Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Well, we got there. At times (i.e. most of the time) I doubted I would make it to this point alive, but here we are: today marks one whole year of daily blog posts*, and with it a decision as to the future of The Blank Page. The problem is, I still haven’t decided. Apologies to those who were eagerly anticipating such news (likely praying for a swift death). So, yeah, I don’t really know what to do.

In the absence of a conclusion I’m going to continue until I either run out of words entirely (though I suspect that occurred… ooh, about twelve months ago) or the blog organically evolves into a more appealing, sustainable, and structured form. I have veered from the dizzying highs of averaging thirty-three hits-a-day just two weeks ago to getting a depressing three views so far today. Since I perversely enjoy wallowing in my own misery, I will not rest until my readership has dwindled to zero. That is my new impetus, for the next day or so.

In other news, those who know me may remember that a few years back I wrote and was co-producing an independent feature film called Queensberry Rules. After about a year, the project unfortunately collapsed under its own weight. Last year, however, I was approached by Chris Detton – my former co-producer on the project – who wanted to purchase the rights to the script in order to produce it himself. I was more than happy to come to an agreement with him (the contract for which I vaguely alluded to a while back) since it seemed a waste for the story I created to remain in limbo.

I’ve kept quiet about the resurrected project during the early pre-production phase, but today Chris alerted me to an article about the film on the Daily Post website, so I feel more comfortable about releasing some information about the project. The new production team were eager to reshape my original idea into a crime thriller, so very little remains of my script – two scenes on last reading, but they may yet have been cut in further drafts – and the script has been redrafted by up-and-coming writing duo Paul Howard Hunt and Matthew J. Trow.

I believe that the production team are still casting and seeking other help, so if you are interested in getting involved, please contact Jo Lloyd either via e-mail at jolloyd_27@hotmail.com or by phone on 07595 422551. The film is to be directed by Roger Christian and shooting is slated to begin in October in the North Wales area.

* Though, confusingly, this is my three-hundredth-and-sixty-eighth post. I’m a bit confused as to where the extra post came from. Are WordPress counting my About page, or did I post twice in one day and forget? I need to know. Looks like I’m going to have to go through the blog, counting each post manually.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved


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Atop The Gop

I was reminded earlier of a brilliant piece of trivia about Frank Serpico. Who’s Frank Serpico? Firstly, ha ha! You don’t know who Serpico is? Idiot! Secondly, Frank Serpico was a New York police Detective during the Seventies who testified against his own department over allegations of police corruption. The story was adapted as a film – imaginatively named Serpico – starring Al Pacino.

Now you’ve caught up, here’s the trivia: Serpico spent two years in my hometown of Prestatyn (1974 and 1976) as part of the Witness Relocation Program. Not a lot of people know that, and it impresses me far more than being shot in the face and surviving. Recalling that soon made me wonder: surely, as far as Hollywood is concerned, the story isn’t over. I’m usually the first to knock a blatant cash-in sequel, but Serpico: The Prestatyn Years has a certain ring to it. If I was ever going to sell out I couldn’t think of a more appealing prospect.

The scar tissue in my throat – the unfortunate souvenir of my shoddily performed tonsillectomy – is swollen and so very, very painful. It seems to be a seasonal affliction, about every three months, which coincidentally was the frequency of my chronic tonsillitis before I agreed to have the offending tissue removed.

Considering the operation (or, rather, the infection I caught during it) triggered my ME, was it a fair trade? Most certainly not. Do I now regret having the tonsillectomy? Even though I recognise that I could never have been party to any privileged information that could have suggested I would become ill as a result, I do regret it, or maybe I just regret agreeing so nonchalantly, without researching filthy, scummy, dirty Wythenshawe Hospital beforehand. It is neither productive nor healthy to consider it in such terms, but I really can’t help it. I relay this dispassionately, simply externalising, thinking out loud. Regrets are constructive; they are a gift and our most persuasive learning tool, if we can embrace them.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

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Tonight, I watched the Neil LaBute remake of The Wicker Man, coincidentally on the same night it was shown on Film 4. Luckily my version was without advert breaks, meaning I wasted slightly less time than had I watched it on TV. Small mercies.

It starts in very much the way I imagined an American remake would play out – whereas the original takes less than a few minutes to place Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) on the island of Summerisle (inexplicably modified to Summersisle here), this incarnation takes a good twenty minutes setting up our character, with a car accident, post-traumatic stress disorder, an old flame seeking help, and a convenient bee allergy, with no payoff whatsoever. Apart from the bees. Oh, God: the bees. Unintentional comedy at its best. It’s a shame the rest of the film fails to carry the same hilarity.

The director doesn’t seem to trust his audience – we see a dream sequence harking back to a supposedly relevant incident* that occurs to Nicolas Cage earlier in the film, the fantasy demonstrated by being shot in monochrome… and a gain effect… and by cutting back (three times) to Cage sleeping. Surely just one of those techniques would have sufficed? Three is patronising overkill; I think we’d have figured it out. LaBute insists on revealing the island conspiracy to us through the inhabitant’s shifty glances, and making early reference to the titular figure which only serves to dilute the potential impact of the ending. Oh, and he has Nicolas Cage talking to “himself” (i.e. to the audience) while he sifts through the poorly concealed evidence. I refer to him as Nicolas cage, rather than his character name, simply because if Cage has ever he played himself (his increasingly frequent default setting) it is this very film. His investigation is one-note: “Agghh! Rowan! Agghh! Tell me where she is!”. Such a shame. I seem to recall that he used to be an actor.

It can only ever pale in comparison with its predecessor. Its modern setting leaves it feeling too anachronistic. For example, why didn’t he take a satellite phone with him? Or back-up? Or a rocket launcher? Unlike with Sergeant Howie, LaBute’s bastardisation goes to great lengths to stress that Nicolas Cage IS NOT A VIRGIN. Nor is he a devoutly religious man, losing the juxtaposition of the contrasting beliefs – Howie’s Christianity versus the islanders’ Paganism – and the irony of each faith failing its followers. In fact, there was a stark absence of subtlety and subtext in every aspect. The narrative hints at a supernatural element which feels out of place and is never expanded upon, leaving it entirely redundant without contributing to tone or atmosphere. Its crimes reach further than mangling one classic, though, as it also steals a number of visual riffs from Don’t Look Now.

I’m tempted to reformat the above splurge into the form of a review, but the film hasn’t even earned that. If LaBute can excuse such shoddy presentation it seems apt that my appraisal reads like an unfocused, stream-of-consciousness rant.

N.B. My distaste for this film has very little to do with the distinct lack of Britt Ekland dancing with her baps out. Very little indeed.

*Supposedly relevant. It really isn’t.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

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I’m at the horrible mid-point with my script – currently at sixty-six pages – where it feels as though I’m mired in the second act as though it was quicksand, with the more I write the deeper I sink. The trouble is, I’m being pulled in five different directions, between exposition (without dumping), building pace (without losing story focus), and character development (without sacrificing the building pace, stakes, and peril), all the while trying to balance the necessary information with the spectacle. I am constantly referring back to a quote from Jimmy McGovern:

“I’d rather be confused for ten minutes than bored for five seconds”

It’s a great ideal to strive for, but easier in theory than execution. And that’s precisely the way it should be.

If there’s one thing that is worse than film remakes it’s dishonest film remakes. I’m watching Disturbia while I write this and it is nothing more than a poor man’s Rear Window, set in present day with a fit and healthy teenage protagonist, an electronic ankle tag in place of the wheelchair. There’s something so disingenuous about ripping off the plot of another film without crediting the source material. Although, in its pretence behaving like an independent intellectual property maybe that’s as representative (and therefore as honest) of Hollywood as it gets.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

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I keep being reminded of my impending Birthday – in six days time, by the way – by everything other than my memory. I am usually acutely aware of its imminence. The age at which I am about to become, although not dreading it – no “I’ll be twenty-nine” freak-out – I’m just quite content to let the day pass. I’m not even bothered about presents. I don’t really need anything, apart from computer stuff* . I seem to be becoming less materialistic with age, not that I was particularly so inclined anyway.

I was up at 06:30 this morning. Well, awake at least. And I’ve had terrible dizzies since 18:30. I don’t know whether the two are connected, but I blame the pair for the fact that I just watched Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer. I couldn’t muster the energy to turn it off, nor do have any desire to complain about it. I think that’s probably my cue to go to bed, especially as I’ve accidentally turned on Mr. T’s* World’s Craziest Fools, another quality production from BBC Three. Look at him!  Christ, I seem to have aged more than Mr. T over the last twenty-nine years!

Unrelated: this is my favourite thing today.

* But I shall be buying that with the deposit that I have reclaimed from my vile, scheming, Irish bint of a former landlady. Ha! Take that, Zelda! That’s the evil old lady from Terrahawks, not the Nintendo character.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

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Well, I at least tried to write today, but seven hours of “work” only seemed to merit half-a-page of script, though I was sidetracked by a couple of phonecalls, only one of which resulted in me shouting at an idiot [not you, Potter]. No amount of coercion could force any further words out. I know it doesn’t work, but I always fall back into the habit.

Terrible Dialogue of the Week

Welcome to a (desperate) new segment highlighting my favourite script failures*. This week’s feature is a woefully idiotic oxymoron from an awful horror film called Mirrors, starring Kiefer Sutherland. This particular zinger managed to pass me by on first viewing two years ago (or maybe I just didn’t have the same facility to make a note of it), but while it provided a backing track for my flapjack-making I tuned in just in time for the following; during an otherwise generic exposition dump, Jack Bauer whispers at an old man:

“Do not make me threaten you!”

Isn’t that a threat? I’m pretty sure it is, and if I was the old man in question that particular attempt at intimidation would have either perplexed me into a stupor or elicited howls of laughter. Actually, that was my precise reaction as an audience member.

* This way, I get some benefit from watching content that would otherwise make me feel ashamed.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

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Bait and Switch

I’m still not quite sure why, but I watched Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on BBC Three, with both the channel and the film leaving me with a lingering sense of self-loathing. Despite enjoying the first two Tomb Raider games, I was expecting the first film adaptation to be pretty poor, but wow! That surpassed all my expectations, so atrocious it was. I actually felt embarrassed for director Simon West. Well, that was until I checked out his filmography on imdb.

Simon West, the poor-man’s Renny Harlin, responsible for the so-bad-it’s-still-bad-no-matter-what-idiots-say Con Air and the paranoia-inducing, Jason Statham vehicle (a shameful indictment in of itself) The Mechanic. OK, pretty poor stuff, but delve a little deeper and West’s more insidious plan becomes apparent: in 1987, West directed the video for Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. Suddenly, it all makes sense: every Simon West film ever made is nothing but an elaborate Rickroll (for the lulz, or something). Put that way, it kind of validates his entire career.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

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