Tag Archives: Matt Etheridge

Of Time and the City

The last few weeks and months have been strewn with thoughts of getting the next film made. “This is the big one, the one you’ve waited 6 years to make” is not an uncommon thought to pop into my saturated head of late. And it’s kind of true. The script is completed for what will probably be my final film at the Edinburgh College of Art film school, the culmination of 3 years work to get into this fine film school followed by 3 years of intense craft tuition. Pre production is about to kick into full flow and if other projects are anything to go by, the flick will be in the can before I get my next full night’s sleep.

And then it’s over……… The academic method of filmmaking I mean, the learning, and progression of the work, has only just begun. Or at least that is the hope.

There’s been a process of absorption of late. The desire to write about the films I’ve been catching just hasn’t been in me. Looking at the film, getting what it’s about and digesting it without any output whatsoever has seemed like the best way to go and the process now seems to be paying dividends. Visual activity is sparking to life behind the eyes, the thirst to tell a good story and be aesthetically daring within the requirements of that story is beginning to tug at the old belly muscles.

I did see an amazing piece of work this evening that will probably get my old foe Matt Etheridge’s eyes rolling for two reasons. The first is that it is a contemplative documentary made up largely of stock footage and beautifully pronounced poetry. The second is that it features the city of Liverpool, a place not particularly close to my Goth adversary’s heart.

The film is Terrence Davies Of Time and the City

As the poster informs, the film is a love story and a eulogy, a snapshot of the Liverpool that exists within the mind and heart of Terrence Davies but one that no longer exists. Davies himself has not lived in the city since 1973. The film is incredibly grim in parts, the depictions of this post war, pre regenerated Liverpool are uncomfortable to watch but remind us, or those of us old enough, just how “protected” from EVERYTHING we are in this modern world. Kids play in the street amongst the filth but seem absolutely safe and carefree, there is a social bonding beyond the controller of an XBox that manifests itself in older generations sitting on the street talking to each other, communicating, being involved in each others lives with the air of solidarity that lends enough support to transcend the seemingly desperate situation.

It’s a world I remember as a child but one which was quickly on its way out.

Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that things were better back then. Britain had just come out of a war and was a fairly smashed up and desolate place. The tower blocks that replaced the demolished rows of brick houses were not the bright future many envisioned them to be. Huge obelisks of concrete isolation forcing the working class to be pigeon holed in every sense of the word. You do get the strong presence of a different heart in this era however, there was an energy and resolve that makes looking at these people from a modern perspective thoroughly riveting.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this film is a boring old set of film clips roped together with recitings of T.S. Eliot (amongst others) and classical music, the flick pulsates with life. Show it to an elderly relative, they’ll love you for it.

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MOON

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Writing my opinion on the new Duncan Jones film MOON is proving difficult as the strange feeling of exhaustion and sleep deprivation coursing through my fatigued veins right now is causing frequent typos and disjointed thoughts the likes of which are usually reserved for those coming out of suspended animation…..

Quite a fitting state in which to discus this movie.

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I really don’t want to give too much away in terms of plot structure as I think I knew a little too much going into the picture. Critics are expected to wax lyrical on the pros and cons of a picture but I feel this discourse, along with explicit trailers, really diminish the discovery that comes with entering a theatre knowing NOTHING.

It’s without doubt the best way to approach this film.

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Sam Rockwell is Sam Bell, an astronaut / engineer serving a 3 year stint on a lunar surface base which harvests Helium 3, the green energy of the future. Bell is unassisted by humans but has GERTY (the base’s computer) for company and technical support, voiced by the excellent Kevin Spacey. With only 2 weeks left to serve of his 3 year stint, Bell takes a maintenence run in the Moon buggy which leads to a happening, which kick starts all kinds of strange stuff, none of which I’m going to explain.

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The immediate GERTY / HAL comparisons are inevitable but, as Matt Etheridge pointed out in our post flick discussion, a tad lazy. The film wears its influences proudly on its sleeve but never allows them to become distracting. You come out of the theatre thinking about the picture in the same context you do the great sci-fi pictures without feeling the need to hang too much homage baggage onto it, Jones has created a piece of work which speaks on its own terms.

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Despite the fairly slow pace of the flick, and that’s no criticism, revelations come early on, giving the audience the space and time to digest and involve themselves in what’s happening rather than eagerly anticipating an M. Night Shyamalan style twist at the end.

………. I really don’t want to tell you any more about the story to be honest. These films should be supported and the best way to do that is to go and see it. At the very least buy the dvd.

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5 Reasons to see MOON:

1: It’s a $5m movie that looks better than most 9 figure efforts.

2: At 97 minutes, the flick doesn’t require you to put a week aside to view it.

3: Rockwell is perfectly cast and plays off himself wonderfully.

4: The film stays with you long after you leave the theatre and demands discussion.

5: Duncan Jones is a director with great potential. He needs your movie dollars.

Here’s the trailer…….. But only because it doesn’t give too much away and I want as many people as possible to make an effort to see this flick. Watch the trailer, but avoid reviews.

For Every Up……..

Filmmaking is the last refuge of the bi-polar insomniac.

The day before last I lost a location, yesterday I secured one, not the location I’d lost but an important location all the same. Today I’m going to try and secure another location (not the original one I’d lost but equally important) as well as going to see a guy about an alternative location to replace the one lost the day before yesterday……..

I got drunk yesterday after saying I was forever off the booze. It was only to celebrate getting the location……. it is a pub after all.

Next time I’m getting a producer, this is too much.

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…………. You’re wrong Matt, It’s a great picture.

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The Oscars (better late than never)

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It’s been a busy few weeks but the intention HAD been there to do an Oscars prediction post. Good old Matt had inspired me in his own inimitable way to take in the films and, with the exception of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (and THE READER…. hmmm), I’d managed to see the top contenders for the main awards in good enough time to make a set of, maybe not predictions, but bold claims on who should win.

So here we go, who won and who (I think) should have won…….. I didn’t do incredibly well in terms of agreeing with the academy. I’ll only cover the big 6 or I’ll be here all night….

BEST PICTURE
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Now I’m gonna be honest here. I knew SM would get the nod. It’s a very well made, entertaining, beautifully shot, acted and directed work from Danny Boyle. I have to say though, and I can say this with confidence even though I’ve not seen THE READER, FROST / NIXON was the picture from the bunch that had me absolutely transfixed from start to finish. Whether that was purely because of the extremely interesting, non fiction subject matter or not, the fact remains, it moved and consumed me in a way SLUMDOG couldn’t.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Sean Penn: MILK

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“This was undoubtedly the shock of the night” said numerous red carpet commentators and I think, as most people probably do, that Mickey Rourke was robbed. That’s not to take anything away from Sean Penn, he’s by far the best thing about the MILK film and you totally forget you’re watching him act. Mickey Rourke however, gives a depth of performance that maybe only comes along once a decade far less once a year. You could tell there was a lot of himself in that role which lent such honest weight to it without it being a case of pitying the guy. We’re with him for the whole picture, when you witness him dragging his battered body into the ring for another pounding you can almost feel the pain he’s going through.

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And let’s not forget the Rourke of circa RUMBLEFISH.

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BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Kate Winslett: THE READER

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Kate Winslet?? Best Actress???

I had Meryl Streep for this one and my reasons are irrefutable. Firstly: Streep is amazing in this film. Secondly: It was the only movie in this category I saw so who else was there to choose? CHANGELING was the only other picture I would pay to watch from this group. Film critic Mark Kermode thinks that Winslet deserves the award, just not for this film, in his opinion she should have got it for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, another movie I’ve yet to see. Does anyone concur with this take?

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Heath Ledger: THE DARK KNIGHT

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It was always going to be the case and I agree with it completely. There’s no way on earth this is purely a sympathy vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, Josh Brolin is good but I think if anyone from MILK got nominated it should have been Emile Hirsch for his utterly convincing and compelling performance as Cleve Jones. Heath Ledger, however, creates this heaving, magnetic, mesmerising character you can’t take your eyes off. When The Joker leaves the screen, you want him back as quickly as possible, you want to see more disapearing pencils, he’s the bad guy you fell good routing for. Ledger completely abandons himself in this role and leaves you with a dark presence long after the credits have ended. Truly amazing and thoroughly deserved.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz: VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

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My initial thought when I heard the results was that Marisa Tomei should have got this for her role as Cassidy in THE WRESTLER. I revisited VCB last night though and now agree with our friends at the Academy. Penelope Cruz is rather good isn’t she? I was going to do a Cruz double by sticking on VOLVER after it but then I would run the risk of starting to like the woman. It’s a compulsion I’m determined to fight for no good reason.

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Yep, you’ve gotta hand him this one without any real complaint. There were other movies in the Best Picture category that held my attention more the SM but the sheer audacity, energy and skill with which this film was made should be applauded long and loud. I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle, as a director he’s always pushing the envelope and never takes the easy route. There is a sincerity in his films that clearly reflect the man himself, he’s one of these guys that when you hear them talking about cinema, you know they mean it from the heart and you can’t help but take serious notice. Scorsese is another one. Well done Danny. Here’s hoping the British film industry realises finally that it’s not America’s runt brother.

The Forgotten Films Of Youth (Part 1…. maybe)

I’ve been thinking of the films of my childhood recently, specifically pictures I haven’t seen since the age of about 13 or before. These aren’t the prominent, cool movies that most say they watched as kids but the movies I remember my younger sister watching, or my mother was a fan of, or movies we rented on VHS on a Saturday night to watch whilst eating Pot Noodle after playing a 6 hour football match. The catalyst for these thoughts was seeing Harold Lloyd’s NEVER WEAKEN again during the shooting of THE INAUDIBLE CRIMES OF JASPER PIDGEON. Harold Lloyd always used to come on TV just before bed time, and as I remember it, usually on a school night. I realised I hadn’t seen any of his stuff since then! (Aged 8 )

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Harold Lloyd aka 1 sleep till school.

I was sceptical about revisiting any of these pictures as I was worried they’d dated, or for the simple reason I thought they were pretty awful at the time but have stuck in my mind through being force fed to me. I wanted the memories to remain fond, unspoiled by adult eyes as these pictures were maybe not as enduring as Lloyd’s. As usual, Matt Etheridge (my workplace Jiminy Cricket) countered with the point that these films may not have lost any their charm and that my cynicism may be unfounded. So here we go, in no particular order……

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CONVOY, Sam Peckinpah (1978)

Now THIS is a decent place to start. Watching Sam Peckinpah pictures at 7?! What a great start in life. This is apparently a certificate 15 so it’s great to know my old man was upholding moral standards, even back then. AND WHAT A POSTER!! Kris Kristofferson looks positively superhuman.

The only thing I remember about this picture is lots of trucks (obviously) Rubber Duck, the hilarious CB conversations, Kristofferson and Ernest Borgnine, who was just tremendous. Ali McGraw is nowhere in my recollection despite her leading lady status. I’ve just found this clip, has anyone noticed youtube’s new “wide screen” format? Very impressive no?

I seem to remember being a man’s movie, a movie for men, made by men and starring men…. With some women thrown in for decoration. So don’t watch it unless you’re willing to get into a punch up outside some seedy bar playing country and western music ok??!

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SILVER BULLET, Daniel Attias (1985)

This is a big poster, it was a big moment in my movie watching career. This is the first picture I ever saw that made me want to keep the lights on after seeing it. It was also the first time I’d seen a Steven King novel adapted for the screen and one of the few times I’d be impressed. My cousin and I got a hold of it not long after it came out, I was ten at the time. We sneakily watched the film downstairs in a VCR resembling a full sized coffin after my Aunt and Uncle had gone to bed. The feeling I had as I watched Corey Haim (remember him?) running (or wheeling) from the werewolf stays with me to this day. I can’t remember much about the plot at all but it’s a werewolf movie, there wasn’t much diversion from the core premise in this genre. I do however recall a fine performance from Gary Busey as “Uncle Red” and I do remember being scared witless by the werewolf. I also remember the reverend being fingered…. for being the werewolf that is, not for anything too improper. This was Daniel Attias’s first film and it was to be a springboard to a great career in TV. Here’s the trailer. It’s the first time I’ve seen a frame of this film since I was ten and to be honest, it looks pretty shit.

Ok, I’m gonna be honest here…. This is a picture that was forced on me constantly…. Honest.

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BENJI, Joe Camp (1974)

Before you start ripping into me for even having seen this film (It was my sister’s favourite) have a look at what this IMDB punter has to say about the picture!

“In a way, the film that “Benji” most closely resembles is Buster Keaton’s magnificent silent classic, “The General.” The slow, repetitious set-up of Keaton with his train and Higgins with his rounds about town, the focused realism, the slightly down-at-the-heels outsiderness of the heroes, the hint of love about to blossom if only the hero can provide for his beloved, the insistently lengthy attention paid to the immediacy of ultra-mundane cause and effect — these are the same in both films.”

Is this guy on drugs?…….. Probably. I don’t recall it being anything other that a doggy schmaltz fest. Maybe this is a picture ready for revisiting……

BENJI was Joe Camp’s directorial debut, he would go on to make nine films in his career, seven of them would star a dog.

I Feel Truly Ashamed

Paul Newman passed away on the 26th of September. May the man rest in peace.

My work colleague and blog regular Matt Etheridge alerted me to this sad fact today, I hadn’t heard, it’d been a busy weekend. He followed up with “you’ll be doing something about him on the blog then?” to which I initially thought, “yeah, of course I will”

Tonight, as I sat down to pen (or type) a comprehensive and heartfelt tribute, the realisation hit me……..

I haven’t seen a Paul Newman picture since I was a little boy….. And that was TOWERING INFERNO

He’s an actor I’ve always seemed to miss. I’ve only got 2 of his films in my collection, THE HUSTLER (Which I’m definately watching as SOON as I’ve finished here) and TORN CURTAIN. I’ve watched The Hustler once but it doesn’t count as I was really drunk and I’ve tried to watch Torn Curtain 3 times but can never get through it. The phone always goes, I have to go out, I GET BORED!

I can’t begin to answer how I’ve managed to miss BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and THE COLOUR OF MONEY is literally the only Scorsese movie I’ve not seen.

So…. I’m sorry Paul, what can I say? Not much with any authority or knowlege.

I’m a new man learning about Newman, tonight it starts with THE HUSTLER. I’d appreciate a recomendation of where in his career I should go next.

………. I can almost hear Matt sharpening his knives of disdain on the grindstone of contempt.

RIP Paul.

Bruce Almighty

I love Bruce Campbell.

Now I know I’m not the first person to utter these words and won’t be the last, he’s kinda like Vincent Price meets Jim Carrey. My buddy and nemesis Matt agreed with this, but added that Bruce is also funny. I think this a tad harsh on Jim to be honest. ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, the first one, was hilarious at the time and I have a bit of a soft spot for ME, MYSELF, AND IRENE…… He was appalling as The Joker though, there’s no arguing with that one.

I was first exposed to Bruce a few weeks back when David Nicklen (a work colleague) had me round to his to enjoy a double bill of his choosing which consisted of THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD II. He was shocked that I’d never seen the films, especially as I’m a child of the “video nasty” generation.

The first picture impressed me as it had obviously been done with very little cash but excelled in being genuinely frightening (in parts) and achieving gory special effects that looked believable. I love when the ingenuity of the filmmaker almost becomes its own character. Part 2 very obviously had more money thrown at it but, although taking a more comedic angle, is still a great picture.

……….. Last night I watched part 3: ARMY OF DARKNESS.

In this film Sam Raimi gives up on the original idea of trying to scare us and produces a comedy which, although has its roots in the horror genre, is closer to slapstick and, in the extreme, complete silliness. It shouldn’t do, but it works.

The reason I say it shouldn’t is that it deviates so severely from the first 2 pictures. There was definite hints to the direction it was going in the second film but this was (mostly, there were a couple of amusing scenes) due to a more extreme style of acting which gave the whole picture a “hammy” feel, hence the Vincent Price comparison. What’s strange (and nice) about AOD is that the acting is toned down a little and replaced with actual out and out comedy scenes.

The fight scene in the pit is well constructed, as is the large battle towards the end. You can really see Raimi pushing the scale of the picture which obviously put him in good stead for his superhero outings some years later. I’m also a huge fan of that low steadycam(?) shot that flies through the forrest in all 3 films. In this one there’s trees splitting down their length and the camera goes between the split. Very nice indeed. The wide angle lens used up close is also applied to good effect in various scenes.


Bruce Campbell, or Forsyth?

There is a story holding all this madness together:

Ash, having been sucked into a time vortex at the end of part 2, finds himself in the year 1308. Luckily, his car, double barrelled shotgun and chainsaw arm attachment all made it through which prove handy as the picture progresses.

He immediately finds himself fingered as an ally of the enemy by a mob that pick him up and is, naturally, sentenced to be thrown into a pit where two grotesque members of the undead are waiting to shred him to a bloody mess as soon as he hits the bottom. Ash easily picks off these ugly beasts using his chainsaw, kindly thrown to him by an elder who thinks he’s “the one” (mentioned in a prophesy) who falls from the sky and frees them from an evil that has befallen them……

All perfectly plausible so far.

Ash is then tasked with killing two birds with one stone, as the only way to break the “spell” (I can’t think of a better word, sorry) AND get home is to embark on a quest to obtain and return with the ancient Necronomicon (book of the dead) which will banish the evil, and give instructions to get Ash back to good ol’ 1981. It’s like BACK TO THE FUTURE on Ketamine.

All doesn’t go to plan.

There’s no real need to see the first 2 films before seeing this one as it has nothing at all to do with any continuation of the story. It is great fun though and these movies, along with some other notables I’ve watched of late, are changing my mind on the horror genre, of which I’ve not, at any point in my life, had a lot of time for.

The chosen scene is the first part of the battle between Ash and co and the undead. It doesn’t take a genius to spot the influence of Ray Harryhausen, it could be JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

Incidentally, NBC Universal have taken exception to me uploading this clip which seems stupid as I’m using it to PROMOTE THEIR MATERIAL. As a result, our American viewers will be faced with a blank screen. Anyone else having problems can find the video by clicking this link: