Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Films What You Almost Forget Are Brilliant - Aliens

"Game over, man, game over."

Sometimes, you get so used to something that you almost completely forget about it and just take it for granted. This film is one of those... well, I'd say it's almost a blind spot that I have where I like it so much and have seen it so often that it no longer even registers when people ask me what films I like because I assume everyone else likes it, too.

I have an almost indecent amount of affection for this film. I know what you're thinking* and, yes, it is unusual for someone to love a sequel more than the original but that's just the way it is and you;re going to have to live with it, I'm afraid. Sounds almost like film geek heresy, doesn't it, for someone to say that they love the sequel over the much-revered Ridley Scott first film. But don't get me wrong. The first film is a great film and quite rightly hailed as a classic. I'm not saying that I dislike the first film in any way, shape or form. I just think I enjoy the sequel more.

Why? I'm not really sure. Possibly because it takes such a different tack than the first film, veering away from the taught, claustrophobic nature of Alien and planting it's booted, military, macho feet firmly in action country**. Possibly because it feels like there are occasional moments of levity in amongst the carnage. Possibly because it builds on the people and creatures established in the first film with floor-skittering facehuggers and dropship-hiding alien queens. I don't think I can necessarily put my finger on one thing.

Whatever it is, this film has it and makes it endlessly rewatchable in my book. Forget the CGI snooze-fest that is Titanic*** - this is James Cameron at the top of his game.

* Yes, I do always say that but then again, I do always know what you're thinking - stop thinking about that, it's dirty and you'll go blind.

** And that's not to say that Aliens doesn't have some taught, claustrophobic moments because it certainly does, in particular the scene where Newt is trapped in the medical bay with the escaped facehugger.

*** Well? Go on. I said forget it!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Pointless Filler Material

So, in the last three months, having mostly wasted a good six months of bloggy steam that was built up, I'm slowly trying to get my blog on again. I think, for the remainder of September, you'll get the occasional piece of brain run-off as the cogs start whirring, the machinery starts juddering into steam-belching life and little misshapen nuggets of bloggety lumps begin to spout forth from the rusty inner workings. Then, come the month that is the one that we call October (being previous to November yet surely tardy of September), I'll try and re-instate the first rule of the blog and we all know what that is - the first rule of the blog is that you do not make lame Fight Club references. The second rule of the blog will also be reinstated - one blog per day (restrictions permitting). Time to get the old noggin a-firing again.

So let's stumble our way haphazardly out of the remainder of the month and regroup all fresh-faced and fancy-free when the next one rolls around, shall we? Alrighty then.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Disclaimer:- For those of you from outside the UK, this one might not mean a lot...

The Cockney flags are flying at half mast, the tubs of jellied eels come in respectful black polystyrene and the market stalls are closing early. Yes, it's a sad day as Cockney songsmiths extraordinaire Chas 'n' Dave have, after 35 Rockney years, gone their separate ways.

Now, obviously, thanks to name-checking by pointless, attention-seeking junkie and supposed musician Pete Doherty*, the duo had achieved a new-found sense of fame in that arch, sneering, ironic, studenty way and, fair play to them, they didn't seem to mind - money spent going to see their gigs was still money spent on their gigs, regardless of the intent behind it. But I have to say that my enjoyment of them has always been heartfelt and (mostly) un-ironic.

"Really? Chas 'n' Dave? You actually genuinely like them?" I hear you say. Oh yes, very much so. Partly because their songs are good, daft, old-fashioned fun but also because their music is inextricably linked with happy memories throughout my life. Let's assess the nostalgic evidence...

1. Der Family. As is always the way, different generations have different musical tastes and you're unlikely to find something that three different generations agree upon. Enter Chas 'n' Dave. My Nana and Grandad had the 7" single (oh yes, vinyl) of Rabbit (with The Sideboard Song as the B side) and it was very much played incessantly by both grandchildren and enjoyed by parents and grandparents alike. generally accompanied by much frantic jigging about the living room. (Well, until we'd listened to it enough times and The Muppet Movie soundtrack went on instead. Or maybe Jungle Book.)

2. First Festival. I'd never been fussed that much by the idea of festival-going. There was just something about being dirty, muddy and unclean that never really appealed. Then, in January 2005, I suddenly woke up one morning and decided I was going to go to Glastonbury. So, having decided to go to Glasto for the first time, who should I discover are playing but the Cockney boys themselves? And quite the gig it was too. Having thought I was one of about 5 people who actually liked them, it was quite a delight to be in a field with 7,500 other people jumping around like idiots to Rabbit and Gertcha.

3. Job Offer. So, I was at a folk festival in Oxfordshire, pretty drunk on home-made cider and jumping around like a mad thing to the opening act who were... well, I'm sure you can probably imagine by now**... when I get a call to tell me that my second interview was successful and they'd like to offer me the job. Three years later and I'm still here...

Good times and Chas 'n' Dave. A natural association. But sadly no more. So, pork pie hats off to the boys and huge Cockney thanks for all the memories. Wallop, they've gone down.

Play us out, lads...


* I'm not a big fan of his. Does it show?

** No, I'm not quite sure why they were at a folk festival but the important thing is that were.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Directors What Are Great - Jean-Pierre Jeunet

And so, to comply with the second popular demand (of one), today's blog will be film-related (never let it be said that your humble Baldy Fella doesn't listen to his audience). As comes as no surprise, I tend to notice specific film directors and look out for their films. It could that I like their style or their substance or, in some cases, both but, generally, once I've picked up on a director, I'll follow them until they interest me no more (and, even then, I'll normally keep giving them the benefit of the doubt until they consistently keep missing the mark for me). So, I was pleased to see that there's a new film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet called MICMACs debuting at this year's London Film Festival.

"Who he?" I hypothetically pretend I can hear some of you asking. Well, I shall tell you by describing some of his previous films and why I do like them so.

Delicatessen - In a nutshell:- Twisted, post-apocalyptic, cannibalistic fun. With and directed alongside Marc Caro, this very much sets out their visual and comedic style with a bleakly comic tale about a young man who begins working for a butcher in a future where meat is very scarce... Favourite sequence? The often imitated sex scene in which the activities of the residents in the department builds in time with the lovemaking to a frantic crescendo.

City Of Lost Children - In a nutshell:- The French equivalent of a Terry Gilliam fantasy. Again collaborating with Marc Caro, the two craft a distinctive world peopled by a fascinating selection of grotesques in which simple giant One and cynical little girl Miette search for One's lost little brother. Favourite moment? Dominque Pinon's portrayal of a selection of clones afflicted by narcolepsy.

Amelie - In a nutshell:- One of my favouritest films ever. I've blathered on about this one plenty of times before but basically it's a romantic comedy that manages to be stylish, funny and touching without being nauseatingly, vomit-inducingly sentimental like most other romcoms. Favourite moment? Any point of the film which features Audrey Tautou's lovely face (so most of it, really). And he trots out another funny sex scene in this one, too.

Alien Resurrection - In a nutshell:- Not as bad as it should be but still not that great. Jeunet makes the leap to Hollywood for the fourth Alien film and, while he manages to inject it with some of his distinctive style, it's still the least successful of the Alien films.

A Very Long Engagement - In a nutshell:- Good but somehow the least engaging of his films so far. It's a more straightforward tale and once again features a great performance form Audrey Tautou (is it obvious that I fancy her quite a bit? Hmm, yeah, thought so) but somehow seem to be lacking slightly in the stylish little directorial touches that make his stuff so distinctive. It's an enjoyable film but doesn't quite live up to his previous efforts.

So, as far as I can see, he hasn't made a bad film (Alien resurrection was average at worst) and, if you haven't caught any of the above, I sincerely recommend that you try Delicatessen, City Of Lost Children and Amelie, the last one probably being the most accessible. And I for one will definitely be giving MICMACs a look when it comes out.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Four Colour Glory - The Flash

By popular request (OK, well, there was one request for comics and one for films so, as the comics request came first, here you go), today's blog shall be comics related. So let's get cracking, shall we?

I've always been more of a DC reader when it comes to superhero comics. One of the differences between Marvel and DC is that Marvel heroes are, for the most part, always linked with their alter ego. Spider-Man is always Peter Parker, The Hulk is very definitely Bruce Banner, Wolverine is...well, you get the idea. DC tends to have a more generational aspect to it's characters. OK, not so much with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (although Bruce Wayne is currently absent from under the mask) but more so with it's secondary characters. Heroes such as Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Starman and The Flash are almost badges of office held by different characters throughout DC's long history - a mantle that is passed from generation to generation.

Of these secondary heroes, the one that appealed the most was The Flash. The version I started reading, many, many moons ago, was the Wally West version - the third man to be called The Flash - and it was, in fact, alongside Batman, one of the first superhero comics I started reading. I think the most interesting thing to me was the generational aspect. Here was a hero trying to live up to the previous man to hold the title Flash (his uncle, Barry Allen), a man who had sacrificed his life to save the universe. What made it more interesting was that Wally didn't always do the right thing or make the right decision and that he could be occasionally petulant, arrogant or even unlikeable at times. Over the years, he matured and developed from the doubt-ridden young upstart into a dedicated family man.

It's an unusual amount of development for a superhero, particularly as most long-running titles tend to prefer their heroes to remain reasonably unchanged in order to draw in new readers. The only disappointment is that in the last couple of years, they seem to have been unsure where to go with the character and now seem to be throwing him somewhat unceremoniously aside for a resurrected Barry Allen in the latest series The Flash: Rebirth (as this is comics, death is never really very permanent although at 23 years dead, he's had a pretty good stab at it). I'm sure he'll stick around as a supporting character but it seems that Wally West's time as The Flash is pretty much done and I for one will miss him.

Recommended Reading:-
The Flash: Born To Run by Mark Waid
The Flash: The Return Of Barry Allen by Mark Waid
The Flash: Blood Will Run through to Rogue War by Geoff Johns

Monday, 14 September 2009

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Quite naturally, my mind has been focused in other directions over the last few months. A fairly continuous blur of various Adobe-designed programs have dominated my waking (and occasionally sleeping) life for a goodly while now. But that time has now passed. The Great Editing Frenzy is no more and the brain is once again allowed to wander and meander and stroll and divert and digress so, really, there's no excuse for not blogging anymore.

Except that it seems that blogging is a relatively easy habit to fall out of. You have what effectively amounts to a three month break (with the occasional dip of a writerly toe into waters bloggy) and the mind starts to curdle somewhat. All those potential ideas and brilliantly pithy stories and anecdotes seem to have blended into a sort of grey sludgy slurry. It's kind of like one of those recipes where it's all gone the wrong colour (a sort of worrying dull brown) and, no matter how many ingredients you lob in to the increasingly noxious broth, it's not going to change into a vibrantly and colourfully enticing culinary delight. It has become, and ever shall be, brownish cack.

So, I guess it's time to throw out the original concoction and start afresh. New day, new dawn, new blog.




So, shall I talk about comics or films first?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Buy the DVD! Buy the DVD! Buy the DVD!

I know, I go away sunning myself by the pool, beer in hand, for a little bit and come back with something that's not so much a blog post as a shameless plug. But what's the occasional shameless plug between friends, eh? Exactly.

As you may well have heard me mention (I have kept very quiet about it, true), the feature length film that I've been working on is now complete. Not only that but it is now available to buy on shiny DVD for you to own and cherish and maybe even put up in some of loving display case (entirely a matter for you to decide).

"How do we buy this masterpiece that is known as Incidental Weekend?", I pretend to hear you cry.

It's very, very simple. You go to this link here which takes you the Trickshot site, you press the "Buy Now" button towards the end of the page and, for the very reasonable sum of just five of your English pounds (plus postage and packing), you can own the film everyone's talking about. And by "everyone", I do of course mean "me incessantly".

What do you get for this very reasonable amount? Well, you get the film itself, a commentary by yours truly and co-writer/director/producer Rich, behind the scenes features, trailers and a music video by the band Honeycube (as featured at the screening and in its uncensored form).

Also available is a very reasonable 3 for 2 deal on our previous DVD releases which means that you can pick up another 3 DVDs for the princely sum of £6 (plus P&P). I know, you're right, we are very good to you.

So don't delay, go buy today!

"So when are you actually going to write some proper blogs instead of bigging yourself up all the time and trying to get us to give you money?", I'm probably far more likely to hear you ask. Well, I'll tell you the answer to that. Next time...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Incidental Weekend - it's escaped...

So these two blokes had an idea. It was about a reunion for university friends. And that idea led to a group of characters somehow coming into existence, with lives and back-stories and everything. And that group of characters somehow created and were part of a series of events. And that particular series of events (non-linear though they were) metamorphosed into a script. And that script was acted out by a bunch of talented and enthusiastic actors in front of a camera. And those filmed scenes were painstakingly edited together over an unfortunately prolonged period of time. And then they were set to music with sound effects added and everything. And transferred to DVD in order to be displayed upon screens ranging from quite small to rather large indeed.

And tonight, around 130 people sat in a West End cinema and, despite some writer/director niggling problems with sound syncing, they enjoyed the film called Incidental Weekend that had somehow managed to coherently emerge out of the above process.

And Nick looked upon it and saw that four years worth of work was good.

And then was very much pleased that tomorrow he goes on holiday with his lovely girlfriend. He's earned this holiday, he's bloody well going to enjoy it.