Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Interview

There's an interview with me on the Forbidden Planet blog about Super-Sam and John of the Night. Go read:
Forbidden Planet

They will return.

Super-Sam and John Of The Night

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Sam and John Landscape

A drawing featuring many of the characters from my webcomic Super Sam and John Of The Night.

From the top: the three Superkids, Mary Volk (creating her sinister living graffiti), The crime lord Boss Million and his aid Sawtooth, Sally Sunday at her painting easel, a dinosaur (not featured in the comic strip), Doctor Meridian and Yancy Meridian, Jimmy Cyclops, the Ultraface, Monica and Nog (two mob assassins), A. D. Voltain (John's grandfather), Sam Samsonite (Super Sam or Sam Of The Sun), John Voltain (John Of The Night), and Moondog.

Any questions?

http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/?cat=21


Sam and John Landscape

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Forest Blue

Years old drawing. One of the very first I coloured using Photoshop.

Forest Blue

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

À l'intérieur (Inside)

A classic 'innocent stalked by a killer' film. A young pregnant girl is menaced in her home by strange woman.

I can honestly say that I can't think I've ever seen a more violent movie. The film takes no prisoners. Beatrice Dalle (she of Betty Blue fame), wearing black and a demonic expression, does brutal damage to anyone she comes across in this French thriller. Stabbings, throat cutting, eye-gouging, shootings, exploding heads, and you name it. It's all on show. Dalle is not so much a character, as an unrelenting primal force, fuelled by an incoherent rage. It's obvious from the beginning what the stranger wants, but it is not until the end, that we find out why she has chosen this particular victim to torment.

The two directors, Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, make David Cronenberg look restrained, and perhaps a little restraint would have been helpful. The final scenes, where the floors are awash in blood and corpses are strewn about place as if in a Jacobean tragedy, borders on slapstick comedy. Having started the film with extreme violence, the filmmakers leave themselves little option but to go further and further, until the situation becomes absurd.

Despite these flaws, Inside is a terrific thriller, and a refreshing antidote to the many bland US horror remakes that have infested the multiplexes lately.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Burn After Reading

Treachery, selfishness, and sex. A spy movie that doesn't involve any spying. A mislaid CD, containing the memoirs of a recently fired CIA analyst, causes chaos in the lives of five people.

A dark screwball comedy from the Coen brothers, told much in the manner of two of their previous films, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. Nearly every character in this film is self-obssessed and unpleasant, including the usually likeable George Clooney and Frances McDormand. All the big stars happily play against their usual screen personas here: Clooney is a womanising jerk, McDormand is both vain and venal, John Malkovich is a foolish arrogant blowhard, while Brad Pitt is outstanding as a hilariously dim-witted gym rat. The only decent person featured in the film is a character played by Richard Jenkins (mostly known from his stint in Six Feet Under) who is motivated by an unrequited love for McDormand.

The unpleasantness of the characters does make the film hard to love, and at times, it does seem like an exercise in style only. The layers of plot and irony help resist any obvious analysis. The film actually ends with a coda that lampoons the idea that the events shown have any point at all. Yet Burn After Reading does have a moral core. All the characters are blinkered by their own short-term needs and it's their selfishness that brings disaster on most of them.

If the film has another theme, then it's about how people need to make sense of random events by jumping to conclusions, ascribing a narrative thread where non exists. Sometimes there is no story. Life is just a bunch of stuff that happens.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Mist

A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a band of citizens are obliged to hole-up in a supermarket, and fight for their lives

This film came out in 2007 in the US, but didn't get a release in the UK until this year. Perhaps The Mist suffered because it came out shortly after the dire remake of The Fog? Or perhaps the film's distributors ran scared because of its uncompromising and uncomfortable ending? I don't know, but I do know that film is a little seen gem. A genuine, old-fashioned scare-fest, based on a short novel by Stephen King and directed with assured polish by Frank Darabont.

Darabont, an old hand at King adaptations and friend of the author, sat on the movie rights of this horror classic for years until he had the time to film it. It was well worth the wait. He veers barely at all from the source material. The various creeping monsters that come out of the all-eveloping mist are frightening and believable creatures. The danger that comes from within the group of survivors is also creditable and loaded with irony. Here, a charismatic individual who seems to offers answers, begins to turn the minds of the frightened people in the supermarket. The political and religious parallels of this storyline are merely observed, rather than hammered home, and the film is all the better for it.

There are no big stars on show. Just a lot of good actors: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, and Andre Braugher. Thus, you've really no idea who will survive and who won't, adding to the suspense. A warning though. The ending carries on from where the novel finishes, to offer a double gut-punch finale, which may upset you and that you certainly won't forget.


Appaloosa

I thought I'd do a little run of reviews of various films, books, and whatnot, that I've enjoyed in 2008. Let's start with Appaloosa.

A far more leisurely Western than the trailer suggests, Ed Harris directs and stars in this film version of a Robert B. Barker novel. Yes, there's plenty of action, but because the film also concentrates heavily on the friendship between the two leads (Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen), there's a lot of amusing, sparse dialogue scenes, which add much thoughtfulness and depth to the film. These two men are struck from the Western template of Howard Hawks' movies. Men's men, who are comfortable in their maleness, say little, and have a strong code of behaviour. This could easily be clichéd if it wasn't so deftly and lightly done. Their scenes together are irresistibly charming.

There's nothing terribly original in this tale of two guns for hire, who arrive in the town of Appaloosa, to bring law. But it's so expertly crafted, with great turns from Jeremy Irons and Lance Hendrickson as the villains, that it seems like something new. The film isn't an ironic take on the Western genre, or some clever, but empty re-imagining of the form. Instead it's a solid story well told, containing believable characters, expertly played by seasoned actors.

Only Rene Zellweger seems a little ill-served by the screenplay. Her character, the inevitable love interest, gets only one scene to explain her motivations, and as a result, she's somewhat underwritten. It's hard to believe that a stand up guy like Harris's Virgil Cole, would fall for such a troublesome and mercurial minx, but then, perhaps that's the point?