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Stuff I Liked 2009 – Movies and TV


OK – after what seems like an age, it’s time to recall some of the best things I found over the last year.

Movies and TV

Last year’s best movie was French (the awesome OSS117), so there was no chance of that happening again. Instead we went off on a sci-fi vibe, I guess some kind of instinctive reaction to the economic implosion and the apparent death of vision and dreaming made flesh in the doom and gloom of the real world. It seems to me that sci-fi is doing what it always did best, providing clear visions of the future based on the prevailing philosophies and moods of the present. As a result we’re seeing futures that, if not echoing the total dystopia seen in the 1970s, at least mirror some of the concerns of today. And at a time when no one, politicians, broadcasters, entertainers, media etc seem capable of presenting us with an even palatable vision of life in the next decade, it’s no surprise that sci-fi is coming back in a big way. What is surprising is that it’s coming at us from so many different angles – not just movies, but books, TV series, comics etc – and that this is the most comprehensive channel for discussion or thought about where we’re heading.

So … Best movies and TV

  1. Star Trek Never thought I’d be so impressed by a movie that didn’t feature the Gone or those crazy starfish things that flew at Kirk before sucking his brain out, but this was brilliant. The Fleet isn’t quite the Peace Corps in space it used to be, but it’s not the fascist theocracy of Starship Troopers either and in a year when movies like 2012 just showed how vacuous ‘effects event’ movies can be, it was great to see something that was really about story and plot. The best thing about it was that when it was over, you just wanted to get back on and go for another adventure with those guys.
  2. Moon Almost the exact opposite, a smallish budget movie with tiny cast centered round a clone on the moon, but really all about identity, dreams and freedom. Moon was like Alien, but with less budget and no scary monsters (unless you count Kevin Spacey in ‘HAL’ mode). Killer soundtrack too.
  3. Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles Series 1 starts off in that sketchy space that exists between Terminator 2 and 3, then catapults the Connors into an alternate timestream. By Series 2 it has its own mythology and features so many people zapping back and forth in time that it’s amazing that no one here has noticed. And yet again, while being superficially a sci-fi series it is actually about family relationships and multiple quests for identity, not least from the various Terminators at large in and around the LA area.
  4. Misfits I pretty much loathed Heroes. It seemed as plastic as it could be, the equivalent of those comic books like The Avengers, which exist solely to allow those fanboy fights that shouldn’t happen in a regular book (like Ironman’s dirty dozen v all the bad mutants in the world). Misfits, on the other hand, was genius. In keeping with the comic legend, a bunch of people are given superpowers. Only they’re young urban adolescent chav scum. And they don’t immediately set out to save the world. Fucktastic.
  5. GI Joe OK, so if we are going to go all CGI and spastic special effects on ourselves, then it might as well be in the hands of Junior Michael Bey Boy, Stephen Sommers. Sure it’s stupid, stupid, stupid and it does feature the usual Sommers plots of mad professor type doing bad things and having to be restrained, but it’s waaaaay funnier than Transformers.
  6. Spooks While I was initially blown away (in every sense) with Spooks dedication to incinerating almost all of its key cast members, I’m not sure Season 8 was up to snuff as it were. Sure we lose pretty much the whole team over the course of the series, and there was a vaguely satisfying overall plot (not as good as the Russian plot of series 7), but there was still the sense of one too many ‘terrorist of the week’ episodes. Also because everything moves so fast in spookworld, we really don’t see the effect of individual’s actions on them in much detail. Still glad to have got rid of Ross Myers. She sucked.
  7. Crank Fully in the Misfits camp, Crank is about turning everything up to about 15 (out of 10). It’s about The Stath with no inhibitions and the mind of a muckraker driven to doing anything to keep himself alive. At once both snot-snortingly hilarious and wince-inducingly cringeworthy, this is a movie that really affects you.  And at 88 minutes, it just flies by.

Meanwhile in the shit pit …

  1. Watchmen Was it really only this year that this was released? It seems like so long ago. Bum-numbingly terrible and another example of how comics are not simply storyboards for movies. Maybe, like Lord of the Rings, it works better for people who’ve never actually read the books. Although it  wasn’t as bad as Wolverine The Backstory.
  2. 2012 Yawn. Another day, another disaster movie from Roland Emmerich. And like all his other movies, all the best bits are in the trailer, with the added benefit of having the tedious exposition and dreary ‘human interest’ storyline removed. How far can this guy fall after Independence Day?
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Some Cool Things I Did This Year – Videos


Minimal effort video using a toy camera, iMovie and Logic for the music.

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Videotastic


After all that messing about with sequencing, I thought I’d mess about with video. This has been made with iMovie and really it couldn’t be simpler. iMovie imports all the video on your machine – not that much in my case as I don’t actually have a video camera and have to rely on the video from my camera and strangely it didn’t catch the movies from Ratter’s Flip camera – but it’s enough to play with.

Putting the clips together and trimming the various clips is also pretty simple, although I’d like to be able to see the audio waveform when trimming, rather than simply hearing it, to ensure I got the trimming absolutely spot on. However, given I haven’t bothered to read any documentation or view anything other than the opening You Can Do This movie, I’m sure there are ways to do this. In any case it doesn’t seem to have proved too much of a deterrant to getting the cuts in the right place.

Anyway, this is a video of the Boon cavorting to my latest tune Kyle.

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What I Learnt From BUG Today


handfed-house-2Fundamentally, we’re all fucked. We’re fucked and we’d better run. Not, as Nick Cave would have it, to the City of Refuge, because that’s toast, that’s yesterday’s safe point and brother, it ain’t safe no more that’s for goddamn sure. No, if I’m reading the subtext of BUG 11 (The Director’s Cut) right – and I like to think that I’m reading it right – we’ve all got a whole load more running to do to get to the Safe Zone.

The Safe Zone is here at BUG. It’s all over the place. The signs could not be clearer. Everywhere I look, whether it’s ‘Handfed‘ by Above The Sea, or ‘Caskets‘ by Damien Jurado the Safe Zone is in your face. It’s a fucking wood cabin out in the middle of nowhere watched over by a moody time-lapsed sky and home to the most arid colour palette this side of Quantum of Solace. And even here it’s not bloody safe. Instead of the everyday nuclear catastrophes of imploding economics and spending something like five hundred grazillion pounds on bankers, the Safe Zone is full of burning houses, dead people on telephones and really primitive medical operations. Hardly a haven of tranquility.

And even if we’re not being burned, gassed, anaesthetised and buried alive we’re still surrounded by horror and ghastliness. An exploding thermocline of what looks like badly applied wall filler threatens to sandblast crap Scotch tossers Glasvegas. I’d put a link in but a) the video and the song are bloody dreadful and b) it’s on a site run by Carling, who even if I bothered to drink alcohol, I wouldn’t touch with someone else’s ulcerated liver. Glasvegas are everything that’s wrong with major label bands. More bloated and festering than U2 ever were (although I may change my mind when the U2 album finally emerges), Glasvegas are like Guns n’ Roses without BOTH Slash and Axel.

Glasvegas aside, the rest of BUG 11 is class. Rex the Dog‘s ‘Bubblicious‘ is class stopframe animation (which leads to the bizarre ‘Rex The Dog cooks dinner for Goldfrapp‘, which in turn shows that there’s no place for weirdness that can’t be found on YouTube). zZz‘s ‘Running With The Beast‘ is the most perfect homage to the late Tony Hart, the sort of action painting extravaganza that encourages young children to take up art as a career along with vegetarianism. And there are laughs aplenty as vaguely-too-old-to-be-doing-it Metallers Red Fang take on the might of the local Dungeons and Dragons reenactment society and come off covered in Monty Python gore in ‘Prehistoric Dog‘. As the comments on YouTube say, “They remind me of Mastodon but better”. And frankly, that’s pretty damn good. At least better than Mastodon.

Previous BUGs have always included a few interviews with video directors, this one didn’t because we had missed the first showing (BUG 11a) due to lax ticket purchasing behaviour and had to put up with no directors. However, this was actually a good thing as many of them aren’t very interesting and when they are being interesting they require audience participation from Downstairs Charles, which surely can’t continue. Instead we get a view into Adam Buxton’s laptop, which features premature ejaculation, copraphelia and bloody big Monster Trucks shrunk down into teeny weeny modelmaker view and set to music by Myrobotfriend. And while I can live without the first two thank you very much, the Monster Trucks were fucking great.

YouTube commentators once again reveal the real truth, “This is incredible,” they say, “The focus and wide angle make everything look like scale models. This video broke my brain.”

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300 years later…


Yeah, poor form to have ignored the whole of September I know. But it wasn’t such a class act as it turned out. Anyway, there I was thinking that Watchmen sounded like a really good film adaptation of a really, really good comicbook, so I decided to check out 300, Zack Snyder’s last comicbook revision.

I also decided to try using iTunes’ music store to actually buy it (it was a slow day, I was bored, it was only about a fiver). As far as the store goes it’s not bad at all – downloaded fast, slipped easily onto my iPhone (so I can watch it on the train going ‘THIS IS SPARTA’ as commuters look at me in a combination of awe and repugnance) and so far it hasn’t worried too much about being migrated all over the place.

As far as the film goes, stylistically it’s great, way more effective than Sin City, and manages to combine a sort of comic super-reality with some kind of emotional connection, which again Sin City just never accomplished. And it has many good bits, not least The Wire’s Dominic West once again playing a deceitful womanising political whore and David Whenham once again playing a grovellingly obsequious sidekick. And it does have that sense of super-realism that started to come in vogue with The Matrix and colour timing and really great greenscreen work. It also works as a story.

But no matter how good it is, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator still shits on it. Visually way more expansive, better story, better plot, better acting, more emotionally engaging and it even has better lines. So while 300 gives us “Give them nothing, but take from them everything”, Gladiator gives us “What we do in life echoes in eternity”.

Still looking forward to Watchmen though.

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Who Watches The Watchmen?



After the crushing depression that was Wanted and the realisation that, Dark Knight aside, pretty much all comic book movie adaptations were going to be a disappointment to me, I was really pleased to find this trailer for Watchmen.

Previously thought to be utterly unfilmable, the movie has already chewed its way through a host of directors, stars, locations and studios. Now it’s finally being put together by the guy who directed 300 – not that that is any kind of a recommendation. Based on this trailer though I can’t wait.

I guess one thing this, Sin City, 300 and Frank Millar’s new movie The Spirit show is that maybe there is a third way for superhero comic book adaptations to go given that they don’t often make great films. The third way of hyper-real visuals, phenomenal amounts of greenscreen and a focus on the key moments within the comics. There is a precedent for this in The Matrix, which borrowed heavily not just from comic books (check out the work of Geoff Darrow), but from Japanese anime like Ghost In The Shell right down to duplicating specific frames.

It’s a method that balances the apparent paucity of the comic book medium (there’s less depth in the average Fantastic Four storyline than in your average B movie) with the need to be somehow more stylish than most films.

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