Month: May 2015

Predator Dark Ages raises the bar for fan films.

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I mentioned Predator Dark Ages before a while back and I also wrote a review for Geek Pride before it premièred at MCM this past weekend but I thought I would mention it here again as it is now available to view and I’m one of the people who backed their crowd funding campaign.

Generally when it comes to fan films the passion and enthusiasm from those involved makes up for whatever it may lack in  production values and as much as I admired the concept and ideas behind Predator Dark Ages I wasn’t really expecting anything that different, then I watched it and it blew whatever preconceived notions I might have had into pieces.

Predator Dark Ages raises the bar for fan films simply put, in fact calling it a fan film seems to be somewhat derogatory for what the team of writer/director James Busche and DP Simon Dowling have achieved which is an incredibly well produced and well shot short film with a great cast based on a concept which is far more interesting the last big screen outing for the alien hunter.

Mad Max Fury Road

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Mad Max and its two sequels The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome remain some of the best B movie cult cinema there is starring a then unknown Mel Gibson and set in a post apocalyptic world in the badlands of Australia, a world where society has collapsed and oil is a scarce valued commodity.

George Miller’s sand choked world of warring gangs, desperate communities and vehicular combat has influenced numerous others in the years since its release with Beyond Thunderdome the third film being originally released in 1985, which to younger generations means centuries ago. The idea that the long mooted fourth Mad Max film is here in 2015 is a bit surreal really.

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The original trilogy were made on shoestring budgets even Beyond Thunderdome, the biggest production of the three, had a budget which amounts to peanuts compared to today’s blockbusters. Anyone who’s wondered what a Mad Max film would be like with a megabucks budget doesn’t need to wonder anymore but it does pose the question of whether a B movie is still a B movie if it has a blockbuster budget?

Marketing is a strange thing in film, especially now, where trailers are often packed with spoilerific highlights taken out of context, bereft of atmosphere and almost always undermine the viewers enjoyment of a film when it actually turns up and is inevitably disappointing being a victim of its own unending hype machine.

When the first trailer for Mad Max Fury Road turned up it pretty much blew everything away with its sheer visceral insanity but contrary to the norm the film itself more than lives up to the hype.

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Fury Road finds Max ,this time played by Tom Hardy, allying with the headstrong Furiosa, Charlize Theron, who is determined to find redemption by betraying her cruel master warlord Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne (who played villian Toecutter in the original film). 

One thing that’s become distinctly apparent in film in the last decade or so is the slow saturation of digital FX, 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day wowed cinemagoers with its use of digital FX work but it was also reliant on the time honoured use of practical FX to ground the narrative in a believable real world. Since then though that duality has been pretty much lost leading to films which are all spectacle with nothing grounding them in the “real” world and coming off like confusing cartoons which rather than sucking you into the narrative push you out (see any of the Transformers films but especially Revenge of the Fallen onwards).

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George Miller isn’t having any of that though Mad Max Fury Road is two hours of real in your face vehicular carnage featuring some of the most insane stunts seen in film in years, and that’s not just empty hyperbole. There are digital FX here but they’re used the way they should be to enhance the practical FX.  Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris have triumphed where many assumed they would utterly fail, Fury Road leaves everything choking in the dust.

Watching the carnage unfold, Fury Road is in essence a feature length chase sequence, it not only highlights just how bad most modern action films are but also highlights the awe inspiring magic that is mostly missing from cinema now. Miller has apparently riled “mens rights activists” for a whole bunch of bullshit reasons but mainly because of his “feminist agenda” ironically though he’s also made one of the best action oriented films in years so maybe that says something about having a “feminist agenda”.

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Hardy is great as the stoic Max haunted by visions and nightmares and definitely living up to his prefix “Mad” whilst Theron’s Furiosa is arguably even more of a badass than Hardy’s Max in a role which is surely one of her all time best, Nicholas Hoult also gets a good turn as Nux.

The real star here though is the insane world that Miller has created with warlord Immortan Joe and his domain being just one small part of it, there’s no stodgy exposition here to explain things it just is and you have to hold on for the ride as Miller and co hit the gas.

Palmiotti and Gray return to the Old West with Abbadon

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Based on a screenplay by Spencer Marstiller and written by long time writing partners Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Abbadon is the latest crowdfunded graphic novel from Paper Films this time co-produced with Adaptive Studios.

Palmiotti and Gray are returning to the Old West something the pair have ample experience of having written one of the most consistently impressive and underrated comics from DC Comics in Jonah Hex and it’s successor All Star Western for several years. This time though the pair aiming squarely atAbbadon_2 mature readers .

The Old West, America circa 1880 and Abbadon is a sprawling Old West town and whilst it might be poised to have an influx of investors the town is still a vice ridden den of inequity where money, influence and power can get you just about anything. Things are getting distinctly worse though as Abbadon is plagued by a series of brutal and grisly murders with Abaddon’s Sheriff Colt Dixon and U.S. Marshall Wes Garrett, a man famous for tracking down notorious killer “Bloody Bill” who left a trail of mutilated men, women and children in his wake before being apprehended. The pair are on the hunt searching for the elusive killer but in a place like Abaddon everyone is a suspect.

For some reason despite the vast number of comics being produced Western comics still seem rather rare, a gap in the market that Paperfilms are all too happy to take advantage of in style. Despite being a self contained story Abaddon reads like what could be the pilot episode for a HBO style TV show, probably owing to its origins as a screenplay it’s easy to see how the titular town could serve as the fertile setting for a wealth of stories.

The various tropes associated with Western stories are here but executed with style there’s the mayor of questionable integrity in the form of Jacob Sullivan, the grizzled rogue Sheriff Colt Dixon, the out of town lawman U.S. Marshall Wes Garrett and Rosie the madame of Abaddon’s whorehouse The Rose Petal.

Abbadon_1Abbadon’s story is a taught and propulsive narrative with no filler and all the better for it as Dixon and Garrett try to uncover the identity of the elusive killer who keeps leaving grotesquely displayed corpses for the pair to find. What’s interesting is the way that the narrative plays with the contrast of perception versus reality, Sullivan isn’t so much bothered about the apprehension of the murderer for the safety and well being of the citizens of his town but rather the perception that he has been caught and how that will reflect on him as the mayor and a businessman looking for investors for his town.

Palmiotti and Gray’s writing is just one element though the art is another and artist Fabrizio Fiorentino along with colourist Alessia Nocera deliver with style. The discovery of the first victim is a particularly gruesome but impressive introduction to how things are in Abbadon and the imagery which accompanies the story of Garrett’s famous encounter with Bloody Bill is another highlight.

Paperfilms have produced numerous books via crowdfunding and Abbadon is just the latest example of why each campaign is successful.

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