Friday, May 29, 2009

Sam's Back and it's a classic...

After waiting for what seems like forever, I finally saw Drag Me to Hell tonight. Sam Raimi's long-gestating return to horror, DMTH is a welcome antidote to all the slasher flicks and torture porn that comprises the horror genre these days. This is a good old-fashioned, scare-you-silly horror film that grabs you in the first ten minutes and never lets go.

Alison Lohman plays the unfortunate Christine Brown, who makes the mistake of turning down an old lady's request for an extension on her house loan. Christine is a nice girl who is usually a soft case, but under pressure from her boss, with a promotion at stake and slightly icked-out by the decrepit Mrs. Ganesh, she says no. "You will soon be begging me!", Mrs. Ganesh spits - and so it is as all manner of terrible things start to beset Christine and her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). Clay's a psychology professor who doesn't really believe in things like spirits and psychics - but soon he has no choice as his cursed girlfriend is attacked by unseen forces, coughs up a fly during a formal dinner and suffers the nosebleed from hell (literally).

Can Christine get the curse removed - or tranferred to someone else - before her three days are up and she is dragged to hell? We sure have fun finding out. The audience I saw this with got wound up very early on and several times everyone screamed at once! By midpoint Raimi already has your nerves in such shreds that a banging metal gate takes on terrifying connotations. The best scenes for me are a seance sequence that takes a truly insane turn and an etiquette lesson on discovering an eyeball in your dessert.

It's great to see a master back doing what he does best and I can't wait to see what Raimi comes up with next. In the meantime, enjoy the thrill ride that is Drag Me to Hell.

Sam's Back and it's a classic...

After waiting for what seems like forever, I finally saw Drag Me to Hell tonight. Sam Raimi's long-gestating return to horror, DMTH is a welcome antidote to all the slasher flicks and torture porn that comprises the horror genre these days. This is a good old-fashioned, scare-you-silly horror film that grabs you in the first ten minutes and never lets go.

Alison Lohman plays the unfortunate Christine Brown, who makes the mistake of turning down an old lady's request for an extension on her house loan. Christine is a nice girl who is usually a soft case, but under pressure from her boss, with a promotion at stake and slightly icked-out by the decrepit Mrs. Ganesh, she says no. "You will soon be begging me!", Mrs. Ganesh spits - and so it is as all manner of terrible things start to beset Christine and her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long). Clay's a psychology professor who doesn't really believe in things like spirits and psychics - but soon he has no choice as his cursed girlfriend is attacked by unseen forces, coughs up a fly during a formal dinner and suffers the nosebleed from hell (literally).

Can Christine get the curse removed - or tranferred to someone else - before her three days are up and she is dragged to hell? We sure have fun finding out. The audience I saw this with got wound up very early on and several times everyone screamed at once! By midpoint Raimi already has your nerves in such shreds that a banging metal gate takes on terrifying connotations. The best scenes for me are a seance sequence that takes a truly insane turn and an etiquette lesson on discovering an eyeball in your dessert.

It's great to see a master back doing what he does best and I can't wait to see what Raimi comes up with next. In the meantime, enjoy the thrill ride that is Drag Me to Hell.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pitching to Irish Directors

I've never had the chance to pitch in Ireland, so I'm excited about a joint event coming up on 27th May at the IFI. It's a pitching event organised by the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild and the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland.

Basically it's going to run like a speed-dating event, so the directors will sit in a line and the writers will move along every five minutes and pitch their work to a different director. It seems like a great opportunity to meet some directors (I don't know ANY right now) and more importantly, to practice my pitching.

For more info, see the IPSG's blog at http://irishscriptwritersguild.blogspot.com/2009/05/writerdirector-speed-dating.html

Pitching to Irish Directors

I've never had the chance to pitch in Ireland, so I'm excited about a joint event coming up on 27th May at the IFI. It's a pitching event organised by the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild and the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland.

Basically it's going to run like a speed-dating event, so the directors will sit in a line and the writers will move along every five minutes and pitch their work to a different director. It seems like a great opportunity to meet some directors (I don't know ANY right now) and more importantly, to practice my pitching.

For more info, see the IPSG's blog at http://irishscriptwritersguild.blogspot.com/2009/05/writerdirector-speed-dating.html

Friday, May 15, 2009

Synecdoche Huh?

I've just realised that I never wrote up my thoughts on Synecdoche New York, which I saw in Austin last October, followed by a live Q&A with Charlie Kaufman. Gad, what a movie. Most reviews of it I've seen have been positive: I can only say that I hated it.

Kaufman is a brilliant screenwriter with a head-full of ideas most of us would kill for. But he should never, ever have been allowed to direct a movie based on one of his own scripts. It's like taking a drug that's fine in small doses and necking a huge bottle of it - the only possible result is a mind-fuck and so it is with this movie.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Caden Cotard, who lives in a hypochondriac, depressed-to-the-point-of paralysis state with his artist wife Adele (Catherine Keener) and their small daughter. He's a theatre director who's putting on a rather awful version of Death of a Salesman and is tempted by both the box-office attendant Samantha Morton and Michelle Williams, who plays the over-dramatic leading lady. Caden's wife leaves to go to Europe and put on an exhibition - and never comes back. Meanwhile, he embarks on a mammoth, experimental theatre production which mimics his own life and the edges between reality and fiction begin to blur...

You're probably thinking that it sounds pretentious - all I can say is that you have no idea what an understatement that is. Judging by the Q&A in Austin, most of the audience there were totally baffled by what they had just seen - and yet strangely unmoved by it as well. In the hands of someone like Spike Jonze it might just have worked, but Kaufman seems unable to control his own story and the latter half in particular drags badly before drawing to an unsatisfactory close. My advice? Save your money and rent Being John Malkovich again.

Synecdoche Huh?

I've just realised that I never wrote up my thoughts on Synecdoche New York, which I saw in Austin last October, followed by a live Q&A with Charlie Kaufman. Gad, what a movie. Most reviews of it I've seen have been positive: I can only say that I hated it.

Kaufman is a brilliant screenwriter with a head-full of ideas most of us would kill for. But he should never, ever have been allowed to direct a movie based on one of his own scripts. It's like taking a drug that's fine in small doses and necking a huge bottle of it - the only possible result is a mind-fuck and so it is with this movie.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Caden Cotard, who lives in a hypochondriac, depressed-to-the-point-of paralysis state with his artist wife Adele (Catherine Keener) and their small daughter. He's a theatre director who's putting on a rather awful version of Death of a Salesman and is tempted by both the box-office attendant Samantha Morton and Michelle Williams, who plays the over-dramatic leading lady. Caden's wife leaves to go to Europe and put on an exhibition - and never comes back. Meanwhile, he embarks on a mammoth, experimental theatre production which mimics his own life and the edges between reality and fiction begin to blur...

You're probably thinking that it sounds pretentious - all I can say is that you have no idea what an understatement that is. Judging by the Q&A in Austin, most of the audience there were totally baffled by what they had just seen - and yet strangely unmoved by it as well. In the hands of someone like Spike Jonze it might just have worked, but Kaufman seems unable to control his own story and the latter half in particular drags badly before drawing to an unsatisfactory close. My advice? Save your money and rent Being John Malkovich again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Swedish Suburban Vampire Killers

I must be the last person in Dublin to see the utterly brilliant Let the Right One In but better late than never! If there is a soul apart from me who's been living under a rock or something, a lonely, bullied 12-year-old old boy, who lives in 1980s Stockholm with his mum, notices the strange family who've moved into the apartment next door. It consists of an old man and a little girl - but it soon becomes obvious that the old man is not the child's father. In fact, he's terrified of her. The little girl's predilection for blood (for yes, she is a vampire who may be centuries old) is kept in check for a while as the man brings home the blood of victims for her to drink. But soon she's out on her own - and no one on the suburban streets is safe.

The relationship between the boy and the little vampire, Eli, is brilliantly done; both lonely and willing to do anything for companionship even though their friendship is doomed. There is little in the way of extreme gore but nevertheless there are scenes that stick in your head for days after - a woman bursting into flames in a hospital bed when exposed to sunlight, a nightmarish school field trip to a frozen lake, not to mention what happens when a vampire walks across your threshold without being given permission...

Let the Right One In is a masterclass in tension-building and could teach Hollywood a thing or two about subtly creating a movie that engenders terror without ever being repulsive. Plus the child performers act the likes of Dakota Fanning off the screen. Nevertheless, I lay twenty to one that she will play Eli in the (inevitable) Tinseltown remake.

Swedish Suburban Vampire Killers

I must be the last person in Dublin to see the utterly brilliant Let the Right One In but better late than never! If there is a soul apart from me who's been living under a rock or something, a lonely, bullied 12-year-old old boy, who lives in 1980s Stockholm with his mum, notices the strange family who've moved into the apartment next door. It consists of an old man and a little girl - but it soon becomes obvious that the old man is not the child's father. In fact, he's terrified of her. The little girl's predilection for blood (for yes, she is a vampire who may be centuries old) is kept in check for a while as the man brings home the blood of victims for her to drink. But soon she's out on her own - and no one on the suburban streets is safe.

The relationship between the boy and the little vampire, Eli, is brilliantly done; both lonely and willing to do anything for companionship even though their friendship is doomed. There is little in the way of extreme gore but nevertheless there are scenes that stick in your head for days after - a woman bursting into flames in a hospital bed when exposed to sunlight, a nightmarish school field trip to a frozen lake, not to mention what happens when a vampire walks across your threshold without being given permission...

Let the Right One In is a masterclass in tension-building and could teach Hollywood a thing or two about subtly creating a movie that engenders terror without ever being repulsive. Plus the child performers act the likes of Dakota Fanning off the screen. Nevertheless, I lay twenty to one that she will play Eli in the (inevitable) Tinseltown remake.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

To Boldly Go...


I can't admit to being a huge Trek fan but I was still really looking forward to seeing J.J. Abram's rebooted Star Trek movie and got my wish last night thanks to a preview screening. A girl at work saw it TWO WEEKS ago in London and had to sign all sorts of documents saying she wouldn't talk about it. So she promptly came to work on Monday and raved about how good it was.

My original companion turned up her nose at the idea of a Star Trek night so I brought my dad instead; he, like all the other middle-aged men in the audience, was giddy with excitement. And the film delivered. Chris Pine is the young, cool Kirk that Shatner never was, happily engaging in bar fights and hitting on every woman in sight. Zachary Quinto shakes off his Heroes mantle playing the detached young Spock. The cold Vulcan and the hotheaded Kirk both join Starfleet and seem on a collision course as Kirk smirks his way through his training and Spock sticks rigidly to a logical path.

Meanwhile, however, a group of renegade Romulans headed by Nero (an unrecognisable Eric Bana) are stirring things up by attacking the Vulcans' home planet. When Starfleet sends ships crewed mainly by cadets to investigate, Kirk sneaks aboard one called the Enterprise....

It will come as no surprise that in the next hour he meets all of the iconic crew one by one, or that the kids are soon left in sole control of the vessel. What is surprising is how fresh Abrams manages to make everything feel. When Kirk makes an unsuccessful attempt to pick Uhura up in a bar, spars with Spock or does a maiden warp jump with Scotty, you forget that you've seen all this many times before. It helps that he's put together an enthusiastic young cast who seem determined for you to have as much fun as they're (clearly) having.

Minor quibbles: Bana isn't a particularly memorable baddie and some of the science jargon is puzzling. But these do not distract from what is a stone-cold classic summer blockbuster. Transformers 2 is going to have to be pretty good to beat this...

To Boldly Go...


I can't admit to being a huge Trek fan but I was still really looking forward to seeing J.J. Abram's rebooted Star Trek movie and got my wish last night thanks to a preview screening. A girl at work saw it TWO WEEKS ago in London and had to sign all sorts of documents saying she wouldn't talk about it. So she promptly came to work on Monday and raved about how good it was.

My original companion turned up her nose at the idea of a Star Trek night so I brought my dad instead; he, like all the other middle-aged men in the audience, was giddy with excitement. And the film delivered. Chris Pine is the young, cool Kirk that Shatner never was, happily engaging in bar fights and hitting on every woman in sight. Zachary Quinto shakes off his Heroes mantle playing the detached young Spock. The cold Vulcan and the hotheaded Kirk both join Starfleet and seem on a collision course as Kirk smirks his way through his training and Spock sticks rigidly to a logical path.

Meanwhile, however, a group of renegade Romulans headed by Nero (an unrecognisable Eric Bana) are stirring things up by attacking the Vulcans' home planet. When Starfleet sends ships crewed mainly by cadets to investigate, Kirk sneaks aboard one called the Enterprise....

It will come as no surprise that in the next hour he meets all of the iconic crew one by one, or that the kids are soon left in sole control of the vessel. What is surprising is how fresh Abrams manages to make everything feel. When Kirk makes an unsuccessful attempt to pick Uhura up in a bar, spars with Spock or does a maiden warp jump with Scotty, you forget that you've seen all this many times before. It helps that he's put together an enthusiastic young cast who seem determined for you to have as much fun as they're (clearly) having.

Minor quibbles: Bana isn't a particularly memorable baddie and some of the science jargon is puzzling. But these do not distract from what is a stone-cold classic summer blockbuster. Transformers 2 is going to have to be pretty good to beat this...