Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Buffy and Machette Kill Romero Zombies Real Good.

Oooh, now this is one of the coolest/weirdest/daftest/greatest things I've seen for a fair old while.

A wicked grindhouse style trailer for the new Call of Duty game expansion pack...

Ah, balls to it. Hey, look, I'm no gamer so I've no idea what the frak I'm talking about so i'll just leave it to the official blurb:

""Escalation", the second Call of Duty: Black Ops map pack, to play as the zombie-killing dream-team of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Michael Rooker, and Danny Trejo against a new and unnerving zombie menace. Set in a mysterious, ice-covered, remote Siberian island and inspired by legendary writer and director George A. Romero, a group of four fearless explorers fight for their lives amidst an army of bloodthirsty Soviet zombies."

This is blatanly SMG doing Buffy with Danny Trejo doing Machette working together along with Michael Rooker and Robert Englund to slay a whole boat load of nasty zombies and with a cameo from the zombie daddy of them all - George A Romero. I don't know games but I know what makes me giggle like a geeked-out loon.

Go Buffy and Machette! Now there's one hell of a fucked up fan fiction crossover idea.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Goodbye Sarah Jane

elisabeth sladen Pictures, Images and Photos

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen
1 February 1948 – 19 April 2011

The lovely and talented Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who opposite Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker in the 1970’s and then again opposite David Tennant in 2006 before getting her own highly successful series The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away today aged just 63. She’d apparently been fighting cancer for a while but had kept her illness a secret shared only with her family and a few close friends. She was due to make a fifth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures this year for CBBC.

Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet Elisabeth. Even so, the lady and I go way back.

You see, one of my earliest and most vivid of memories is being sat at home on a Saturday evening watching Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, together with the smart, beautiful and feisty Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane in a weird and scary adventure running around some creepy looking caves. Now I don’t remember the exact episode. I was only around four or five at the time. I just remember being glued to the TV, utterly mesmerised by what was going on.

And so I kept on watching.

Eventually Doctor Who left the air in 1989 after ratings and quality fell through the floor. But even after the latter shonky scripts and the even shonkier creative decisions, like many fans I kept the hope alive that one day the show would return and the quality would return, too.

And return it did in 2005 thanks to Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner at BBC Wales. And one of the best decisions Russell ever made was to bring back the beloved Sarah Jane Smith in the wonderful 2006 David Tennant episode ‘School Reunion’. It was like old times. Elisabeth had barely aged. She was still smart, still beautiful and still feisty. And still with that lovely smile of hers. She was still Sarah Jane Smith. And a whole new generation of fans soon fell for her just as we had done thirty years before. So much so that the BBC gave the lady her own series on CBBC – The Sarah Jane Adventures, which quickly became the channels biggest hit and stayed that way through four series with a fifth planned for this year.

Simply, Elisabeth Sladen made Sarah Jane Smith arguably the greatest and the best loved of all the Doctor’s many companions. Even people who don’t know much about Doctor Who will often still know who Sarah Jane Smith is. It was wonderful of Russell T Davies to have given Elisabeth the opportunity to reprise the role and to have (naturally) gone on to become beloved by a whole new generation of fans. I’m sure there will be children and parents and grandparents up and down the nation and all around the world who will be so incredibly sad to hear this awful news. Like I said, I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, but she is one of those figures who played such a big part in my childhood that I kinda feel like I’ve always known her. Those lucky enough to have met her over the years have said that she was a warm and thoughtful lady, a pleasure to know. I don’t doubt that for a second.

My thoughts and prayers go to Elisabeth’s family and friends at this sad time.

A fun little Sarah Jane tribute I found on YouTube

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Movies I’ve Recently Seen

Why all the boys (and the girls as it turns out) love Amber Heard, a top talent of 2011.

Being the lazy git that I am I’ve decided to forgo the usual longwinded reviews for films I’ve been watching. Mainly cuz for the really important ones my friend and co-blogger Rob over at http://robnolanrobrage.blogspot.com/ does a way better job than I. If you don’t believe me go check out his review for Sucker Punch which I wholeheartedly agree with. A blindingly good review. Anyway, here’s some of the better stuff I’ve seen recently, some old, most new, with a few random thoughts attached.

The Social Network: David Fincher’s film from a script by the legend who be Aaron Sorkin is without doubt a smart and excellently made film. However I found it rather hard to get in to as I pretty much hated all the characters and what it is they were all trying to do. I couldn’t root for anyone and wished they’d all fail dismally. Still, I fully appreciate the film’s pedigree and quality. I just didn’t care about the story it was telling. Sorry. 3.5 (out of 5)

Enchanted: Utter romcom fluff with a rather uninspiring third act. But what it does have is one devastating weapon that more than makes up for any shortcomings: Amy Adams. As Giselle Amy is a true Disney princess come to life but played with genuine warmth and depth by someone you just know is a truly fine actress. Plus she looks so darn cute and can surely belt out those catchy Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz songs. And good ol’ James Marsden is clearly having a ball as clueless Prince Edward. Predictable? Yes. Schmaltzy? Uh huh. Funny? Often. Charming? lots. 3 (out of 5)

The Green Hornet: Seth Rogen and Jay Chou in Michel Gondry’s oddball superhero bromance. The story is daft but Rogen and Chou make for a genuinely fab duo with Chou being especially great. Gondry directs with flair and a creative leftfield charm. The Britt Reid/Kato fight is a film highlight of the year and a definite homage to the classic Clouseau/Cato Pink Panther fights of old. Lots of Fun. 4 (out of 5)

Kiki’s Delivery Service: Hayao Miyazaki’s animated fantasy from 1989 about a young witch finding her place in the world is a sweet, fun, thematically rich coming of age fable adapted from a popular children’s book of the same name. Like all Studio Ghibli films (as with all Pixar films too) this is far too good for kids. Funny, engaging and uplifting. And a sarcastic talking cat too. What more do you want? 4.5 (out of 5)

The Fighter: Solid if unremarkable drama from David O’Russell that really only excels in the acting. Bale, Leo and Adams are all terrific with Bale and Leo winning well deserved Oscars. Apart from that it’s pretty run of the mill stuff. 3 (out of 5)

Bridge to Terabithia: A 2007 three hankie weepie from those Jesus lion botherers Walden Media, the overtly Christian production company trying to brainwash kids worldwide via talking CGI animals and the voice of Liam Neeson. Still, this one is at least a well made film with a strong cast and a rather touching story of the innocence of childhood, the escape of imagination and the power of deep and lasting friendship. 3 (out of 5)

The Ward: John Carpenter sees a welcome semi-return to form in this effective if rather familiar story of female rebellion in a haunted mental hospital. Amber Heard stars and does a great job. Carpenter directs with style and a steady hand. More please, John. 3.5 (out of 5)

The Troll Hunter: Norwegian mockumentary about a guy who goes around the country secretly hunting down rogue trolls to try and keep the public safe and in the dark of the creatures existence. It’s like Cloverfield but with a knowing sense of humour, a big dose of silliness, and a lot less budget. 3.5 (out of 5)

Rare Exports: Finnish Christmas movie with a difference. You’ll never think of Santa quite the same way again. Odd, black humoured, creative and creepy. A great export from Finland. 4 (out of 5)

Drive Angry 3D: Nic Cage complete with dodgy wig and Amber Heard complete with uber hotness star in a silly but pretty entertaining supernatural exploitationer. However its William Fichtner as the Accountant, the Devil’s right hand man, who steals the show. 3 (out of 5)

Jackass 3D: It’s Jackass. It’s in 3D. What more do you need to know? If you like Jackass you’ll laugh until you puke. If you don’t like Jackass you’ll just puke. 3 (out of 5)

Tangled: beautifully made, laugh out loud funny and immensely charming CG animation from Disney based upon the story of Rapunzel. The character animation is sublime and the script crackles with wit and warmth. Zachary Levi, Mandy Moore and Donna Murphy are pitch perfect in their voice roles. Almost as big a surprise as last years How to Train Your Dragon. Fab. 4.5 (out of 5)

The King’s Speech: Firth and Rush are both utterly brilliant in this well made and uplifting true story of the reluctant king forced to become his own man and to master his insecurities and deep seated issues in order to help inspire and encourage his nation in its darkest hour. A few historical liberties don’t subtract from a quality film and a well deserved box office smash and Oscar grab for Firth. God save the King. 4.5 (out of 5)

Paul: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman and Seth Rogen star in Greg Mottolla’s alien road movie and homage to Spielberg. Very funny and a genuine geek pleasure for fellow Spielbergologists and sci fi fans. 4 (out of 5)

127 Hours: Danny Boyle’s stylish, creative, energised, gruelling yet emotionally satisfying film with James Franco as the dude who lops off his own arm to survive. Masterful filmmaking. 4.5 (out of 5)

Burke and Hare: Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis star as the eponymous 19th century Edinbrough murderers in John Landis’s great looking, quirky and darkly amusing comedy/horror. Landis recaptures something of his old form and the cast is uniformly great. Oh, and Isla Fisher is the very definition of adorable. 3 (out of 5)

Rango: Johnny Depp is the lost lizard who becomes sheriff of a town called Dirt in Gore Verbinski’s arthouse animation that is far too good and deep and rich to be just for the kids. It’s gorgeously made and is deep in theme and subtext. Plus it’s a million times better than his two rubbish Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. 5 (out of 5)

Battle: LA: a very silly and overly corny U.S. military vs. invading alien scum movie. Independence Day meets Blackhawk Down with dialogue so awful it gives Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour a run for its money. Still, it looks great and has some kick ass action. 3 (out of 5)

Disappearance on 7th Street: A nicely weird, creepy and ambiguous apocalyptic chiller from Brad (The Machinist) Anderson. Weirdly Hayden (I sucked in Star Wars) Christiensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo are all actually rather good. 3.5 (out of 5)

Tamara Drewe: Stephen Frears' film is fairly standard romcom stuff but the setting is beautiful as is Gemma Arterton as Tamara. Quality character actor Roger Allam is fab as an obnoxious womanising writer but it’s young Jessica Barden as the obsessed, scheming and slightly bonkers local teen, Jody, who steals the show. 3 (out of 5)

Sucker Punch: Zack Snyder’s bloody great pop video/video game/musical/art house movie is a thematically rich and visually stunning delight featuring his usual bravura explosion of cutting edge and beyond filmmaking techniques. It’s like Inception meets Shawshank Redemption meets Girl, Interrupted by way of all sorts of hyper stylised video games and fevered fantasies. A feast for the eyes and for the brain if only the lazy and the thick could be bothered to dig a little deeper. Wicked stuff. 5 (out of 5)

Hobo with a Shotgun: Outrageously violent exploitation movie with grizzled ex-replicant and Guinness salesman Rutger Hauer as a vigilante hobo cleaning up the town one shot at a time. Guns, gore, sex, murder, blood, gore, guns, more gore, even more gore… But it is all done with its huge tongue firmly in its huge cheek. And for a no money exploitationer it’s extremely well made. The director is one to watch in the same way as Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson were. 3.5 (out of 5)

And Soon The Darkness: Lovely and talented Amber Heard misplaces her cute but skinny and intensely annoying friend Odette Yustman in rural Argentina. Pretty soon Dr McCoy, er, Karl Urban turns up and may or may not be a bad guy. A nice looking and solidly made if stubbornly dull and formulaic thriller adapted from an acclaimed 1970 British movie of the same name written by Brian Clements and Terry Nation. Amber Heard was a producer here. Why did she bother? S’pose she got a trip to Argentina out of it if nothing else. 2 (out of 5)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Crow: A Future Remake to Ruffle Some Feathers

The Crow: Descent (ft Foo Fighters) One of the best fan vids ever.

And so the new film adaptation of James O’Barr’s classic and much loved (by me and many, may others) graphic novel The Crow gets its new director after the last one, Stephen (Blade, LXG) Norrington, left over creative differences. The new megaphone wielder is 28 Weeks Later’s Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Now I’ve no idea what the rest of Fresnadillo’s work is like but I thought 28 Weeks Later was excellent and almost as good as Danny Boyle’s now iconic original. So consider me reasonably happy.

But what this turn of events has done is once again bring in to question the continuing and seemingly unstoppable trend of Hollywood remakes and reboots. Many are crying foul over this practice with much wailing and gnashing of teeth from rabid fans about what they see as soon to be bastardised ruination of their own individual beloved materials. I’m guilty of this too, mostly around the upcoming Buffy remake. I also initially cried foul over Matt Reeves’ remaking Let the Right One In being that the Swedish original is a movie I love dearly and feel a great deal of protectiveness towards, just as I do with Buffy. However I quickly realised that as far as LTROI goes I was just being silly. The new film wasn’t going to harm or take from me the original. In fact, if I were really lucky I might even get two slightly different but equally brilliant versions of the same story. And that’s almost exactly what happened. I still prefer LTROI but Matt Reeves’ film is a worthy take on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s excellent novel and a great film in its own right.

Buffy, however, is a different story.

Just to be clear I’m not morally opposed to a Buffy reboot/remake sometime down the line. After all, the classic TV show was itself a remake/reboot of the original crappy 1992 movie. No, what I object to about this particular planned reboot is that Buffy, as (re) established by her creator Joss Whedon after his original script was fecked up by the 1992 film’s inept producers and director, is still ongoing and still popular. Her story is still being told by Joss and co. in a highly successful comic book series. What also really grinds my gears is the lack of total and utter respect for Joss in all of this. He was never even consulted about the proposed new movie let alone invited to work on it. I realise I’m probably being precious and over protective here. In fact, I know that I am. I can’t help it.

Yikes! And now I’ve gone off on a complete tangent.

I wasn’t intending to babble on about the Buffster and the unfairness of it all, honestly! No, this was supposed to be primarily about The Crow, and how, oddly, I don’t find myself objecting to this planned new film version.

Right then, so, back to the main point of this blog.

The Crow is a movie I love a great deal and is one of my all time faves. It’s a simple, mythic, darkly violent and tragic fairytale…with a bloody great soundtrack and an iconic central performance. I also love J O’Barr’s original graphic novel, which is a fair bit different to the 1994 movie, though the darkly poetic mood, as well as the pain and fury that burns up every single page is perfectly captured in Alex Proyas’s film. But what Proyas’s film also has at its heart to help lessen the almost overpowering fury and despair of the book is a strong, positive celebration of love and a belief that darkness and evil will not win out in the end. That love will indeed prevail.

The biggest problem I foresee for any new adaptation of The Crow is that the character and story of Eric Draven is so intrinsically linked to the late great Brandon Lee and to the tragedy that befell him on set. I can see one gigantic crow-shaped shadow getting ready to swoop in over anyone else taking on that particular role and telling that particular story. But this is not an insurmountable obstacle. An uncomfortable one probably, but not insurmountable. Already there has been the short-lived 1998/99 TV series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven with Marc Decascos as Draven. And despite that show not working (losing the film’s hard, violent edge in exchange for safe TV heroics and replacing the dark, oppressive, stylish look with flat photography and bland Canadian locations) Decascos did do a good job as Eric. But because the show made little to no impact it is mostly forgotten now.

To say again I really, honestly don’t have a problem with someone else at least having a go at making their own adaptation of O’Barr’s book and putting their own spin on it just as Proyas did with his film. It’s a simple, great story, a mythic, human story. One that deserves to be retold as all great stories do so long as its soul and its meaning is kept intact. Hopefully this new version will be good (unlike the lousy sequels) and I and other fans will enjoy it the same way that we can happily enjoy the many film and/or TV adaptations of other classic books and stories that keep on getting made.

However there is a caveat. Don’t try and make it in to a continuing franchise with Eric as the ongoing hero. His story is simple and final. Come the end he gets his peace, he gets to be with Shelley.

But whatever happens, for me at least, the original film of The Crow with Brandon Lee’s perfomance as Eric Draven and Alex Proyas’ directorial vision will always remain the definitive depiction of the character and story outside of O’Barr’s book. It just has so much genuine power behind it through the way it is told and the events surrounding it. But where I part company with many other fans is that that should not stop others from being able to retell O’Barr’s tale in their own distinctive way, to hopefully let it connect with new and future generations.

The Crow should continue to fly.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Within Temptation: The Unforgiving

So I just got the brand new album from one of my favourite bands, the Dutch symphonic rock band Within Temptation.

This latest one is a concept album called The Unforgiving and is based on a supernatural story of vengeance and redemption cooked up by the band. It’s kind of like The Crow with dead people being brought back to life to punish evil doers. But unlike The Crow, these reanimated souls also did bad things before they died and are now doing what they are doing in order to gain redemption. So I guess there’s a bit of Angel in there too. On a DVD that comes with the album is a prequel comic featuring the main character, Sinead, and three short films prefacing three music videos, the fir of which 'Mother Maiden/Faster' is above. The three films tell a loose story which is apparently going to be expanded in a proper ongoing comic book from the guy who did, amongst other things, Witchblade.

Anyway, the album itself is great. It’s kinda different to WT’s usual stuff being that it’s more pop and is very highly produced and with wider influences than their usual metal, Celtic and symphonic styles, with those latter two being noticeably lesser this time out. There are a few standout tracks on the album including the first single shown above called ‘Faster’. However I felt the song writing overall was slightly lacking. Not so many songs leapt out at me this time as in previous albums. Having said that they are all still good and I’m sure I’ll be appreciating them more and more over time. But this is something of an experiment for the band, pushing themselves in a slightly new direction, and mostly successfully. But I for one just hope they don’t abandon their old Celtic and symphonic tropes as that’s part of what I love most about them, that and Sharon’s gorgeous voice.

And speaking of the lovely Sharon - is it just me or does she look even more gorgeous than usual in this video? Those eyes, those lips, that voice... Hooboy!

I’ll be in my bunk.