Wednesday, April 25, 2018

My latest short film

Check out another short film I have helped to make recently.

I say 'recently', it took about six months to get it made - mainly because the editing process was quite painful (in terms of CGI effects) and life/work got in the way.

Still, I'm pretty proud of it and quite a few people who've seen it have enjoyed it, so that makes me happy. ;-)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

This week I have been mostly... w/b 02/04/18

Week beginning: 02/04/18

No. of evening meetings: 0 (woohoo!)
Films watched: 3
Healthy eating: Bad (it's the Easter hols)
Mental health: OK

The post-Easter period is a bit of a funny one as the kids are off school and I tend to keep working. Not only that, there are lots of chocolate and other Easter treats in the house which means I find it hard to avoid the crappy food.

Workwise, apart from the ton of editing to do I had a meeting to discuss an animation project and helped to film a wedding on the Saturday. I don't like working Saturdays, and I'm not a big fan of weddings either but was doing it as a favour. Luckily I wasn't filming all day and managed to head home about 3 o'clock.

We are in the process of preparing for fostering full-time (not for a while yet, though - it's probably still a few years away), but as part of the process we are helping out where we can to get some experience. We had out first proper tast of it this week with a little boy who is just under two years of age that came to stay for a bit. It went really well and we're hoping to continue helping out in the future.

I went to see Ready Player One this week, and entered the cinema with a bit of trepidation (mainly because I'd seen some mixed reviews accusing it of being nothing but a vacuous nostalgia-fest, but also because I really enjoyed the book and knew that a lot had been changed to fit it into a movie). Thankfully, I enjoyed it. It was really good fun, and had lots of great moments. I think I will try and write a proper review at some point.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

This week I have been mostly... w/b 26/03/18

Week beginning: 26/03/18

No. of evening meetings: 0 (woohoo!)
Films watched: 3
Healthy eating: Good (ish - apart from the Easter treats)
Mental health: OK (with a bit of a dip)

Well, I managed to miss last week, so I am including that one as well.

The previous week was dominated by a couple of filming assignments - one was filming a conference in Cardiff and the other was a promotional film for an international company based in Stevenage. The latter required an overnight stay (in a Premier Inn, which was a bit *meh*). The filming itself didn't take long but travelling home took over five hours (!) and then I went to the school pub quiz (we didn't win). The following morning I had to go to a leadership training course before being official photographer at our church Easter party. Needless to say, I was pretty knackered after all of that.

This week number one son JKY was ill with tonsilitis, so I had to mostly be on hand to keep an eye on him. I was feeling a bit down at the beginning of the week, but I think it had something to do with exhaustion and am feeling better now. Other than that, it's been a fairly uneventful week although I have been reminded of the importance of tenacity and to never give up on something even when it seems hopeless.

I was helping a local charity we're involved with try and set up their YouTube channel, but they wanted to be able to link to their website to encourage people to donate. I don't know much time I spent on this trying to make it work but couldn't figure it out. I kept coming up against roadblock after roadblock. The only way you can have clickable links to your website on your videos is if you are a member of YouTube's partnership programme, but you can only join if you have over a 1,000 subscribers and something like 4,000 hours of video content. Seeing as this charity has only just set up their channel, all seemed lost.

At this point, I gave up. I said there was no way we could take this forward ... until someone pointed out that YouTube has a special programme for non-profits which didn't have such strict requirements. In fact, you only needed a basic account to join. There were a few more hurdles to jump after that, but eventually .... eventually we made it and now everything works.

I'm not usually a quitter, per se, but I know I'm not the most tenacious of people either. I will keep going at something if I feel it's got a good chance of success. If it seems impossible or very very unlikely, chances are I will give up.

I've always believed in the principle of working hard at achieving something, but equally I feel that sometimes it's important to know when to quit, especially if your family relationships are suffering, your health is falling apart, or you're digging yourself deeper and deeper into debt. Some things are just not worth pursuing if you leave a trail of pain and suffering in your wake.

But then, I'm sure there are instances where people have sacrificed everything to pursue a certain goal (in science or technology, for example) that ultimately changed the course of human history and maybe even saved millions of lives. Should I have just told them to give up and live a quiet life?

Having thought about it, I'm not sure.

I guess it's a case by case basis kind of thing. You have to weight things up and decide whether it's worth it of not. I suppose that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. There are no hard and fast rules (although if it means others suffer because if your actions, I don't think it can really be justified).

Coming back to my example, however, it didn't involve sacrifices or long nights or great expense. It just required some problem-solving and a refusal to give up. As with most things, there is a way – you just have to keep looking for it.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Films I've seen of late (March '18)

#15 Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010)
Video games and movies don’t have a great history, but Scott Pilgrim is one of the few exceptions (OK, it’s adapted from a comic book, but it has heavy video game influences). Edgar Wright plays around with fun, snappy dialogue and zany visuals to create a perfect millennial story centred around love, jealousy and ex-boyfriends. Great stuff.

#16 1941 (1979)
After Japan bombs pearl harbour, America is on high alert for a Japanese invasion – and this serves as the backdrop for Spielberg’s first comedy. Oddly, this took at lot of flak on its release but I can’t see why. It’s funny, well-paced and full of great actors having a laugh. A cult classic.

#18 Logan (2017)
Dark, gritty and bloody comic book adaptation. Good performances from the leads, especially Dafne Keen as Logan’s offspring. Despite the darker tone and brutal action scenes, it still ... feels like a comic book movie which lets it down a bit.

#19 Wonder Woman (2017)
Whilst it’s great to see a female leading a big budget comic book movie, Wonder Woman failed to wow me as much as I’d expected. All the usual comic book movie tropes are rehashed with nothing particularly new emerging as a result. It’s a competent film, but nothing special. Shame, really as WW is a great character.

#20 Aliens (1986)
One of my favourtite movies of all time, Aliens is that rare thing indeed: a sequel equal to or even better than the original - plus it still holds up well after 20+ years. This sci-fi / horror / war mash up is grand in scope but tight in storytelling, and shines even more in the special edition director's cut version. Outstanding.

#21 Dredd (2012)
Not the campy Stallone version, but the gritty and violent Karl Urban remake that does its best to stay true to the comics while keeping grounded in the real world. Urban is Judge Dredd, gravelly-voiced lawman of the future taking his rookie on assessment into a drug lord's lair. Things go south quickly and the two judges must battle it out against an army of gang members armed to the teeth. Tight, lean and visceral, this is a comic book movie done right. See my full review here.

#22 Black Panther (2018)
Going into this, I was aware of all the hype and so had low expectations because I'm always wary when everyone says a film is the best thing ever (especially a comic book movie). Perhaps my cynicism helped because I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it has many of the trappings of the comic book genre, but it feels like the makers spent a lot of time and energy into trying to get things right. A well constructed story revolving around the new king of the ficticious and secretive African nation of Wakanda coming to terms with his role and the many threats it faces, Black Panther delivers on various levels to create an engaging and well-poised .

#23 Monster Family (2018)
Sky's attempt at imitating Netflix with origial content gets off to a sputtering start in this 'Munsters' rehash which doesn't quite hit the mark. Not a bad effort storywise, but the fact that the main characters all have English accents yet live in New York (without any explanation) is distracting. So is the terrible lip-synching.

#24 Annihilation (2018)
After an alien meteorite crashes near the sea, it begins to emit an eerie bubble that grows steadily outward. All who enter the bubble have failed to come out and when an all-female team goes in to investigate, they slowly discover it to be a place of madness and death. Alex Garland's multi-faceted sci-fi thriller is intelligent, provocative and creepy. Outstanding.

#25 Get Out (2017)
A white girl brings her black boyfriend to meet her parents over the weekend at their elegant country home, only to discover strange goings on that have a heavy racist undertone. Another hyped-up movie, this thriller/horror just about stands on its own merit, despite a slightly silly third act. The racism commentary is much more subtle than expected but the acting is great.

#26 Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
One of the better Marvel films of late, this third reboot in just over a decade mercifully skips the origin story and goes for a coming-of-age tale instead. Aided by Iron Man, he sets out to bring the winged arms dealer Vulture to justice for selling alien hybrid weapons to the criminal underworld. Not taking itself too seriously, with plenty of funny moments, Homecoming feels a little outside the orbit of its Marvel companions (despite the heavy referencing), which is no bad thing. Plus, Tom Holland is excellent as Peter Parker.

#27 Baby Driver (2017)
I saw this in the cinema last year but wanted to see it again because it's so good. In some ways it's better the second time round. Music is deeply ingrained into every scene, pushing the story along – whether it's the high octane robberies and car chases or slower, dialogue scenes. Edgar Wright is in his prime as a director and Baby Driver is evidence of that.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

My top twenty movies

If anyone asks me what my favourite film is, I have to declare that I don't have one. Of all the films ever made (even just the good ones), it's impossible to single out one as being the best. There are so many good films, of different genres and different time periods; there's just too much to choose from.

I can, however, pick out twenty of my favourite films (I was going to just do ten, but even that proved a headache). They are meaningful to me for various reasons: some are films that had a huge impression on me as a kid, others have affected me as an adult, certain films just represent a specific point in time in relation to the pop culture that have a certain personal resonance.

You'll notice they have a strong sci-fi / fantasy leaning and are mostly from the 1980s. Well, I'm afraid that's just who I am: a sci-fi fantasy geek who grew up in the 80s!

So, in no partiicular order, here is my list:

1. The Back to the Future Trilogy
2. Ghostbusters
3. Aliens
4. Terminator 2
5. Pulp Fiction
6. Star Wars
7. Blade Runner
8. Arrival
9. Raiders of the lost ark
10. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
13. Die Hard
14. Dredd
15. The Matrix
16. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
17. Batman
18. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
19. Innerspace
20. The Goonies

Notable runners up include: Jaws, ET, Gremlins, Saving Private Ryan, Men in Black, Starship Troopers, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Groundhog Day, Point Break, Independence Day, Lost in Translation, Mad Max Fury Road, Whiplash, How to Train your Dragon, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 1941, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Serenity, Bram Stoker's Dracula, WarGames, Big Trouble in Little China, The Truman Show, Robocop, Baby Driver and Time Bandits.

Now I've nailed this list (something that took me a while to form in my head), I plan to write up a little note about each of my top 20 films.

As a little taster, I already wrote something about Ghostbusters here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

This week I have been mostly... w/b 12/03/18

Week beginning: 12/03/18

No. of evening meetings: 2
Films watched: 2
Healthy eating: Good
Mental health: OK

This week I am into my second week of trying to get back onto the healthy eating wagon (one which I fell off a long time ago). Two years ago I set out to reduce my sugar intake, but have had numerous stops and starts since. This time I am a bit more determined and I seem to be doing better.

The main thrust of my plan is trying to cut out as much unnessessary sugary and processed things from my diet as possible, in combination with eating more fruit and veg. I have managed the latter part quite well, so now all I have to do is concentrate on the first.

Apart from that, this week has been fairly normal with a trip to the cinema to see Black Panther (I don't get out to the flicks much these days so it's a rare treat) and waking up to snow again on Sunday morning, which was a nice surprise.

I also got to film a conference in Swansea's Guildhall, an imposing civic building with incredible 30s architecture and design which I'd never been to before.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Goodbye evil insect overlords!

We have finally said goodbye to our insectoid Eurycantha Calcurata pets after over a year of cleaning them out, feeding them brambles and scaring the children (as well as lots of adults).

Presents from my brother to our kids, they grew from nymphs a couple of inches long into fully grown adults almost as big as my hand. Unfortunately, we didn't really have the space for them, and they were a bit of a hassle to clean out.

Ideally, they needed a slightly bigger terrarium, with soil at the bottom. The downside to that is that they would have been better able to breed, and I'm not sure we were ready to take on more of the little monsters (also known at 'land lobsters' in some parts of the world).

I'm not the kind of person who will happily 'dispose' of pets when they get too troublesome. Even though they don't have a central nervous system (supposedly) and therefore don't feel pain – at least not in the way we understand it – I would feel bad about doing anything that would cause them harm. Plus, I was kind of attached to the little beasts.

Thankfully, my friend offered to take them off my hands. He's a primary school teacher and was enthused about the idea of having these critters in his classroom. They were, apparently, going to be a great biology teaching resource, and would live a happier life.

So, after a year of suffering at the hands of their original owners, these six-legged terrors are happily living out their final days in a large, warm terrarium with lots of good grub (strawberry plant leaves, no less).

Happy retirement, guys!