paxton) and a gang of bikers (including horror icon Michael Berryman, and Mad Max II's Vernon Wells), to getting the girls (Judie Aronson, and Suzanne Snyder - whom I finally discovered I recognised from Return of the Living Dead Part II). One of the great things about the movies of John Hughes is that the jokes remain fresh and timeless, and the decidedly 1980s look is always a fun time capsule (rather than a dating hindrance), and Weird Science is no different. I'm glad I finally caught up with this dose of teenage male fantasy ... well, PG-13, good-natured level fantasy, anyway!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Double Bill Mini Musings: Shut Up Crime!

Coming from James Gunn - he of the script for the abominable 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, and behind gleefully fun horror-com Slither (and the up-coming bonkers videogame Lollipop Chainsaw) - this super hero flick about a not-so-super crazed vigilante, popped up on the radar around the same time as Defendor (starring Woody Harrelson, also about a mal-adjusted dope who takes down criminals dressed as a superhero). Whereas Defendor unfortunately didn't live up to its premise, I'm pleased to say that Super keeps a smile on the face. Sure, the second act has some uneven pacing, but Rainn Wilson's crime fighting antics (employing the use of a wrench against criminal skulls) keep the interest going throughout the efficient running time, especially when Ellen Page's comic book cutie eagerly joins forces with him. Kevin Bacon plays the big bad (who steals Wilson's wife away, played by Liv Tyler), flanked by the likes of Michael Rooker as his heavies, so the film isn't wanting for star power - it's just a shame that most of them don't have an awful lot to do. It's nothing ground-breaking, nor especially enduring, but it's jolly good fun while it lasts ... so watch out, whether you're 'butting in' an orderly queue, or pushing drugs, you're due for a brutal and bloody beating from the business end of a wrench, wielded by the Crimson Bolt - shut up crime!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Trailer fest - total "Prometheus" nerdgasm...

The first full theatrical trailer for Ridley Scott's up-coming is finally here. We've had teasers galore, but now we've got the real deal, and it has got film fans the world over in a absolutely hyperactive tizzy of excitement. Mankind's search for our origins is at the heart of the story, and we find ourselves back on LV-426 (long before Ripley and the Nostromo and long before the colonists of Aliens) ... mysterious metal pods that look rather similar to the famous xenomorph eggs, the 'Space Jockey' inside and outside of his suit, the famous crashed ship, Scott's classic eye for brilliant design, and some very talented trailer making folks make all this a rather exciting time to be a film fan.

Plus there's a few other teasers to continue whetting your appetite:

Friday, 16 March 2012

Trailer fest - "Chernobyl Diaries"...

As some of you might know - I have a long-standing morbid fascination with Chernobyl and Pripyat, situated in Ukraine, where a nuclear disaster in 1986 caused a population of 50,000 to flee. It was a terrible event that has resulted in long-lasting damage, but also a bizarre opportunity to peek into a very tangible example of what a post apocalyptic world would look like.

YouTube finds - Tron Dance...

A group of Japanese dancers, decked out in Tron-like LED suits (which are in-turn choreographed), perform a stunning choreographed dance to music from Daft Punk, Justice, Crookers, David Guetta, and Flux Pavillion.

Hat-tip to Neil at HPOTD for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Double Bill Mini Musings: Racers & Hoodies...

There's not much that I could say about this excellent, involving and gripping Bafta-winning documentary about one of the greatest F1 drivers in history, that you haven't already heard. Indeed, it does work (very well in fact) for those without prior knowledge or interest in F1 racing, it does have a great rivalry at the heart of it between the eponymous racer and his main competitor Alain Prost, and it manages to sweep you up in the sheer thrill of speed with choice cuts of driver's seat footage which is frankly terrifyingly fast. What's more it lays bare some of the political maneuvering at the heart of the F1 world - points and strategy versus sheer heart and determination, obediance to the suits versus defending your dream.

The tragedy of Senna's death at Imola in 1994 is handled with poise; an appropriate amount of impending inevitability is afforded to the haunting footage of Senna's last corners speeding by, the deadly precise crash itself, and the words of the F1 Doctor and friend of Senna describing the man's final breath. Truly great documentaries open a niche world (be they small or even relatively large) to the masses, allowing laymen to appreciate the events depicted on screen with the same sense of involvement as the impassioned followers of the subject at hand. Senna most certainly achieves that goal.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Sean Connell at the Manhattan Monologue Slam...

Sean Connell - an acting buddy of mine who appeared in Trapped [Part 1, Part 2] (2005), Signing Off (2008), and Skinner (2009) - is currently in New York, and recently he appeared at the Manhattan Monologue Slam. You can view his monologue in the above video, and read about his experience via his blog (also linked to in the links section down there on the right).

You can also check him out in my short film from a while back, Skinner, below.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Dellamorte Dellamore (Michele Soavi, 1993) DVD Review

Find more Shameless Screen Entertainment DVD reviews here.

More popularly known as The Cemetery Man in English speaking quarters of the globe, Michele Soavi’s bonkers horror comedy became a cult hit upon its original release – birthed from the equally popular cult of Dylan Dog.

Rupert Everett plays Francesco Dellamorte (meaning St. Francis of Death, when translated), the guardian of the Buffalora Cemetery. Why does a cemetery require a gun-toting guardian, you ask? Because in this picturesque Italian town, on the seventh night after death, the coffins routinely break open, unleashing “returners” that are dealt with in a manner of bureaucratic process. For Francesco, who claims to have only ever read two books in his lifetime (one he never finished, the other is the phone book), the act of putting down these walking corpses has, for him, become a dull desk job (literally in one inventively quirky scene). He seeks something more, something deeper, something with meaning – he seeks love and romance – and he finds just that all-too-briefly in the form of a recently bereaved widow (played by the supernaturally beautiful Anna Falchi).



Teamed with a bumbling oddball of a gravedigger called Gnaghi, Francesco soon becomes haunted by the vision of his love in the faces of the women he meets, as all around him entire gangs of teens and busloads of Boy Scouts are offed in darkly comic tragedies only to be gunned down en masse when they inevitably return. At times Soavi’s film is like a spaghetti western clashing with the early works of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson – the humour is knowing and twisted, and the visuals are simultaneously beautiful and bravura. As Francesco is driven to ‘getting ahead of his work’ by turning to murdering the living, a severed head attacks the Mayor from a tooth’s-eye-view, a bizarre solution to a penile phobia is discovered, and the very nature of life, love, death, and the infinite beyond your own borders are examined. This is indeed a deliciously strange journey that mixes romanticised existentialism with sanguineous evisceration, that truly lives up to the name Dellamorte Dellamore.



Typically for an Italian film, it looks absolutely splendid. Massimo Antonello Geleng’s production design is intricate and inventive, cast in a world of forever blowing wind that sweeps dead leaves and flowing veils through the air, and Maurio Marchetti’s cinematography is sumptuous (he previously worked on Apocalypse Now). However the script (by Gianni Romoli and Tiziano Scalvi, the latter of whom authored the source text Dylan Dog) deftly matches the romanticised lunacy of the imagery, with a wry wit (“I’d give my life to be dead!”) and a lovelorn sense of melancholy. Gore hounds will also find some significant joy here as there’s more gruesome headshots abound than you can shake a stick at.



Shameless Screen Entertainment – in their signature stand-out yellow packaging – return with a nicely put together package which, while not boasting a weighty tome of extra features, exhibits an attention to detail and respect for lost gems that has rightfully earned them a reputation for quality releases. An audio commentary from director Michele Soavi and writer Gianni Romoli, trailers, a photo gallery, English and Italian audio options, and a booklet featuring a personal memoir of the movie from respected film writer Alan Jones round out the package.

It should be noted however, that there is a persistent stutter to the video transfer. It's not noticeable in static shots, but is evident during sweeping camera movements. It's certainly not a deal breaker, but it is an annoying frustration.

To see other reviews of Shameless Screen Entertainment releases, use the following links:
Strip Nude For Your Killer (Andrea Bianchi, 1975)
What Have They Done To Your Daughters (Massimo Dallamano, 1974)
Killer Nun (Giulio Berruti, 1979)
Torso (Sergio Martino, 1973)
Night Train Murders (Aldo Lado, 1974)

Friday, 2 March 2012

All In The Game (Gary Ugarek, 2011) - Review

Gary Ugarek, who has previously given us indie zombie flicks Deadlands: The Rising, and Deadlands 2: Trapped, switches gears entirely with his third outing as Writer/Director/Producer: moving from the undead to the mean streets of Baltimore’s drug-pushing gangs. As a fan of HBO’s The Wire, Ugarek’s inspiration is clear, and indeed he pulls an Ace out of his sleeve by snagging members of that cast for this truly independent feature – where the extremely tight budget works triple overtime in delivering a sense of scale and scope that is usually missing from similarly low budget flicks.

Once upon a time in charm city, we’re introduced to our main cast: Vince (Chris Clanton), Ontario (Nelson Irizarry), Littles (Kelvin Page) and Lucky (a terrifyingly charming Micaiah Jones), and they’re all looking to climb the ladder. As the gritty narration informs us, you’ve got 5 to 8 years ‘in the game’ with many falling foul of the law sooner or later – it’s a tough business, but evidently in the toughest areas of Baltimore there’s little in the way of options. However all is not well in the present day, as Ontario mocks “I have a dream: money, ho’s, and clothes” – the young up-and-coming ‘welfare babies’ are in need of a reality check – they’re not invincible and they aren’t worth a damn if they’re not willing to push back against the tide.


Sick of getting screwed over when plying their criminal trade, Vince, Ontario, Littles, and Lucky hit the pavement to find out who is cramping their style and stealing their business. Working their way up the chain, we come to one of the high points for the film – a brutal interrogation of Raymond, a lowly money launderer, who lays out the list of guys who’ll soon be entering the crosshairs of our boys. Clouded by smoke, step forward Lucky (the scene-stealing Micaiah Jones), who makes exceptionally dark comedy from beating the truth out of rivals.


So begins an audacious and bloody ascent up the business ladder for these guys as they set their sights on the Caprisci crew, which feels like a meeting of worlds – The Wire versus The Sopranos. It is in these later stages of the film that we really get to see the fierce determination of Irizarry’s Ontario, the considered calculations of Clanton’s Vince, and the ever-ready eagerness of Page’s Littles … and of course, more of Lucky’s dangerous magnetism.


Being an indie production, naturally there are some technical issues – the audio needs work in places, and there’s a few rough edges and slow focus pulls here and there – but the ‘deep shadows and brilliant highlights’ look to the stark black & white cinematography (presented in 2.35:1) blends well with the chosen documentary aesthetic.


Bolstered by a hip hop soundtrack and an efficient running time (74 minutes, including credits), Ugarek’s latest outing proves to be a fresh change of direction that offers new opportunities both in the looks (thanks to Habib Awan and Seann Ikon) and the substance (thanks to a dramatic genre shift). There may be a few points in the script that don’t quite convince, but with a gritty and determined approach, and an arresting cast, fans of indie productions and The Wire should be well served here.

For more information, please visit the film's Facebook page.

Double Bill Mini Musings: March 2012...

Barton Fink:
The last Coen Brothers movie I saw for the first time was Miller's Crossing, and I wasn't all that taken with it - sure it was well made, but it didn't draw me in for some reason. The same cannot be said of Barton Fink, which I loved from start-to-finish. The first time I ever heard of it? An episode of The Simpson's when Bart and the boys rejoice that they're going to see an R-Rated movie and chant "Barton Fink! Barton Fink!" ... now I get the joke as it's the complete opposite of what those cartoon kids were looking for. What they would have got instead was a thematically deep and textured examination of one Jewish writer's descent into a personal hell as he moves from emotionally rewarding theatre work to the seemingly debasing work of cranking out a script for a B-Movie wrestling picture in 1940s Hollywood.

Trapped for the majority of the film inside his dingy hotel room that gets ever-hotter as the film progresses (the wallpaper peeling and oozing more and more), our writer finds his only friend in John Goodman's insurance salesman who's got the gift of the gab and could certainly tell you a story. Darkly comic, richly textured, nostalgic, informed, and exhibiting the Coen's classic style that combines the painterly eye of cinematographer Roger Deakins with their own feel for recurring visual motifs. Excellent.

The Company Men:
A cheery drama about a handful of men, in well paid positions, who get sacked from their jobs at GTX during the fall-out from the 2008 economic meltdown ... soul-crushing job searches, repossessions, suicidal thoughts, and other such routes are followed during the course of the film ... it's a laugh-a-minute, I tells ya! Seriously though it's a pretty good drama, nothing ground breaking, and there are a few "hmmm..." moments that either don't quite ring true, don't quite bring you along for the ride, or lend a touch too much 'movie-ness' to certain proceedings. Good acting from the likes of Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee-Jones, and it hooked me in for the duration, so it was effective in those respects - but not especially memorable or ground-shaking in the long run.