Hunter Prey

This post needs some introduction. Around 8mins worth to be precise…

That was Batman: Dead End. A fan film released (I would like to think at least in part) in response to Joel Schumacher’s two Batman ‘interpretations’ of the late 90s; Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. If you can take a moment and throw your mind back to before Heath Ledger, before Christian Bale… all the way back to Burton.

What Schumacher did to Bob Kane’s source material was nothing short of horrific and, at a time when the series was at its darkest (and not in a good way), Sandy Collora turned ’round and delivered Dead End to prove that if George Clooney wasn’t about to step up, he was.

Fast forward seven years and Sandy gets a go at his own full-length feature; Hunter Prey.

— image via Film School Rejects

While not given the largest of releases, I was lucky enough to catch Hunter Prey at the Science Fiction Film Festival and, a few things aside, I wasn’t disappointed.

First off, I went in fully expecting it to be crap. I mean really crap. Proper B moviesville. But in the BEST of ways. I’m a sucker for certain genres you see and bad sci-fi is up there with werewolf flicks and Fincher. Alright, Fincher isn’t a genre, but you get the idea.

Bottom line, Hunter Prey is pretty damn good. Yes there are a few timing issues (the film could do with some tighter edits) and some of the scripting is hilarious but – and this is a massive BUT – to call this film bad sci-fi would be both hugely unfair and actually, just plain wrong; what Sandy has achieved in this film is nothing short of awesome.

The opening gambit – ship carrying alien prisoner crashes on strange planet, said prisoner escapes in the carnage, survivors head out to hunt it down, cat-and-mouse ensues – is not too dissimilar to another great sci-fi B movie, Pitch Black. However, what our alien prisoner is capable of is much, much different to anything Riddick could ever and would ever do.

I could say more, but to do so would reveal a key plotting device/twist which I would go nuts about if anyone told me. So there we’ll leave it.

Personally? I love bad low-budget sci-fi and I loved Hunter Prey. Like I said, there are some low points (it’s too long), some high points (great plot) and some bloody fantastic points (the character designs are nothing short of spectacular).

My verdict?

If you’ve got eight quid to spare, then pick it up. It’s not perfect, not by any stretch, but if anything I’ve said above chimes with you, then you shouldn’t let this pass you by.

It’s been a few months sine I’ve seen it now and it definitely needs revisiting…

Finally, if you liked the Batman fan flick that kicked this off – then you should check out City of Scars. Not a Collara pic, but still pretty damn good.

Whatley out.

Star Trek

‘things that annoy me in film’

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This post has been a long time coming. Mostly coming out at parties over a particularly intense bout of drunken geekery, it’s a point that has niggled with me about Star Trek ever since I first saw it that day back in May.

The. Best. Film. I. Have. Ever. Seen.

Thing is, I’m a bit of a film buff. I’ve loved film for as long as I can remember. My Dad taking me to see Superman IV at the cinema when I was kid. Holding hands, walking around in the dark. THAT theme tune. It was amazing. Better yet, it was believable.

Years passed. Burton’s Batman came and went. The older I the more adventurous my taste in film became; I remember one afternoon after college I bought Romper Stomper, Scum, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver (all on VHS – thank you very much Mr Light), in a rather awesome four for £20 bargain.

“You need to lighten up mate.” said the chap behind the counter. I laughed, said it was research for a new project (I was studying performing arts, specialising in directing for that particular term – I was soaking up everything I could get my hands on), he looked at me funny and it was only when walking away did I realise what I’d said.

The Matrix arrived. I remember thinking ‘THIS is the Star Wars of our generation.” Up to this point, in the history of film, no one had ever achieved anything like it. Neo and his acolytes were about to tear up the sci-fi genre and hand it back to Hollywood; “Thanks, we’re done.” But they didn’t. They went and released Matrix: Reloaded. While I’m a big fan of The Animatrix (the nine animated shorts released before the first sequel), the next two parts of the trilogy left me a bit empty. The effects are good, the story isn’t that bad. They just aren’t as good as the original. It happens.

However, Matrix Reloaded sticks out for me for one thing and one thing only. What am I talking about? The first 20 seconds of this…

See it? That bike stunt? Right. Stay with me on this one.

In a world that is governed by rules, how is it that this street bike is able to drive off the top of that truck, from a standing start, land and continue – at top speed – without the truck catching up and crumpling the rider(s) under its wheels?! It’s an impossibility defined by the laws of physics. Yes, the laws of the Matrix can be bent, even broken, but by people. NOT by machines. A bike is as much a bike in the Matrix as it is a bike out on the streets right now. When this happened on screen I snapped back into reality and was suddenly more concerned about my next helping of popcorn than I was about Trinity and her high-speed escape.

Illusion, shattered.

Which brings us back to Star Trek.

In the film (and if you’ve not seen it, you may as well stop reading right now), Spock jettisons Kirk off the Enterprise for insubordination and he finds himself wound up on an ice planet not too dissimilar from Hoth. The landing pod tells him to remain where he is (his escort will arrive shortly), but naturally, being James T. Kirk, he decides to get out and find his own way.

This being Star Trek, of course things don’t run smoothly. Within a few minutes Kirk’s being chased by a snowy-white sabretooth tiger-esque creature [UPDATE: turns out this is a ‘Drakoulias‘] who clearly fancies him for lunch. Kirk runs. The ground rumbles and said feline bear gets picked and hurled into a nearby mountain…  by something much bigger.

This thing –

A bright red, prolapsed rectum-basedHengrauggi‘. The design story behind this particular creature is pretty awesome; the way chief concept designer Neville Page finds inspiration from animals that already live and breathe in our world today is quite extraordinary. Everything from the way the jaws work, the positioning of its joints, all the way through to which way the cameras will be pointing when ‘Big Red’ finally erupts onto our screens.

The work of a truly talented artist.

But there’s just one issue I have with it – Evolution.

In what universe would evolution create such a creature? And I’m not talking about the size of the Hengrauggi or in fact the scarily fast oral appendages that it uses to capture its food (completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before).

No. I’m talking about the colour of the damn thing.

This is an ICE planet. How would a huge creature such as the above get away with being BRIGHT RED on a planet that seems to spend the majority of its time covered in a blanket of white snow? You can’t be a hard-ass predator if your prey can see you coming from bloody miles away!

Case in point; sharks.

Dark on top, white underneath. Why? They’re predators. One of nature’s oldest and most perfect of killing machines. Swim above and look down, you’ll struggle to see it. Swim underneath and look up? The same. Not being seen (until it’s too late at least), is a defining feature of any decent-sized hunter. Yes the Hengrauggi starts off underground, perhaps burrowed under the surface awaiting its prey in the same vein as a trapdoor spider. Even so, surely then this would create a darker, more naturally-coloured creature. One that blends in with its surroundings, not stick out like a sore thumb.

Sigh.

Look, I know this isn’t a massive point and overall Star Trek was by far and away one of the best (and most successful) films of 2009, but still. If you’re intent on keeping the world and universe that your characters exist in believable, then being mindful of the rules that you’ve created (or those that already exist) will go a long way to keeping it real.

From the IMAX I was transported into the Star Trek universe and there I stayed. Until Delta Vega. From there I was thrown back to my seat with a bump. Damn you Hengrauggi. Damn you to hell.

Plan 9

A few days ago, interes10 mentioned that London’s Natural History Museum was a fairly decent place to visit for a family day out.

Whenever I think of the Natural History Museum I immediately have images of the giant Blue Whale model in the Mammals hall, or even the huge fossil collection that inhabits the entrance hall.

Dinosaurs spring to mind.

Always.

Today I found myself back there again. But not for a family day out this time, oh no. My presence was required for a much different purpose.

Operation: BIG GNAW was my very own secret mission for today.

Part of an overall plan – PLAN 9 to be exact – I was to be at a set location, at a set time and armed with a very specific set of responses to a set of questions of which I had no knowledge. With a map in my pocket and some guidelines around exactly what I could and could not say, I set out.

“But what the hell is PLAN 9? What is Operation BIG GNAW?”

Allow me to explain…

Mr Dan Light (pictured, top), is currently in the process of putting together a sizzle/trailer for a new film entitled Loch Ghoon. The script, based on an original screenplay by Dan’s cousin Max, requires a few vox pops from everyday folk (that’s where I come in), shot in and around London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).

‘PLAN 9’ was the codename for the operation that took us secretly deep inside the NHM and BIG GNAW was the pseudonym under which my instructions were left for me. Along with a few other cheeky cameo stars, the aim was to get in, shoot what we needed and then get out again before we were rumbled by the NHM security.

Not an easy task.

I’ve tried filming in a you-think-it’s-public-but-it’s-not-really kind of place before and that did not end well. However, thanks to Dan’s meticulous planning (see above), the whole shoot went off without hitch.

Being a Saturday afternoon, the museum was naturally very busy. With Joe Public taking photos left, right and centre, somehow a small collection of inconspicuous-looking men gathered ’round a camera, interviewing each other suddenly became something rather normal. Par for the course in fact. Business as usual.

To the average passer-by, we were merely tourists.

Very, well done.

Rupert, Dan, James, Dan, Benny, Antonio, Katie, Saffron (and maybe a couple of others whose names escape me), excellent work all round.

There’s a Plan9 photo set from today’s fun and games up over on flickr and, if you’re interested in following the progress of Loch Ghoon, I suggest you stay tuned to Dan’s blog – if anything, it’s just a good read.

This is BIG GNAW, signing off…

PLAN 9: COMPLETE

Minor update:

Benny has put his videos and words together – ‘Assault on Plan 9’
As has Dan – ‘We go in. We get what we want. We come out.’

Crossing the streams

Last week I bumped into fellow NaVloPoMo’er, Benny Crime, at a super secret screening of the brand new British comedy, “Bunny and the Bull“.
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Benny and I, both attempting to post a new video blog every day, thought we’d do something dangerous, something wild, something crazy and CROSS THE STREAMS!

The day after Avatar Day

Yesterday, was ‘Avatar Day‘.

We’re going to do something unprecedented.


It’s a social marketing experiment.


We’re going to take over as many IMAX 3D theaters and other select 3D theaters worldwide on August 21 and we’re going to let an international global audience come see 15 minutes of Avatar for free.


It’s going to be Avatar day.

I touched upon this in an earlier post, but if you’re unfamiliar with the notion of Avatar Day, then you’re probably not too up on your Avatar knowledge either. Allow me to summarise the latter so we can get on with talking about the former.

Avatar is the new film from James Cameron, 14-odd years in the making, this $237 million epic is apparently set to change the movie making landscape forever. Not thanks to amazing story telling (although we’re hoping for something pretty good at least), or even due to the ever present trademark blue tint he likes to add to his work.

No, this film has been 12 years in the making because Cameron has been waiting and waiting for the technology to be ready to fully realise a vision he had all those years ago.

The plot itself snagged my interest some time ago (two years ago maybe?); set in the 22nd Century, the majority of the story takes place on a distant planet called Pandora, inhabited by a humanoid race with its own language and culture. Humans cannot breathe the air on Pandora so have created avatars, hybrid creatures controlled via a mental link by a human operator. Add to that that it’s an original story and one being brought to the screen by a certain Mr James Cameron, and I was hooked.

Yes, I like films. Yes, I like science-fiction films. But this film is being billed as something as revolutionary as when Hollywood first introduced sound and colour. Why? Well that’s down to the much-heralded Digital 3D.

I’ve seen 3D films before, or films with at least ‘some scenes in 3D’ – the last one being Superman Returns back at the IMAX actually. Anyway, my point is, these films/scenes that have come before – they seemed to be in 3D just for the sake of it.

“Oh this bit? We’re shooting this in 3D! So, so, so therefore we’ll throw some things out at the audience!”

But with Avatar, not so.

The 3D element here is almost organic. It’s just there, if that makes sense? You don’t watch this film (or at least the 15min trailer that I saw yesterday), you experience it.

And it… was… beautiful.
Stunning even.

Completely immersive and – at one point in particular – simply breath-taking.

There’s another post in me about the whole ‘experiment in social marketing’ thing, but I’ll save that for another day. For now at least…

Roll on December 18th 🙂

Adventures in Soho Part 2: The Sarah Marshall Chronicles

You may remember, back when I had Less than 24hrs in San Francisco, that everywhere I looked I kept being reminded of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Not that I kept seeing Sarah Connor-themed posters… Oh no.
(could’ve made an interesting new angle for the next Terminator mind)

The ones that haunted my vision were for someone called ‘Sarah Marshall’.
This, out of context, made no sense to me…

However – all was to be revealed when I returned to the UK when a reasonably new (and good) friend of mine, Mike Sizemore, (blogger, vlogger and all round jammy film reviewer), invited me along to a top secret blogger screening of Judd Apatow’s latest film, ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’.

Having never seen or heard of the film before, aside from the aforementioned US poster campaign, I was quite pleased that Mike had thought of me and the invite was even more attractive as a) I managed to swing a ‘plus one’ and b) it was as the Soho Screening Rooms (which sounded suspiciously seedy if you ask me).

To whet my appetite even further, Mike even included a link to the latest Forgetting Sarah Marshall trailer…

DO NOT WATCH THIS YET

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9podUETps8[/youtube]

Ok. Judd Apatow is someone I’ve only just got to know. Having steered clear of Knocked Up (it didn’t look like my kind of film) I recently rented out – (check me, old school) – Superbad.
Which is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

I watched the trailer, laughed a little… wasn’t sure… saw a couple of guys from Superbad… saw Russell Brand… realised it was a free screening.. and made my mind up.
One quick call to the girlfriend later and I had an evening of free entertainment in Soho, with blogger buddies AND I get to impress the Girl.

Who cares what the film is like right? Wrong.

Hand on heart I went into the cinema descended into the depths of said screening rooms not really expecting much. ‘Expecting much’ is not something I do often. Not expected anything is the best way to a) avoid disappointment and b) be pleasantly surprised. Fortunately, this time round, the evening fell firmly into category ‘b’.

Y’see I had this horrid COCK SHOT feeling that the trailer had given away all the funny bits and, for a little while, I thought COCK SHOT I was right. But, I am happy to report that COCK SHOT there’s still quite a lot of amusement to be had throughout the rest of the film.

That aside, COCK SHOT, for maximum enjoyment, I would recommend avoiding the trailer for this film as much as possible because as much as it does entice you into watching the film itself; it also gives away its fair share of funnies… I found myself knowing which joke was next as I’d watched the trailer several times and kinda knew which bit came when y’know? Please – don’t let this put you off – this film IS very, very funny.

Something that took me that took me completely by surprise was that beardy man over there on the right ————————————————>

He was actually very good in this film.

Although I can’t say I’m surprised.

Russell Brand is one of those comedians who I tell everyone I can’t stand and yet find myself often watching him on the tellybox and chuckling away at his dickensian wiles as he meanders his way around our fair language like a blind man on a bicycle…

I want to hate him, but I can’t.

Git.

And as I said, in this he is cast perfectly.

Git.

I don’t do film reviews often – although coincidentally enough, the last one I reviewed was a comedy also (albeit an unintentional one) – so for me actually sit down and bother to write this up means it’s actually worth seeing.

I laughed that hard I nearly wet myself.

No really. Forgetting Sarah Marshall has the some what strange honour of being the first EVER film that I was able to leave the room for. EVERY film I see I always make sure I go before I sit down.
I hate those people that pay £8-£10 to go and see the latest blockbuster and end up missing a massive chunk of plot because they forgot to have a number one before they went in.

I mean REALLY. It’s like 2 hours people!
You’ve just paid to watch the damn film – so sit down and watch it!

*sigh*

Anywhoo – I won’t be doing that again in a hurry, on the way back I was blinded by the light from the projector and ended up tripping on the step, stumbling up the stairs and then hitting a fellow blogger in the chops (sorry Annie!).

I digress.

This film is funny. See it.

Finally – Props to my mate Scott who saw this outside Hammersmith Tube Station last week…

It seems the hate campaign is spreading…