Friday, December 24, 2010

So this is Christmas!


Merry Christmas to anyone who still passes through these pages. I hope you all have a lovely break and a tremendous New Year.

Here's a bonus Winterval scene from our local park here in Sedgley.

Happy Christmas!!!

xxx

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Make Mine Marvel

Greetings True Believers.

You may recall that I, along with some like-minded and awesome chums, am currently partway through watching every episode of Doctor Who in order. We've nearly reached our first regeneration (SQUEE!). Well because one ludicrous, humongous challenge is never enough I have decided to undertake another.

I've been reading a lot of comics recently. Mostly The Walking Dead and Transmetropolitan. I love comics but ever since I became obsessed with Batman at the age of about twelve my comic reading has been a bit aimless, well apart from the pursuit of Batman titles (which always leaves me grinding my teeth at yet another huge game-changing crossover event).

On a whim I started reading the Fantastic Four from the beginning, then found myself seeking out contemporaneous Marvel comics (e.g. Ant-Man and Thor) to get a sense of the moment, if you will. I like to look at things in context.

I idly wondered if there was some sort of guide to the publication order of Marvel comics. I googled it. It was a fateful googling. I discovered Travis Starnes' The Complete Marvel
Reading Order. "Challenge accepted" I tweeted flippantly. I had decided to read the Marvel Universe continuity in publication order.

I'm going to reserve the right to skip titles if find I don't like them as I don't see the point in slavishly reading something I'm not enjoying. Actually I was going to skip Ant-man because I think he's a bit ridiculous, but it turns out I really like him because he's a bit ridiculous.

I'll generally skip anything
not connected with the main timeline. Titles set before or after (e.g. the 2099 series) I'll skip. I've already made a couple of exceptions to this rule though; Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos and Conan.

At the time of writing I'm up to mid 1963 and finding it all very enjoyable. They are an interesting reflection of their time, prominently featuring Cold War concerns, radiation, communism, an obsession with transistors, magnetism and science in general. It's interesting to see how some attitudes have changed since the sixties too...


It's also interesting to see Stan "The Man" Lee and his colleagues refining their style as they launch new titles and the characters and books gradually become more sophisticated. I reckon there are some good lessons for writers here, and I may
be posting about this some in the future.

If anyone cares to join in, or is already under way, feel free to say "Howdy!".

Excelsior!

Monday, August 23, 2010

x of the Best

So I was hunting high and low for an awesome blog post I remembered reading and I suddenly thought, "Say," (I always think with Humphrey Bogart's voice*) "I oughta publish a list of swell blog posts."

This is it. It is in no particular order. Eat these posts and absorb their power.

EDIT: Greetings from the shining future world of 2011.

Screenwriter extraordinary James Moran has just posted a list which smashes this one to tiny blog pieces. I think there are some links below that don't appear in Uncle Jimbo's list, but you should still definitely check his out first!


Thank you, people of the distant past. Edit ends.

Phill Barron - It's not fair

Danny Stack - Professional Screenwriter (This is a link to step 1 - read all ten.)

Lisa Holdsworth -
Welcome To Real Writing

James Moran - The Big Writing FAQ (Uncle Jimbo's blog is solid gold reading for struggling writers, especially the early years.)

Michelle Lipton - The Path of the Freelance Writer

Jason Arnopp - Your script is not a lottery ticket

Piers Beckley - The other writing secrets

James Moran - Writer's Block, or "getting stuck"

Michelle Lipton - Structure

Jason Arnopp - Five lines henceforth banned from scripts (Especially the comments!)

Hope this list is of some use to someone. I'll add to it as and when I find/remember something cool. Any suggestions are welcome.


* I wish this were true. Instead I'm stuck with Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Return to the Red Planet

I knew it would be hard to work while looking after a tiny baby but there is a difference between knowing it and living it. It is impossible to prioritise anything over time with your child, especially when you have a full time day job too.

In my incredible naivety I actually thought the third week of my paternity leave might be used for some intense writing. Ambitious for a first time parent, eh?

Gradually though, the new addition to the family has settled into a routine now he's three and a bit months old (of course, now he's teething that routine could be screwed but there are no guarantees in life and if there were we would grow bored even more quickly than we already do).

An invaluable tool in helping me get back to work has been the Red Planet Prize competition. This is easily the best competition for writers in the UK. I haven't entered since the first comp in 2007 (and they took a year off) so I was determined not to let this one pass. It didn't hurt that before JR was born I had completed a first draft on a TV pilot that I though might be a good fit for Kudos even before I knew they were involved with Red Planet '10.

So I had a couple of months to get back into the swing of things; going over my concept for the potential series, the script as a whole and most especially the first ten pages. I need to do some more work on the rest of the script, just in case I'm one of the lucky ones, but I'm keen to crack on with some new projects. I feel good. Re-invigorated even. Mega thanks to Red Planet, Kudos and the mighty Danny Stack for helping me get back into the zone.

I love this script. It's a reworking of some ideas (and a couple of characters) I used in short stories years ago. I think it would be perfect Saturday night fodder and I think it's probably the best script I've written. Which is all very nice but will the readers share my enthusiasm? Will the concept excite a potential audience? Is there enough of a hook in the first ten pages? Is it a big, steaming pile of pooh?

I guess this is where I start to find out...

*crosses fingers*

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rewatchability

Last week that young fella Adaddinsane did a spiffy post about films he likes to watch over and over again. It was a good post, and now it's a meme. Here's the gen;

Rules: 1. Provide a non-exhaustive list of films you'll happily watch again and again; 2. There is no rule 2. 3. Reprint the rules. 4. Tag three other peeps.

So here are mine. Well, some of them...

Withnail & I

L'appartement

Dog Soldiers

Hell Drivers

The Ice Storm

Time Bandits

Fargo

The Big Lebowski

The Lady Vanishes

Dracula (1958)

John Carpenter's The Thing

Die Hard

Dawn of the Dead

Prick Up Your Ears


Deathtrap

The Fugitive

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The Dark Knight

Key Largo

The Ladykillers

Star Trek II

American Graffiti

The Apartment

Rio Bravo

The Thrill of it all

Fright Night

Evil Dead 2

Mr Mom

As a bonus here are a couple of films I will never sit through again...

Blown Away
The Godfather part 3

Now to pass it on. I tag Laurence, Mr Fox and the man, the legend, "Straight talkin'" Phill Barron (mainly because he called me a bastard last time I tagged him. Tee hee!).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

I have always loved Sherlock Holmes.

I couldn't tell you when I first encountered Holmes. I think I had a Read-it-yourself book of The Hound of the Baskervilles as a boy. I also remember an animated version of the same tale. I don't think it was until the centenary of the publication of A Study in Scarlet that I actually read any Conan Doyle though. There was a lush Radio Times cover and an Omnibus or Late Show special, and I started reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes while lounging about the house in my dressing gown. Needless to say I was hooked straight off and still re-read the stories repeatedly today.

Film-wise I remember enjoying Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce seasons over and over again on the BBC (6pm on BBC2 if memory serves). It never seemed strange to me that Holmes and Watson should be battling the Nazis. I have since discovered their radio shows online, which are quite fun, especially for the sponsors adverts (you can also find The Shadow and many more old radio shows on the same site).

Basil Rathbone was generally regarded as the greatest Holmes of all for many years. There were others; Peter Cushing, a huge Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, played the detective in the 1959 Hammer version of The Hound of the Baskervilles and again for the BBC in the late sixties. Christopher Plummer did a great job in Murder by Decree, among other actors, but Rathbone was generally accepted to be the best.

Until 1984.

Jeremy Brett
played Sherlock Holmes on ITV from 1984 until 1994, when Brett's poor health prevented him continuing in the role.

I'll show my hand right now and confess that he eclipses all other Sherlocks for me. His sudden theatrics, his nanosecond half smiles, that fantastic voice; Jeremy Brett is Sherlock Holmes stepping straight off of the end of Conan Doyle's pen. He inhabits the role perfectly and it is a brave actor that steps through the door to 221b Baker street in his wake.


Which brings us to Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes from last year with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson.

There was a lot of stuffy scepticism about this "modern" Holmes before it came out but I must admit that I liked the trailer at first sight and was cautiously optimistic. I really enjoyed the film.

It's true that the emphasis is rather more on the action than the detection but I think it captures the spirit of the stories well, and especially the character of Watson and the relationship between the two friends. I could have done without Irene Adler, who seemed present only to tick a box and deprive Watson of some screen time, but otherwise I enjoyed the film immensely.

I look forward to the sequel with much anticipation. However shall I pass the time?




Only by enjoying Mark Gatiss and
Steven Moffat's take on Sherlock Holmes in a twenty-first century setting. I'm very bloody excited about Sherlock, which starts on Sunday night (BBC1/BBCHD 9pm). It's hard to imagine two writers better equipped to bring Holmes back to the small screen for the first time in years. Moffat has already demonstrated that he can bring nineteenth century classics into the modern day with Jekyll (still my very favourite example of his work (any chance of that second series Steven? Pretty please.)).

Benedict Cumberbatch certainly looks the part and while I'm less certain of Martin Freeman as Watson I'm happy to trust Moffat and Gatiss. Even though this programme seems to have been in production for ever I know almost nothing about the plots (not even if they intend to adapt any of Conan Doyle's stories) or guest stars. Very exciting.

The early reactions are positively glowing, and the trailer certainly looks good. The game is on!

UPDATE: Steven Moffat on Sherlock Holmes in the Radio Times:

When I was a little Beano-reading Doctor Who fan – about nine or ten – I was desperate to know more about Sherlock Holmes. It was a name I’d heard. I knew he was some kind of policeman, I knew he had a funny hat, and I knew he was in a film called The Hound of the Baskervilles, which once came on the telly and got me sent to bed because it was too frightening. I remember lying upstairs that night, too excited to sleep – because I could hear the baying of a terrible hound, and the rapid-fire voice of a policeman who fought monsters. I needed to find out more, because I knew already this was my kind of hero: if Doctor Who had been a detective, clearly he’d have been Sherlock Holmes.

BBC's Sherlock site

The Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Singular Society of the Baker Street Dozen

The Equinoctial Gales

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gah, my eyes! *UPDATED*

I don't like to blog about blogging but...

I recently saw someone on Twitter say something to the effect of "Gee whizz, I hate when blogs have white writing on a black background, that really makes my eyeballs ache. :("

So obviously I thought, "OMG!!! That's exactly what my blog looks like!!! :(((((" So I resolved to take action. Of course when I went to look at changing the design of the blog I discovered those nice new blogger templates and woo - you can change the width of columns and - oh hey you can have three columns now, wow!

By the time I was done I had a lovely new look blog with, yes that's right, white writing on a black background.

It's not that I didn't try other looks. I tried kind of a notepaper type background and some blue print. I even thought, "hey I'll handwrite a new blog header on notepaper, it'll look coool :)" (even though I'm immodestly proud of my long-standing island of Dreams header), but when it came down to it the old girl just didn't look right to me. I mean you can't get more high contrast than black and white, right?

In the interests of democracy I thought I'd solicit some opinions, so what do you think? I mean, that's if anybody reads the actual blog rather than just the feed on google reader? If you have a thought then let me know. I've put a poll in the sidebar (on the left, at the top, above my stupid face) and you get a vote - Keep the look as is or change it to something less eye-straining. You only have until the end of the month to vote though, m'kay?

'Course, if you do want it changed I'd appreciate suggestions via comments please. Likewise if you have any other feelings about content let me know. Maybe you miss my reviews and occasional ill-conceived rants about television, or want to hear about my adventures in parenthood, or maybe you just wish I'd shut my damn neck.

***UPDATE (7th August, 2010)***

Many thanks to all who voted in the poll. The results were 75% in favour of keeping the old white on black colour scheme. So obviously I decided to change it. Rather than being purely down to my contrary nature this was because:

a) I had come up with a cool idea for a new banner.

b) I grudgingly admitted to myself that if anyone was finding it hard to read the blog, even only 25% of visitors, then the best course of action was probably to make it easier on the eye.

c) I do have quite a contrary nature.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Fear

Things that scared me as a child...

The face in my toilet

Yes, it's a funny one this. I mean, there wasn't really a face in my toilet. It was just a few bumps in the finish of the porcelain at the bottom of my childhood WC. With a little imagination they could be thought to resemble a face, and I was unlucky enough to have a lot of imagination. At some point I got the idea (possibly from my dear old Nan) that it was the face of the devil, so I suppose I'm lucky it didn't put a permanent end to my toilet using days really.


Worzel Gummidge



'Nuff said, surely?

The Children of Green Knowe

I have several frightening memories of The Children of Green Knowe but by far the most paralysing is of a statue of St Christopher carrying a stone child through a river during the night. It still sends a shiver down my spine. I've not seen the programme since and would really like to revisit it.



Blake's 7 series 4 episode 6: Headhunter

The memory that really chills me is of the robot, Muller, pursuing our anti-heroes through a corridor while carrying his head under his arm. Hell's teeth but that scared me, and put me off Blake's 7 for years. Of course, when I came to rewatch the episode years later I found it wasn't all that scary after all. Here's a clip -



A recurring nightmare

Each time the scene would be different. Eh, you splutter, how can it be a recurring nightmare then? Well because each time it would be accompanied by a horrifying, throbbing droning noise and a perspective that zoomed in and out on the action while never really focusing on what was happening.
The events of the dream weren't what scared me. It was the way the nightmare was, if you like, shot. I would wake up in quite a state.

Imagine my surprise when, years later, I watched Irreversible and saw the precise same methods used in the opening sequence. I think Gaspar Noe may have had the same nightmare.

Hands coming from under the bed

I think this is probably a common one. I was always convinced that something was under the bed, waiting to grab my ankle as I climbed into bed. Why I thought it couldn't creep out and get me in the night while I slept I don't know. This same fear preoccupied me when using the stairs in my house. I would run up the stairs like a mad thing in case a clammy hand reach between the balusters and grab my leg, then I would leap onto the bed so that no ankle grabbers got a grip. Every night. Sheesh. I should have been well fit.

So these are some of the things that scared me as a boy. I guess it would be odd if I didn't ponder what scares me now?

Being a rubbish father, or husband. Anything at all bad happening to my family. Our new government. Never getting anywhere as a writer, or worse yet feeling like I never fulfilled my potential.

It's important for writers to recognise what scares them, and what the root of their fear is. Not just horror writers either, fear and irrational reactions are a strong motivation for characters as well as for people.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Proclamation

Although I’ve mentioned this elsewhere already I haven’t really properly announced it. I don't want to make a big fuss but as it’s likely to come up quite a lot in the future – and for the rest of my life - it’s time I made some sort of proclamation...

My lovely wife and I are expecting our first child in a little over seven weeks. We're very excited and so far all is very well indeed with Mother and child. The baby can certainly kick and seems to enjoy listening to us reading Thomas the Tank Engine and The Gruffalo. There has also been some indication that our imminent child favours the works of Rage Against the Machine and Radiohead. Should fit in just fine then.

Here are some pics...


Friday, February 19, 2010

The Silent House

I recently received an email from Gustavo Rojo, the Uruguayan actor and producer (and star of The Valley of Gwangi, a favourite film of mine as a kid (seriously - Cowboys and Dinosaurs - what's not to love???)). This was very unexpected. At first I thought he was going to ask me to take a couple of million quid off his hands to help him out, but no. This wasn't spam, this was NEWS!

He was writing to tell me all about a new horror film coming out soon called La Casa Muda, or The Silent House. Now, I wouldn't normally turn the blog over to someone I don't really know but I figure three things; a) this film looks pretty interesting, b) it's nice to be picked out as someone who might spread word of mouth about a new horror film, and c) who knows, maybe Mr Rojo might like to take a look at my horror feature script and think about producing it next? This business is all about
networking, after all.

So without further ado, here is some product placement about The Silent House...

-----------------------


The film is directed by Gustavo Hernandez, photographed by Pedro Luque (renown for his worldwide success in “Ataque de P├ínico”) and produced by Gustavo Rojo, at an amazingly low budget which amounts to U$ 6000. “The silent house” digs deeply into the unexplored subject of psychological terror, and the story runs through a terrifying story through a single continuous shot. This makes the film unique in the audiovisual market since it was filmed with a SLR digital, to be more precise, a Canon EOS 5D Mark. The film is therefore the first one in Latin America and the second one in the world to have been filmed by a photograph camera. This makes it the first film of horror in the world to have been filmed with this particular narrative language.

To be filmed in one single shot implies that the sequence is filmed in one go, without cuts, and the camera movements need a prior careful and meticulous planning which leads the viewer to share each one of the experiences of the character.


Laura ( Florencia Colucci) and her father ( Gustavo Alonso) settle down in a cottage which seems to be off the beaten track in order to update it since its owner ( Abel Tripaldi) will soon put the house on sale. They will spend the night there in order to start the repairs the following morning. Everything seems to go on smoothly until Laura hears a sound that comes from outside and gets louder and louder in the upper floor of the house. Wilson goes up to see what is going on while she remains downstairs on her own waiting for her father to come down. The plot is based on a true story that happened some time ago in a small village in Uruguay. “La Casa Muda” focuses on the last seventy eight minutes, second by second, when Laura intends to leave the house which hides an obscure secret and she hopes to leave unharmed.

REAL FEAR IN REAL TIME, this is the most remarkable underlying feature of the film which will not go unnoticed by all those who may be willing to experience this different and disturbing filming experience.

A few days after the Spanish Teaser Trailer was released, executives from some of the most important production company of Hollywood have shown interest in seeing it once it is finished and acquire the rights. The film is still at audio post production, and is expected to be finished in march. "The silent house"teaser trailer with Engish subtitles has come. Perhaps we may see the remake soon!!!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Tumble Log

I had intended to do the traditional New Year/Old Year review-type-thingamybob this week but I'm afraid it'll have to be left till the end of the month, which is sort of a tradition too.

The reason for the delay is that I'm reduced to typing with one paw following a bit of a boo boo on the way home from the day job earlier this week. Whilst walking home from the bus stop, a mere five minutes from my own front door, I lost my footing on the snow/ice/frozen slush and took a right old tumble. My left hand heroically took the weight of my body and saved my face from a close encounter with someone's front wall. This was at the expense of my elbow though, which protested with a bit of POP!

By the next morning my elbow had swollen to a couple of times it's usual size and a day trip to A&E was required. It was very busy, mostly due to other weather related injuries, but we were in and out in a mere four hours. Sincere thanks to the NHS!

The final score? A radial head fracture of the type seen to the left. Ouch. Now I have to wear a stupid collar and cuff thing for about two weeks until I get some kind of range of movement back. Apparently I can hope to get full normal use of my arm (turning door handles and other tricky stuff) in about six to eight weeks.

Bugger.

And I'd booked next week off for some intensive writing.
Still, at least my injury sounds a bit like the name of one of my favourite bands!

Bugger.

I mean, I'll try and get some work done, but typing one-handed is bone (if you'll pardon the almost-pun). I mean I'm no touch typist (although touch typing is on my must-learn list) but I do go at a fair old rate. Even writing this blog post one-handed is pretty trying.

Bugger.

Still, it could have been a hell of a lot worse. And I still have my eyes so I can read some scripts and catch up on some good films and telly and call it all research. Tragically, I can't really use my Xbox 360 controller at the moment so will be unable to waste whole days in the Capital Wastelands, Arkham Asylum or on Sera.

There we are anyway. No point crying about it. I'll let you know how I'm getting on once I'm two-handed again. Hope you're all having a good 2010 so far, and getting some enjoyment out of our freakish weather, just make bloody sure you're careful when you're out and about in it!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

On the box

Hello! Hello! Hello! Where was I? Oh yes, I've been watching stuff again...

The Day of the Triffids

I'm a big fan of John Wyndham, and of the 1981 adaptation of Day of the Triffids (currently £3.99 on play - If you don't have it already it'll be the best four quid you ever spend!). I've mentioned this before, as well as pointing out that it might be more interesting to film The Kraken Wakes rather than adapting Triffids again. Despite all this I was still excited to see how the new version would go.

I have to say that I thought the first half was a little slow, and I think the programme was somewhat self-consciously trying to avoid looking like a retread either of the '81 version, or more recent post-apocalyptic fare such as Survivors or 28 Days Later. Even so there was some good stuff in there, it just took too long for the story to get going. Part two on the other hand was pacey, atmospheric and exciting. There were some lovely sequences, for example Bill hunting the male Triffid, Jo's escape from London and the finale. Of the cast I thought Brian Cox (of course), and Eddie Izzard were excellent, the two children also were very good.

I still feel it was a somewhat redundant remake (but then Turn of the Screw was on the day after it so I guess it's the season (this is about the eleventh time this has been adapted for the screen!)) but given the decent ratings perhaps we can expect another Wyndham adaptation next year. I vote The Kraken Wakes or The Chrysalids!


True Blood

This is another show, like Medium, which I was aware of but had made some weird subconscious assumptions about and decided probably wasn't for me. However even I, belligerent as I am, can only ignore so many people telling me I should watch something.

Based on the series of books by Charlaine Harris, True Blood is b
rought to you by Alan Ball, the creator of Six Feet Under (another series I've never watched despite many recommendations).

True Blood is excellent fun. It's an HBO show so you can expect some cussing, some fooling about and some general naughtiness. It's also packed, and I do mean packed, with interesting and rounded characters. Actually the town of Bon Temps sometimes puts me in mind of Twin Peaks, or Cicely, Alaska due to the local colour. Putting the main characters to one side there's the inept local police, the Cajun roadworker, the agrophobic vampire, the shell-shocked Iraq veteran... The list goes on.

These people would be interesting even if they weren't littered with vampires, psychics, murderers and... well, no spoilers here. Suffice to say I recommend it. We've just finished watching series one on 4HD, and are now hoping they're going to run on into series two.

Collision

It's a bit late in the day to talk about this now (yes I did start this post a while ago) but what a great bit of telly this was. I'm coming around to this consecutive night thing, especially after Torchie this year, and this certainly kept us interested all week. Lots of lovely performances, especially from Douglas Henshaw and Lucy Griffiths, and a lovely look at how peoples lives can turn upside down for the most trivial of reasons.

The final moments, where time was reversed and we saw what might have been but for an errant wasp, were absolutely inspired and will ensure t
hat Collision lives long in my memory. Excellent television, well done ITV.

Misfits

No, not the seminal horror rockers (although I do recomend their Famous Monsters album), I mean the E4 TV series. A very British, very modern, very clever take on how super powers might actually work in the real world. I'm far from the first to say this but Heroes could have learned a lot from this E4 show. A second series has been commissioned (hoorah!) so that gives you time to catch up on series one if you missed it.


So that's what I've been watching recently. Now we're into early 2010 there's a shedload of good telly coming our way, so here's a taster of some of the stuff I'm really looking
forward to...


Being Human series 2 begins on January 10th



The final series of Lost begins on February 2nd



24 Day 8 premieres on January 17th



Survivors series 2 starts on Tuesday 12th January



Chuck is back on US tv on January 10th for it's third series



Law & Order: UK returns to ITV on January 11th

And of course, sometime in the spring...