Monday, 3 November 2014

5 Reasons Elementary is More Original than Sherlock

As you can guess, I haven't been blogging the last month or so, but I am back again, with an article I wrote for another place  - which ultimately never got used - but which I am quite proud of.

I love the series Sherlock,  with its fast-paced editing and visuals, its funny, clever scripts and Benedict Cumberbatch giving that wonderful, ever so English, electric performance. I am a fan, and when Elementary was first announced years ago, I must admit I shook my head and sighed mockingly. How could it compare to the beloved BBC's Sherlock? It was set in America for starters! Sherlock Holmes was British! It wouldn't take - it wouldn't be as good.

So, imagine my joyous surprise when I finally watched the series and discovered that, firstly Elementary was brilliant, and secondly, that it was more original than Sherlock. Yes, do not adjust your computer screens Sherlock fans, I honestly think it is!

I'm not saying one is better than the other, but rather Elementary did things differently. Whilst the BBC series is essentially the distilled spirit of the old stories shot straight into the 21st century, Elementary dared to take the characters in new directions, to adapt them to a more modern world and to try out new ideas. 

Warning though! SPOILERS ahead!

1] Watson is a Woman

Perhaps one of the biggest changes Elementary dared to make. Turning Watson from the traditionally male, slightly bumbling British sidekick, into a smart, sensible female Chinese-American surgeon. In retrospect the leap is quite dramatic, particularly when you consider that this is probably the first time there's ever been a female Watson on television, let alone one that isn't British!

It was also rather risky. By making Watson female the series so easily could've fallen into the 'will-they-won't-they' trap, much like Starbuck and Apollo in the new Battlestar Galactica. Yet the relationship between Joan and Sherlock is spot on, and is believably and obviously platonic - in fact there are more romantic sparks between Cumberbatch and Freeman's Holmes and Watson, if you believe the YouTube videos.

Played brilliantly by Lucy Liu, in the longer series format Joan Watson also seems to get more developed in Elementary with a tragic past of her own, as well as a life outside of Sherlock and the brownstone. Here we watch her come into her own as a character, developing and learning throughout the series.

2] The New Dynamic

In Elementary Watson and Holmes are brought together with more purpose than in Sherlock. In the latter series Holmes merely requires a room-mate at first to share the rent on Baker Street. Whilst in Elementary, Joan is a sober companion, hired to help Holmes readjust to living outside of rehab, creating a slightly new dynamic between the characters.

Now, instead of Watson just being dragged into Holmes' world basically through proximity, we find she actually has a reason to be at his side all the time. This also causes extra tension between them, because Watson now has a more powerful role. As Holmes' sober companion Joan has expectations and goals for him, to help him back into normal life. Meanwhile Holmes of course, is unwilling to participate, seeing very little purpose in AA meetings and sponsors. It also means that in the first series we are never fully certain if Joan and Sherlock will actually team up - Joan is only meant to spend a few weeks with Sherlock, so will she stay or go at the end of the series?

3] Holmes' Addiction

Holmes' habit of using drugs was only vaguely hinted at in Sherlock, but never discussed out loud or head on, despite the detective's tendency to use drugs being present in the original stories - though, remember back in Victorian England the drug laws weren't anyway near as restrictive as now.

Here however, the writers do not shy away from this, and instead take the opportunity to give Holmes a darker backstory, an extra layer to his character and a good reason to move him out of England - by having him fall into a full on heroin addiction. Admittedly when the series starts this has happened in the past, but of course the vigilance required to stay sober, the damage he has done to others and his continued recovery all keep the shadow of his addiction in the foreground - there is always a danger he relapses.

This not only adds more emotion and drama to the series, but it gives the series a more grown-up, modern feel. Elementary deals with the fact Holmes takes drugs, and not only brings it up to date, but tackles it in a more open, mature and realistic way than Sherlock does.

4] Holmes' is More Human

We've always know that Holmes is a detached, antisocial genius who's main interest lies more in the puzzle than the people - and that is true of Holmes in both series. Nonetheless, the Holmes in Elementary displays more emotion, more sympathy and warmth, than his counterpart in Sherlock. He is more considerate, more vulnerable and most importantly, he did truly fall in love Irene Adler.

In Sherlock, Holmes is obviously attracted to Irene, but it's more a meeting of wits and sexual tension - and at the end of the day he never admits to any feelings like love. Meanwhile in Elementary, Holmes does fall genuinely and completely in love with Irene, much to his own surprise - and freely admits it too. It is only when it ends badly that he decides never to let such an emotion distract him again, quite understandably.

Although this diverges slightly from the more traditional, almost emotionless Holmes, making the character more empathic and open does allow the show to explore avenues that colder versions of Holmes cannot - such as the isolation of being a genius, and the fear of destroying or burning oneself out.

5] Irene Adler is Moriarty

This was not only an incredible twist, but incredibly clever. Again whilst Sherlock stuck to a firmly male Moriarty who was just rather camp and on the crazy side, Elementary totally shook up any expectations we had, combining Holmes' only love interest with his arch-nemesis - giving a whole new meanings to their rivalry. In Elementary Moriarty toys with Holmes' emotions in a way Sherlock's villain never could - lets be honest, strapping John to a bomb is scary, but pretending to have been violently murdered and tipping your lover into a heroin addiction is just on a completely new plane of torture. In this series Moriarty, though somewhat accidentally, destroyed Holmes and his life in London from the inside out - you can see just in the way he reacts to finding Irene alive how much this has impacted him.

The other thing that makes this new direction such a stroke of genius, is that you've basically created a love-hate relationship between Holmes and Moriarty, but where the 'love' was at one point literal. The emotional mess the past causes for both characters means that future encounters are not only going to be a battle of wits, but a struggle of emotions. Holmes has more reason to want to stop Moriarty in this series than in any other. She is not only a criminal mastermind, casually killing people to aid her own vast schemes, but she screwed him over emotionally - a reason for a personal vendetta doesn't get much more personal.

So that's my opinion.... but what do you guys think? Write in the comments below!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Humans Movie - The food bites back!

Yes, that's right, I'm involved in feature length zombie film. It's been written and produced by the company I work for Red Dog Film - and I am really excited about it! I helped the writer develop the first draft of the script, was a runner on the trailer we created - which won an award from Celtx for its script, and which you can see below.

I am now helping to run a crowdfund campaign for it, including its Twitter feed and on Facebook page. 

The film, called Humans, is a twist on the zombie movie genre, with the zombies being the good guys and the humans being - gasp - the monsters! It begins in World War II, with the British trying to create a super solider. This creations are actually zombies, and they are let loose during an attempted raid by the Nazis, and soon the whole world is overrun and taken over by zombies. 

But it doesn't stop there, the zombies evolve into a society of their own, only for it come full circle, when humans return - now becoming the scary, monsters of the tale. 

The film, as I said is being crowdfunded via Indiegogo - check out the page here! - where you can find out even more information and watch the pitch video presented by the very cool director Phil Stevens. 

We're also running a design a zombie competition as one of the perks, with the winning entries being turned into real characters in the finished film. To enter just donate to the the Indiegogo page and then upload a design on to the Humans on our Facebook page.

As I said in the beginning, I am honestly excited about this film. I love the concept for the film - its going to be full of World War II costumes and settings, zombies and dark humour -and I really want to see the characters I met on the page live, and breathe, and be loved by an audience via the big screen too. But of course the only way that can happen is if we have the support of the horde (excuse the pun) of zombie film fans out there! So please, please, check it out at - or our Facebook page!

Okay that's enough links for now! Zombie on people. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

3 Reasons Why You're Not Writing That Script Right Now

So, last week I finished reading Caitlin Moran's newest novel, How To Build a Girl, and decided for once to carry on reading into the acknowledgements at the end - the book was that good. In typical humorous style, the author decided to open her acknowledgements by explaining how it felt to write a book - which according to her, was basically worse than giving birth, in hell. Then dying, being brought back and having to have to give birth again -  and so the description goes on. 

It was very funny, but also a rather comforting truth, to be reminded that even for a professional writer, writing can be hard, very hard. As anyone who's written a script or a book knows, there are all sorts of reasons you can end up not writing at all - which is a huge problem. If you're not writing, you're not really not being a writer - and that's when you have to sit and down and think, okay, why I am not writing? And what I can do about it? 

Well today I'm here to help with this list of reasons/excuses that prevent people from writing - drawn from own experience, as an often not writing-writer myself, and from  a variety of articles, posts, books and videos on writing. 

1] Procrastination

This is one of the biggies. How often have you heard the old anecdote about the scriptwriter discovering they suddenly had a wonderfully clean house and a very blank page? 

Procrastination is a real killer, not only because can you get caught up in just thinking about doing something, sometimes you can caught up in stages of actually doing it - for example, when you become stuck researching a topic for a script. Good thorough research is worthwhile and should be done, especially if a script is historical, but it is a finite stage - at some point you have to start writing the script. 

2] You Think Have No Time

I recently started watching a vlog presented by one of favourite actors David Hewlett - its worth checking out here. Anyway, one his videos dealt with writing hints and tips, where he basically said - if you say you don't have time to write you're lying, because you always find time for what you love.

I think is probably true too. Obviously if you're just breaking into scriptwriting or any writing career, who will have a day job to pay the bills - and maybe not just one either. Nonetheless, if you can find time shop online, to watch a film, to go to the pub - then you  have time to write. Remember you don't need a whole day, or even an hour, just five or ten minutes a day helps - and technology has made it easier write anywhere. You can find Celtx and other scriptwriting apps for your phone. All need is a little WiFi and you could be making writing during your coffee break or on the train.

So if you're find yourself thinking, I don't have time, ask yourself - do you really have not time, or are you giving yourself an excuse to procrastinate and avoid writing? 

3] You're Distracted By Too Many Ideas

Again whilst watching Hewlett's video, there was made mention of having too many ideas and becoming distracted - and I immediately realised this was a problem I had. I kept having new ideas, and getting excited and engaged in one, getting as far as developing a storyline in my head, perhaps even write a few pages, and then - I'd have a new idea or go back to an old one, leaving the last idea unfinished in the gutter.  How much completed work did I get done? Answer - zero.

Ideas need to be developed, and if you feel you are ready to plunge researched and turned into draft scripts. If they are not ready, they should be put in a drawer - or at least most of them. Because another I have learnt, from a script feedback session, is that you need to have several scripts, pitches and treatments to hand to show producers and other people. 

This has led me to think that you should have a few projects on the go, preferable at different stages. Edit one script, whilst writing a treatment for another and perhaps developing a pitch for another sort of thing. This would also give some variety, so you don't get bogged down in just one story world and set of characters, and means if you're stuck on one story you can take time out and work on another. 

So that's my list. There are lots more reasons of course, and I intend to look into those throughout the next few weeks and months, along with hints and tips. If you have any suggestions or advice on how to get writing then please comment below!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Review: Frances Ha

When I first saw the trailers and reviews for Frances Ha (2012) I was pretty excited. This was a new black and white comedy film, set in New York - and I envisaged it as possibly a modern-day Manhattan, but with a eccentric female protagonist in the lead. Perhaps a bit more artsy and more openly serious than Woody Allen's style, but hopefully somewhere in that ball-park. 

The film follows Frances, a woman in her late twenties, as she moves from place to place across New York and further a field over a indeterminable period of time. She starts off living with her best friend Sophie, as she attempts to become a professional dancer. However, when Sophie decides to move to a more expensive apartment it causes a rupture in their friendship, and Frances is left drifting from rented place to rented place, whilst it becomes clearer and clearer that she's not going to be taken on by the dance company. As the year progresses their friendship is tested further and further, as Frances bumbles along alone, broke but still hoping to become a dancer. 

Though I applaud Frances Ha for being about a more realistic woman - a woman who is going though a horrible drifting period of not having a secure job or home and for whom the most important things in her life are her friendship and her career - I can't honestly say I found it funny. 

There were a few moments, a few lines here and there which I noticed - such as 'Ahoy sexy' which  I love - but otherwise I found very little to laugh about in it. To me it felt more sad and slow. I think part of it is recognising that feeling of being stalled in your life, when everyone seems to be doing fine and you're still scrambling away trying to find a foothold - a job, a home, something to say at the dinner table. Yet at the same time, Frances living in New York basically hopping from apartment to apartment, is so far removed from my own experience it seems almost alien at the same at time as being a little familiar - but that's just my person opinion. 

There also quite a few moments, random moments, that I assumed were meant to highlight her everyday life, but didn't seem to add much to the plot. So, she is had an old chair that wouldn't fit in her storage container and had to leave it on the pavement with a sign to take it for free? Yes it reiterates the fact she has no permanent home of her own, but it surely could have been incorporated into another scene with dialogue. The only one of these scenes I really enjoyed was one of her dancing down the street, enjoying the moment, doing what she loves. I love a good dance scene too.

There's also a scene where she has to run to ATM because she has promised to pay for her date's dinner. I liked that scene, I had to go on a similar quest for an ATM once. However, I wasn't impressed when said Frances fell over running back to the restaurant. I felt this was a bit of a cheap attempt at physical humour. You can't even say it was meant to happen to get her to her date's flat. It seemed like that would've have happened scraped elbow or no scraped elbow.

I like parts of Frances Ha - the black and white, Frances, the friendship - but somehow the whole just feels dour, and most of all I really don't find it that funny. Frances is a funny character but the circumstances she is living in are not, and it pulls her and us down into a basically a quiet, drama about everyday life.

In summary: I really wanted to like Frances Ha but in the end I just didn't find it funny. Whether its because I just didn't get the jokes, I don't know. Otherwise, not a bad film about an uncomfortable period in a young woman's life, though it does meander, and the action unrolls slowly and indulgently. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Tribute to Robin Williams

This huge, sad story has been all over the news recently, so I just had to post something. Robin Williams, one of the most beloved and universally recognised actors has died. 

I wish I could say I was a surprised, but unfortunately over the last few years so many wonderful actors have died that, I didn't even really question it when I first saw the news. Nonetheless, it is still tragic considering the fact that Robin Williams died young for this day and age, and most sad of all, took his own life. 

And then I wondered, if it doesn't sound to strangely selfish, what Robin Williams meant to me - because in the end, what else can an audience or film viewer ask? And the answer is, a lot. I realised that Robin Williams had an important part of my childhood movie experience. I had grown up watching Aladdin (1992), Jumanji (1995), Ferngully (1992) and Hook (1991). Films I shall always have a great fondness for - even still love. I mean Aladdin is just brilliant! Even into adulthood it is still one of my favourite Disney films, and Robin Williams is a huge part of its brilliance. An irreplaceable, integral part.

He was also the first actor I ever realised was the voice of someone from a Disney film, perhaps even the first voice actor I realised existed or recognised at all. 

I also remember watching him in Bicentennial Man (1999), one of the few movies that made me cry. The fact I only caught it the once on my home television, and that yet I still remember it so avidly is kind of justification itself for the impact it had - and in retrospect, Williams perform was subtle, and moving. Something I doubt I appreciated at the time, again because I was young. 

I need to watch that film again, and Jumanji, because in the end, I think, that's the best tribute you can give to an actor or a filmmaker. I'm sure I've said it before, about Gordon Willis and Elizabeth Sladen, but that's because I believe it's true. Enjoy what they created, watch their films. Laugh, and cry, and enjoy them - and they will never be forgotten. Robin Williams is the genie Aladdin and always will be, and hopefully not just for my generation, but all the next ones too.

Note: In this post I have not discussed the depression/mental illness that caused Williams to take his own life, even though there has been quite a bit of media connecting the actor with these issues. I just wanted to say that I do appreciate the issue of mental health and depression, and actively spread awareness about them, however I felt this blog was not really the place for an in-depth piece into those issues. I encourage everyone to do research into mental health to gain a better understanding of it and the help available.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Top 5: Not So Dumb Blondes on TV

Another top five again I'm afraid, still very busy! However, this one is a little of bit of an unusual one.  I was thinking about an old episode of The Simpsons the other day, where Lisa finds herself being discriminated against because she is blonde. 

The episode had a good point, I've heard a few blonde jokes in my day, but it also made me realise that actually I've seen several blonde characters on TV who are were very intelligent. In fact, I've not really noticed any dumb blonde stereotypes, which hopefully means that certain negative stereotypes are becoming obsolete. 

Then again, when writing this list, two of the characters that came to mind have been on previous top five lists - which means either I have to watch more TV, or there is a small pool of characters to choose from. In the end though I did manage to think of more.

Anyway, here's my list of the top five blonde characters, who definitely are not dumb. Please tell me what you think about this subject in the comments!

1] Lisa Simpson - The Simpsons

The character who inspired this list is of course blonde, not that I really registered it until now thanks to her equally yellow toned skin. Lisa is academically very intelligent, a lover of literature, art and jazz. She is a member of MENSA, and gets involved in a variety of scientific pursuits such as astronomy and meteorology, as well as artistic ones such as music. Basically an all round Renaissance woman! 

2] Buffy Summers - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Perhaps not an obvious choice at first, but Buffy has a great variety of skills. She has street smarts, knows alot about the supernatural, and of course, and excels in martial arts and self-defence. On top of this, she proves to be academically above average when she gets a good result on her SAT tests, which gives her a variety of college options in one episode.

3] Seven of Nine - Star Trek: Voyager

A human turned Borg, Seven of Nine is basically a genius who's Borg knowledge gives her a technological edge over her Starfleet counterparts. In fact she is so smart, she is even invited to join a group of genius aliens, a sort of think tank, in one episode. As well as her scientific expertise, she is also an accomplished pianist and singer. She also helped create and run Voyager's astrometrics lab.  

4] Bernadette Wolotiz - The Big Bang Theory

A microbiologist working for a big pharmaceutical company, Bernadette was originally introduced as Penny fellow waitress friend at the Cheesecake Factory. However, it soon transpired she was doing the job to pay off tuition fees, and was working towards a PhD. As well as her study of microbiology, Bernadette proves in one episode to have a good knowledge of physics, and particularly experimental physics, when she shows interest in Leonard's work. 

5] Romana II - Doctor Who

A Timelord who joined the Doctor with the sole purpose of helping him find an ancient and dangerous device, Romana not only matched the Doctor in intelligence but hinted at having left the Timlord's Academy with better test scores - she left with a triple first! Blonde here in her second incarnation, she was also more relaxed but nonetheless still extremely clever. In one episode it turns out she has even built her own sonic screwdriver, with which she helps repair a spaceship, and which the Doctor seemingly tries to nick. In spin-off media Romana continues to do well beyond her travels with the Doctor, and becomes President of Gallifrey itself.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Top 5: Sherlock Holmes TV and Film Adaptions - with a Twist

Its been very busy the last few weeks for me, hence the lack of posts. However, I do have a television review in mind, but as with series reviews it takes longer to watch all the content.

So in the meantime, I have decided to list my top five adaptions of the Sherlock Holmes stories, for television and film, with a twist. It is interesting to note that many of these adaptions are quite recent - the last decade or show - revealing that there has been a revival of interest in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. 

1] Sherlock (TV) - The Modern Take

The first Sherlock Holmes series to be set in modern day London, as far as I know, rather than the fog and fug of the Victorian era - but Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' adaption is still very much the traditional Sherlock Holmes. Their love and knowledge of the original stories shines though, whilst Benedict Cumberbatch's quirky, serious, well spoken Holmes could easily be placed in either the 1900's or 2000's. This series also stands out with its incredible editing techniques and use of text within the series, which really visualises Holme's thinking in a very unique and active way. 

2] Elementary (TV) - In America

Another modern retelling that sets Holmes and Watson in the present day, and in present day America to boot. Some people might find the removal of Holmes from his native London rather odd, but this series shows he can work perfectly well anywhere in the world. Some very smart changes bring Holmes addiction to the forefront and give Dr Watson, now a woman, a new reason to be there - he is a recovering addict, and she is his sober companion, there to help him through his transition from rehab to living independently again. This gives the Holmes and Watson a fresh new take, one which I think works nicely in the modern setting. 

3] Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (TV) - In The Future

A cartoon series that I watched as a child, this was what first introduced me to Sherlock Holmes - it succeed very well, in that I actually read a few of the stories. Set in a futuristic London of flying cars, this cartoon had a rather concept - that Sherlock Holmes was preserved in honey, and has had to be revived after someone clones Moriarty. He is teamed up with the female descendant of Lestrade and a police robot, that is given nickname, and basically becomes, Watson. Looking back at the episodes it seems a bit clunky now, but the stories were aimed at children and it is nonetheless,  still a great concept. 

4] Sherlock Holmes (Film) - The Action Blockbuster

The first Sherlock Holmes film in years, Guy Richie kept the traditional setting and set up, but altered the tone slightly by making everything faster and more obviously action packed. I think this drew some criticism at the time, making a few argue that Holmes and Watson do actually physically fight in the stories its just rather skimmed over. Nonetheless, these films are not only exciting and epic in the scale which London is portrayed, but despite all the big blockbuster looks Holmes brilliance is still at the centre of it all, with the man himself being played wonderfully by a hyper Robert Downy Jr. 

5] Without a Clue (Film) - Watson is Sherlock 

What you might be asking? Yes, this film may have the traditional Victorian setting, the pipe, the hat, the London cabbies - but then it goes and turns the whole formula upside time with one simple idea. What if Watson was actually the brains? What it creates is an excellent comedic twist on the Sherlock Holmes canon, with Ben Kingsley portraying Watson as the actual genius who has hired an actor, played by Michael Caine, to pretend to be the great detective Sherlock Holmes and draw the limelight away from himself. A light hearted comedy that worth is watch. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review: Thoughtcrimes

Apologises for the long gap between posts, I've been very busy the last few weeks, socially and work wise, and I have been somewhat lacking in inspiration for posts. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, I've happened to watch one of the dullest sci-fi I've ever seen last weekend, so I now have something to ramble about. 

A science fiction thriller from director Breck Eisner,Thoughtcrimes (2003), film follows a young woman called Freya, played by Navi Rawat, who in the great tradition of X-men and Scanners, inexplicable gains the power to hear other people's thoughts during her prom night. Overwhelmed by the noise of the voices, she is put into a mental hospital with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, where is lives and learns to some degree block out the voices by reading, however she is so preoccupied by this, that she accidentally drives her sister away in the process.

Eventually is taken away by a doctor who explains she has a gift and helps her train it. Of course it turns out his motivations aren't completely honest and Freya is expected to help out the NSA. After some resistance she agrees and with the help of  NSA agent Brendan Dean, played by Joe Flannigan (from Stargate Atlantis), she stops an assassin, re-unites with her sister and the film ends happily ever after.

As might be event by the my synopsis one of the first issues I noticed with this film is its terrible pacing, what visually just felt wrong, like the editor was evenly spacing the scenes and the time we spent there. Things seemed to happen at a rolling, leisurely pace, and though the set-up and training was interesting, I felt like it could've been summed up in a much shorter space of time. Meanwhile, Brendan Dean, the agent she works with and who is obviously meant to be an important character, doesn't turn up for ages - in fact I am suspicious his introduction doesn't happen until the middle of the film.

On top of this, I realised that the writer had failed to give our main character any personal stakes in the main plot line. True, her sister is threatened at the end of the film, but that's more down to bad timing than anything. Otherwise there's no reason for her to care about an assassin killing someone - other than being a good person and perhaps feeling sorry for the poor guy she meets who got caught in his last attack.

This brings me to the third problem, Freya has no character arc, and no character development. That's something you can't get away with generally with a main character in films. Films primary follow characters not just on external journeys, like going to Mordor, but in internal journeys. Freya does not learn anything, she does not change. True, she perhaps gains confidence in her abilities and self, after being locked away in a hospital - but there's nothing to really to gauge against that. At the beginning of the film she has no goals or desires,other than going to prom. The only thing she loses when she's put away is her family, and that how close she is to them is never really demonstrated. Her father dies, but we never meet him, and she only talks about him once. On top of that, she basically has no obstacles to overcome either - she has no flaws and she learns to control her power quite easily once teamed with the doctor. There is basically nothing really stopping her gaining her goal. If she had a goal.

I could go on, but I personally think its obvious that the script needed a serious rewrite, as its managed to avoid a rather vital component - a main character we can invest in. I was much more interested in Joe Flannigan's character, and not just because I enjoy watching the Stargate actor, but because it was slightly more developed. The Brendan Dean character at least had job worries and opinions about the NSA and his colleagues. Freya was just bland. She reacted in the basic way most characters do react when gaining a superpower and not much more.

Despite all this though, Thoughtcrimes does have a neat concept, and the latter half of the film with Brendan Dean and Freya cracking the case is actually good fun to watch. The way she uses her powers is brilliant, she doesn't just read minds, she can see what others picture in their mind's eye, can see what they're going to do next.

In this respect, I think the basic concept itself would have made, and could still make, a great television series, a cop buddy sci-fi crime show with the goofy male cop and the telepathic female, and in some respects the film did feel like a clunky written television pilot.

In summary

Thoughtcrimes is a neat concept,that if you had the right actors and writers could make a good television series. As a film though it fails in several departments: the protagonist is bland, there are no great stakes, the pacing feels off and I didn't even mention the music that never seemed quite right - I'm afraid choral does not work in chase scenes unless its Gold Murray doing it.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Top 5: Unexpected Actors to Spot in Woody Allen films

Over the last couple of years I've watched and read about quite a lot of Woody Allen's work, and have kept being surprised and amused to spot famous actors I'd never have expected to see in his films - actors who would've have been starting out in their careers back then, but are famous for other things now. 

[1] Helena Bonham Carter - Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

Perhaps most famous now for her regular appearances in Tim Burton's films, as well as her work in period films, in this Manhattan tale with a Greek chorus twist, Bonham-Carter plays Allen's on-screen wife Amanda - and gives a wonderfully subtle and believable performance.

[2] John C Reilly - Shadows and Fog (1991)

Well-known now for his silly comedies and great dramatic performances in films like Chicago, you can spot a very young John C Reilly - this is his fifth credit as an actor on IMDb - in this black and white thriller as a cop in a police station. You have to watch careful though, as its easy to miss it!

[3] Liam Neeson - Husbands and Wives (1992)

Liam Neeson seems to have recently gained a reputation as an action star and general badass thanks to the film Taken - which is why its so amusing to see actor play a romantic lover in this documentary-style comedy about marriage. And no, don't expect that phone scene in this movie...

[4] Mayim Bialik - Don't Drink the Water (1994)

Mayim Bialik is of course most famous for playing Amy, the geeky girlfriend of Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. But as a young actress she also in this television movie based on Allen's play, alongside geek icon Michael J Fox aka Marty McFly! 

[5] Anthony Head, Alexander Armstrong and Charles Dance - Scoop (2006)

This fun crime caper comedy set in England is a lighthearted Allen gem, that I'm sad more people haven't seen - partly because a load of British actors manage to turn up in a variety of small and major roles throughout. However, my favourite cameos came from these three actors. In one scene, and only one scene we have Anthony Head, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and comedian Alexander Armstrong, from Pointless, playing a bobby and a detective. Then there's also Charles Dance, who is currently playing Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones of course, who turns up as practical newspaper editor.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Tribute: Gordon Willis 1931 - 2014

Over the last couple of years I have become a big fan of Woody Allen films and have grown to appreciate not just the talents of the director but of the whole crew - including the wonderful cinematographer Gordon Willis, who unfortunately passed away this week. 

Gordon Willis is famous for his collaborations with Allen, as well as his work on The Godfather trilogy, Klute (1971) and All The President's Men (1976).  Apparently known as The Prince of Darkness in the industry, because of his use of shadow, he was one of Allen's favourite DoP's to work with, and shot the iconic Manhattan poster image of Queensboro bridge. 

Despite his reputation as one of the best cinematographers of his time, and having worked on several films that later would gain the status of classics, he was only nominated twice for an Oscar, the first for Zelig (1983) and the second for The Godfather Part III (1990). Surprisingly, he wasn't nominated for his work on Manhattan, despite its incredible imagery, or my personal favourite, A Midsummer's Night's Sex Comedy, with the glorious shots of an Edwardian summer in the country. 

Anyway, I think the best tribute to give Gordon Willis, is to go and watch his work. If you haven't seen one of his films, go watch a one! If you have, re-watch it again and remind yourself why he was so good.

I also recommend checking out the BFI tribute, his career in 12 pictures and No Film School's article, which includes video interviews with the great man himself.