An Astounding Discovery: Part 2

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We once were, in everyone’s home.

We used to be current, useful and necessary. At one point, if it hadn’t been for us, you’d have never seen a fraction of those movies as a kid.

You used to be excited when you found us, opened our cases and put us into our old friend, VCR.

You used to be so proud of us. So proud, in fact, you’d stack us high in plain sight in your home. You’d count us and catalogue us, you’d share us with friends. You’d stay up late with us and laugh, root or cry at whatever we’d screen for you.

At holiday times, you relied on us to capture and record those movies and shows that you weren’t around to watch.

At Christmas time, you unwrapped us and smiled when you saw that we had your favourite movie recorded onto us.

You came to our special store to visit us and borrow us for the weekend. We’d entertain you all weekend long, until you had to return us.

Years passed by, and you realised you no longer needed us.

Newer, faster, smaller versions of us were created.

You soon realised, there were so many of the old us, you didn’t know what to do with us.

So, you got rid of us, binned us, destroyed us.

Many of us still remain. We sit in cupboards, in attics, in boxes. But, we know that nobody is coming. Nobody needs or wants to see what we have to offer.

Children have been born and don’t even know anything about us. We are a photo in a history book, a paragraph in a past technology blog.

Our time has long been over. Once, we were the only source of your enjoyment and entertainment.

Now, we are just plastic and tape, waiting to be recycled and eventually forgotten.

Forever.

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Ten Sentence Fiction: Body on the road

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It was a beautiful summers night.  Greg Carlson was going nowhere in particular as he sped his old Mazda along a hidden back road.  He focused through the windshield as he flung his old import left and right around the single track road.

He screeched around a bend, but suddenly tensed his body while gritting his teeth, slamming the brakes as the car whaled to a halt.  There was a body on the road, a man, lying face down.  Still trying to catch his breath, Greg stepped out of the car and into the smell of burnt rubber.

He approached the man with caution, he crouched down and searched for a pulse on his neck.  He was alive and breathing.  Greg stood up and reached for his phone to call an ambulance, he looked down at the man as he felt a tug on his trouser leg.  Only, this time what Greg was looking back at was a shotgun pointing right at his face.

Read more Ten Sentence Fiction

(c) Copyright 2014 AGS

An adventure, 22 years since the making

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I wonder if when the late Michael Crichton finished writing his novel, Jurassic Park, back in the late eighties, he would have ever believed what a world wide phenomenon it would become. Could any author, aside from the Kings and Pattersons of this world, ever contemplate nine million printed copies of their book being sold?

Crichton’s novel was a modern take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it focused on the dangers of playing god and genetic engineering. Jurassic Park was extremely entertaining, but also very, very believable.

It was a very well written, exciting and detailed look at the ‘what if’s’ of modern day science. It was also in touch with man kinds obsession with what roamed the planet millions of years before us. Dinosaurs.

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The book was a hit. However, it was not until Hollywood big wig, Steven Spielberg, got his hands on it, that more people took notice. Starring Sam Neil, Jeff Goldblum and the late, Sir Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park opened on Friday, June 11, 1993. After an astounding weekend, it had grossed more than $47 million, breaking box office records. The film went on to make almost a billion dollars world wide. Not only that, the book and film had created so much interest in dinosaurs, palaeontology had a record increase in students around the world. In actual fact, general interest in dinosaurs around the globe has been at an all time high, since the film smashed the box office.

A sequel was inevitable, but, luckily, Crichton had already written it, The Lost World. No surprise, but the response to this film was just as favourable as the last and held the record for the biggest opening weekend ever for four and a half years, running from May 1997 to November 2001.

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Jurassic Park had become a multi billion dollar franchise. Steven Spielberg proved to us once more that he was a world class film maker. Jurassic Park writer, Michael Crichton, who was already a well known and successfully published author, cemented himself further as a leading, worldwide fiction writer.

Almost 22 years on, Jurassic Park has never faded from our memories. We all own a copy and as we flick through the channels after killing ourselves with turkey and trifle every single Christmas day, we can’t help but leave it on. The years gone by have given time for other film makers to jump on the Dino bandwaggon and produce their own versions of dinosaur themed movies. Nothing however, has ever come close to even kicking the heels of either Jurassic Park or the Lost World. Not even 2012’s Jurassic Shark.

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In 2001, director Joe Johnston, known for ‘Honey, I shrunk the kids’ and ‘Jumanji’, brought us Jurassic Park 3. Mr. Speilberg was still attached to the project, but, only as executive producer. The film which starred Sam Neil, returning as Dr. Alan Grant, William H. Macy and an excrusiatingly irritating Tea Leoni, failed to match the success of its predecessors. It was also noticeable, that Michael Crichton had not written this particular Jurassic Park Story. And, with Jurassic Park 4 (or Jurassic World) due to hit our screens in 2015, it will be very interesting to see, 22 years on, how filmmaking techniques and technology can beat what Steven Speilberg brought us in 1993.

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Sadly, within those years, writer Michael Crichton (above, left) died of lung cancer in 2008, aged 66. Most recently, actor and director, Sir Richard Attenborough (above, right), who played Jurassic Park founder, John Hammond, passed away at the great age of 90, after battling a long illness. Never forgotten, both will always be remembered. Crichton for his imagination and creation, that was the original novel, and Attenborough (amongst many other notable acting and directing projects) as the Jurassic Park founder, and loveable grand father, John Hammond.

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I hope that in 22 years time, we still remember and religiously watch Jurassic Park and think of how it made us all feel when we first saw dinosaurs appear in front of us, in what is one of the most memorable moments in cinema, period.

Images, facts & figures curtesey of IMDb.com

Please take me ‘Out of this Storm’

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If you go to the cinema expecting a modern day version of 1996’s ‘Twister’, then I’m afraid you have wandered into the wrong screening.

Brought to you by the director of the fantastic, Final Destination 5, I had high hopes for Into the Storm and hoped to see something exciting and modern.

Disappointed is perhaps an understatement of how I feel about this film. My review will be short, lazy and predictable, because, I believe that’s all it deserves, as it is exactly how I would describe John Swentams screenwriting of this particular Hollywood atrocity.

I don’t believe any of the actors require, or perhaps, deserve a mention here for their ‘work’.

I’m surprised that any of the characters stayed grounded during the movie, as they are essentially cardboard cut outs of tired, cliched, zero substance, boring, rehashed no body’s, that we really couldn’t give a damn about.
The single dad who cares only about work, the cheeky son, the son who feels unloved and misses his dead mother dearly, but, is in love with the girl next door. The career girl storm chaser who has left her young child with her parents, but, suddenly gathers a conscience when the devastating storm hits. The greedy boss who cares about nothing or nobody, only his money making goal.

Yes, into the storm showcases them all. I found myself bored and irritated at the chopping and changing between found footage and normal film. Shaky cam that is annoying beyond belief, makes you want to rip your own head off, just so you have something to throw at the screen.

Sadly, the impressive effects are not enough to save this unbelievable goose egg.

I felt like I was watching a made for TV movie, which boasted excruciatingly painful dialogue and wooden acting.

Characters make suicidal decisions and spout out sentimental, straight from soap opera speeches which will make you want to vomit.

All in all, the film bears no storyline and follows appalling cliches and therefore has nothing to offer to hold your interest.

If you must see this film, hang off until it appears on Netflix or the likes. But, be careful and put your dog in another room, otherwise it’ll put him into a coma. Then again, you may find you take up a new hobby, like watching grass grow or putting your head in the oven, because if I’m honest, that’ll be much more fun.

If you feel like watching a good storm movie, then rent or buy Twister, it’s by far the best in its class.

An astounding discovery

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An establishment from a time now forgotten.
A time when Friday and Saturday nights meant a visit to one of these ancient crypts.
A time when only a few channels occupied the TV and only the ‘rich’ had satellite TV.
A time when seeing a movie either meant a trip to the cinema or to one of these crumbling wrecks.
A time when parents would use these establishments as an excuse for some free time, they had enough miles of tape to keep children browsing for several hours.

Visiting video rental stores was part of childhood. It was exciting and the next best thing to visiting the cinema.

Back then, you would never have believed that eventually, these establishments would wither away and succumb to video on demand, Netflix, Amazon Prime & Blinkbox. I mean, when I was a kid, the people who invented those very things, most certainly were just kids, like me, enjoying and experiencing video rental. Who the hell was Amazon anyway? Come to think of it, what on earth was the internet?

As I wait for my first child to join us in this world, in 3 months to be precise, I often feel sad that he’ll never feel that buzz and excitement of walking into a video store with his dad and choosing a movie for the night.

Instead, sitting in his room and searching Netflix on his iPhone, will just have to do. At least I can sit next to him, while he looks.

5 Easy ways to make your Film for free!

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As a dedicated and aspiring film maker, the need to find ways to create projects on small or zero budgets is always present.  In todays world, people like you and I can create quality films for the world to see from our own home.  No longer do we need to personally know Stephen Spielberg, nor does our cousins, uncles friend need to be Michael Bay (though it would certainly help!)  If you have an interest in filmmaking or you are serious about getting your work out there, there are many things you can do for free from pre-production to post, using what you probably already own or have access to.  Below is a small set of tips that I have personally used to much success.

1. Screenplay & Props

Write a screenplay yourself or collaborate with a friend.  This is the most fun way to make a film.  The chances are, you already have an idea for a film or have screenplay written and ready.  When writing your screenplay, utilise props, property, vehicles and people that you have, can borrow or know.  This means that you don’t need to out source, buy or rent anything when it comes to filming.  Below is a very short film that I created with my brother, where we did exactly this.  We came up with an idea for a film using what we had in our possession.

2. Actors

Always ask friends or family to star in your film.  This is an obvious one, and there have been many a blog or article written with the same message.  But, don’t underestimate how easy or useful it is to you, to ask people you know.  They will be happy to help and most people are up for a bit of fun and a laugh.  Furthermore, there are many websites and groups that have aspiring actors as members.  Get in touch with them, tell them what you’re doing and what you’re looking for, but you must let them know that it would be volunteer work.  I have done this several times and it has been very successful.  By doing this, you have also made a contact (and possibly a friend) for your next project.

3. Camera & Editing

Use your iPhone, iPad or similar smart device to record your footage.  These days, smart phones and tablets have massive processing and graphics power, coupled with HD cameras that are capable of beautiful photography and cinematography.  Not only that, but, there are literally hundreds of filming apps that you can download for free to assist you in your film.  Some apps now allow you to easily create Holly Wood style effects on your smart phone.  You can even edit the footage very professionally on your device, if you do not have a PC or MAC computer to edit on.  Watch the review of a fantastic special effects app that I have personally used many times.

4. Marketing

Market your film before you have made it.  Why? to create a buzz and interest.  By the time the film is complete, there should be loads of eager film buffs desperate to see it.  Use social media and blog sites to share posters or production photos of the film and the film making process.  Use Youtube to share trailers of the film.  The film doesn’t have to be complete to make a trailer.  Tease your audience with snippets of exciting action or intense drama.  Below is an example of footage that was shot and then put together to tease a certain story.

5. Realeasing & Distributing

Create and share a release date for your film.  Make sure your audience knows when it will be available to view and where they can see it.  Many aspiring filmmakers have been successful doing this by using youtube, meaning that their audience is sitting by the computer or by their smart device on the date and time when the film is released.  Embed the link on your Facebook page and on your blog.  Make sure everybody can see it.  Below are two of many posters that I created for the film, Loner, that I wrote, directed & edited on my own.

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You’ve had your idea forever, your desperate to turn it into a film, you have your smart phone and apps, your friends are ready.  What are you waiting for?

 

Becoming The Iron Lady

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When Margaret Thatcher was in Power, I was just a small boy attending Primary (Elementary) school. I can remember seeing news stories about her on the TV while I ate my dinner at night and can still see pictures of her on the front page of my Dads newspaper. I also recall listening to my parents, and sometimes teachers, discussing or debating her famous controversial policies and decisions. That is the extent of how much Margaret Thatcher influenced or affected my life.
I went to see this movie, not quite knowing what to expect. I have no particular interest in British politics, nor have I ever been inclined to learn more about the country’s very own Iron Lady. However, I did have an interest in seeing a magnificent life story told through, what should have been, a magnificent film.

The pace of the film is acceptable and it does manage to hold your interest. However, I was disappointed by how screenwriter, Abi Morgan, chose to tell this story, by focusing more on Thatcher now, a frail elderly woman who is suffering from dementia and can’t leave the house unsupervised. The story of Thatcher’s life is more in flashback form, as she struggles to cope with her husbands death and pictures and items from her past trigger her memory and send us with her into another flashback.

Meryl Streep, does not just pretend to be or act like Margaret Thatcher. She becomes her. Everything from her facial expressions, the way she walks to the way she talks. Streep joins her Mama Mia director, Phyllidia Lloyd, who’s direction is well thought out and the dull use of colouring, used often with extreme close ups of a confused and sad Thatcher certainly helps to be with her and feel her sadness. It is wonderful direction and phenomenal acting, joined by an equally brilliant Jim Broadbent, who plays Thatcher’s beloved Denis.

While you are watching magnificent acting performances and direction, it will take your mind off that you are watching just a good movie. We are given small scenes of how Thatcher chose politics as a career, a few moments on how she met her husband, Denis, and a speedy run up, to how she finally became Prime Minister. There is perhaps only 15 minutes spent on the Falklands War which was disappointing as this was probably one of Thatcher’s most famous and talked of decision‘s. This is all combined with how her choices affected her marriage and her relationship with her children.

There is clever use of editing which I really enjoyed, where actual footage of Margaret Thatcher coming into power and making her way into 10 Downing street is combined with beautifully choreographed footage of Streep re-living the scenes which is then joined together and flows brilliantly.

Margaret Thatcher was one of the most controversial, decisive, influential and talked about leaders of our time, and I really hoped to see more of these controversies and decisions throughout the movie and really thought I would leave knowing much more about the Iron Lady, than I actually did.