February 2008

A new home for short films

Coffee Shorts is a new spin-off from the always reliable Coffee Films and the remarkably talented people at Crestfallen Productions. The aim is to bring the best short short films to a wider audience through a simple and non-exclusive distribution agreement.

They are planning to take the best of short film making and promote it on several Coffee Shorts branded channels so that we, the audience, can enjoy the best of independent short films.

The site officially launches in March, but there is already some stuff up there so go check it out, bookmark the site, and enjoy.

Where is Tiffany now?

This is the first post in a (potentially very) occasional series in which I remember those one-hit-wonders, minor celebrities and moderate successes of my teenage years after just having discovered where they are now.

First up is Tiffany, the American teen who in 1987 achieved international stardom with I Think Were Alone Now. In 1988 she fell out with her manager and her mother and stepfather over control of her career an earnings and, after a series of legal battles, her brief career pretty much came to an end.

Now shes back with a new record deal, a new album and an updated version of – inevitably enough - I Think Were Alone Now.

More interestingly, she appears to be branching out into a film career. She has already starred in The Isolationist, a dark comedy about trying to get away from it all. She has has also joined the cast of horror film, Necrosis, which has just started shooting.

Its too early, of course, to say anything about Necrosis but – from the trailer – The Isolationist looks like it could well be quite a lot of fun.

Never a waffle waitress

Fourteen years and one day ago Bill Hicks, one of the smartest, funniest and most topical stand-up comedians America – or anywhere else – produced, died of cancer. And hes still as relevant as ever - if not more so.

If you dont know who he is, start here.

With thanks to Chicken Yoghurt for being better at remembering dates than I am.

Programmers have feelings too

as this rather amusing machinima video from Spiffworld (via) all too accurately reveals.

When a test screening isnt

According to the IMDB page, Fanboys is the story of a group of Star Wars fans who travel to George Lucas Skywalker Ranch to steal an early copy of The Phantom Menace for their dying friend. I have to admit that this isnt a film that appeals to me at all – we have some kid dying of cancer and a bunch of friends that think the best thing they can do for him is get hold of an early copy of The Phantom Menace. The film sounds like a badly thought through nostalgia-fest made for those few people so wrapped up in everything Lucas that they arent going to recognise any criticism of this ill-conceived prequel.

However, as Cinematical (via) reports, the approach of the Weinstein Company to the film is nothing short of bizarre.

The dying of cancer storyline was completely dumped, and, instead, the fanboys are now trying to sneak a copy of Phantom Menace simply because theyre fans and want to see it.

Admittedly, I think that having a protagonist whose dying of cancer is a horrendously bad idea in a film such as this but “trying to sneak a copy of Phantom Menace simply because theyre fans” is just sad. But theres more.

Kyle Newman, the original director, has been replaced by Steven Brill, who brought us such treats as Little Nicky and Without a Paddle. Brill has reshot and recut the film and the story is now being described as disjointed, nonsensical and lacking any heart. No surprises there, then.

Heres where it gets bizarre. Both the Newman and the Brill versions were screened for test audiences - and the new version only tested two points higher than the old version. But it is alleged that the Weinsteins were so desperate to justify forking out an extra $2 million on reshooting the film that they included plants in the audience in order to skew the test screening numbers in favour of the Brill version. And they only managed a two point improvement.

The rights and wrongs of test screenings is a whole separate discussion – my own view is that their appropriateness depends on the film – but to try to fix the results beggars belief. Either have a test screening or dont. Dictate the film to your director or let him make the film he wants to make. Or compromise. But for the producers of the film to impose their ideas and then seek to mislead themselves in order to justify their actions makes you wonder who they are trying to fool.

There was a time (about fifteen years ago) when the Weinstein brothers were finding, producing and promoting some fantastic films. Those days are long gone and increasingly unlikely to return.

One social network to rule them all

Being a bit of a social networking tart, I have signed up to far too many of these things, many of which I never return to. So Mugshot looks a bit handy in that it allows you to bring many of these disparate activies together on a single page. So I signed up.

And once they sort out a Flixster feed, Ill be well happy.

Masters of Science Fiction

Taking its cue from the hugely successful Masters of Horror,Masters of Science Fiction is a six episode TV series of standalone films, each one based on the SF genres most celebrated short stories.

Introduced by none other than Professor Stephen Hawking, the films include Harlan Ellisons The Discarded – a story of despised minorities forever adrift in the darkness of outer space. Also in the line-up is Robert A. Heinleins Jerry Was A Man which raises potential issues atound civil liberties and genetic engineering.

Although its an American series, the joy of DVD means that we will be able to see it on this side of the pond on Monday. Go check it out.

Comics to film

A quick look at the news feeds today revealed a couple of rather interesting looking comic book adaptations on the way.

Firstly, from Twitch, comes the news that David Fincher is to direct a film version of Charles Burns’ Black Hole as scripted by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary.

And, you thought your adolescence was scary. Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the areas teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested any number of ways - from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) - but once youve got it, thats it. Theres no turning back. As we inhabit the heads of several key characters - some kids who have it, some who dont, some who are about to get it - what unfolds isnt the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness of it, or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high-school alienation itself - the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape. And, then the murders start. As hypnotically beautiful as it is horrifying (and, believe it or not, autobiographical), Black Hole transcends its genre by deftly exploring a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it - back when it wasnt exactly cool to be a hippie any more, but Bowie was still just a little too weird. To say nothing of sprouting horns and moulting your skin

It will be interesting – to say the least – how much of this actually makes it onto the screen, but Fincher, Gaiman and Avery are three people who do have both the critical and commercial clout to pull it off.

Im a bit more ambivalent about the news (from CHUD) that Garth Ennis The Boys is also about to make the transition to the big screen.

From the dark and twisted mind of Garth Ennis, co-creator of Preacher and Hitman, and the savage pencil of Darick Robertson, artist of Transmetropolitan, comes a darkly hilarious story that will change the way you look at superheroes forever! Meet Billy Butcher. Hes not a nice man, and neither are his team: the Frenchman, Mothers Milk, and the Female. They hate capesand so does Billys newest recruit, Wee Hughie, whose girlfriend has just become collateral damage in a super-brawl. But does Hughie know what hes getting into? This hugely controversial new series - which caused an uproar upon original publication - explores the sordid side of superheroics!

It does sound like cracking stuff and Garth Ennis is an excellent writer. What does make me a little wary, however, is that Neal H. Moritz has been slated to produce the film and – as a quick look at his filmography will reveal – Moritz hasnt explored the sordid side of anything.

Saturn Awards 2008

The nominations for the 2008 Saturn awards have been announced (via). The complete list of nominations can be found at the official site so, rather than reproduce it here, Im going to have a stab at predicting the eventual winners.

Best Science Fiction Film: Cloverfield
Best Fantasy Film: Enchanted
Best Horror Film: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Best Action / Adventure / Thriller Film: No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (here Will Be Blood)
Best Actress: Carice van Houten (Black Book)
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Best Supporting Actress: Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Dakota Blue Richards (The Golden Compass)
Best Direction: Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Best Writing: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)
Best International Film: Eastern Promises
Best Animated Film: Ratatouille

This is not a complete list, by any stretch of the imagination and I have completely ignored the TV and DVD nominations. But you will be able to see how good I am at this guessing lark on on June 24th.

The Eighties hit the internet

in style (via)