Wednesday, 20 July 2016

September Storm (1960): Help Save This Golden Age 3D Movie!

It isn't every day film fans get to save a piece of Hollywood history, but it's happening right now. I pledged to support this project on Day One, but if we're to save this forgotten 3D movie, time's running out!

Dir. Byron Haskin (War of the Worlds, Robinson Crusoe on Mars)
Starring: Joanne Dru, Mark Stevens, Robert Strauss, Asher Dann

A Kickstarter campaign has been started to fund the restoration of the 1960 3-D film September Storm. This project will only be funded if at least $25,000 is pledged by Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 11 p.m. Central Daylight Time. People interested in donating can do so by visiting the funding page at

September Storm is considered one of the "lost" 3-D features of the golden age of 3-D cinema. Shot in 1959, it was the last of the 3-D movies to be filmed in the 1950s, and is most notable for being filmed in Stereo-Vision using the Natural Vision 3-D camera rig and in CinemaScope. September Storm hasn't been seen in it's intended 3-D and widescreen format since it's initial theatrical release in 1960, and the surviving film elements are deteriorating. If a digital restoration of the stereoscopic anamorphic version isn't done soon, it is at risk of being lost forever. Your donation to this campaign will help save this important motion picture so that it can be seen by future generations of movie fans.

The 3-D Film Archive has been actively working to preserve our 3-D film heritage by digitally restoring classic 3-D movies, and making them available to a new generation of theatergoers and home viewers. Recent restoration projects include the 3-D movies Dragonfly Squadron, The Bubble, The Mask, Gog and the 3-D Rarities collection.

To accomplish the funding, the 3-D Film Archive has teamed up with 501(c)3 nonprofit organization 3-D SPACE: The Center For Stereoscopic Photography, Art, Cinema, and Education to embark on the conservation and restoration of September Storm. Your donation to this project through 3-D SPACE may qualify for an income tax deduction in accordance with Federal or State income tax laws. Please consult with your tax advisor to determine whether your donation is tax deductible in whole or in part.

Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz of the 3-D Film Archive have a proven track record when it comes to restoring vintage 3-D films that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks, neglected and forgotten. "The 3-D Film Archive has already obtained, for a limited time, the rights to restore and distribute September Storm, but the hard work is still ahead of us. Both the left eye and right eye film elements will need to be digitally scanned, frame by frame. We will need to assess the level of damage to these existing elements, and determine how to best fix the images. This will require a stereoscopic re-alignment pass, left and right color restoration and matching, and clean-up of scratches and other damages to the film surface. This is very challenging post-production work, and can potentially be very expensive. Fortunately, the 3-D Film Archive's success with previous restoration projects, and by teaming up with 3-D SPACE and maintaining this work "in house" costs will be kept at a manageable level. We are confident that we will be able to produce both a 3-D Blu-ray master and a digital cinema package (DCP) that will look fantastic."

As with any Kickstarter campaign, the organizers have included rewards based on the donation pledge levels. The most basic pledge of $10 or more will get your name included in the Blu-ray credits. Other rewards include reproductions of the September Storm lobby cards, a special Kickstarter limited edition Blu-ray of September Storm, VIP admission for two to the New York or Los Angeles world premiere of the restored version, and more.
Pledges reached the 25 percent mark within the first four days of launching the Kickstarter campaign, which started on July 16. 

People are being asked to share the campaign through the hashtag #SaveSeptemberStorm

Let's save this long-lost 3D gem!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Movies I've Watched in 2016: Part 1

Film-wise, 2016 has been pretty entertaining so far. I usually visit the cinema once or twice a week, depending on the selection (and making full use of my Cineworld Unlimited Card). I'll try most genres, but I do tend toward mainstream Hollywood fare, unless something really catches my eye (I've been burned too many times by foreign-language films).

My only five-star film so far is Adam McKay's sensational, go-for-broke Wall Street black comedy, THE BIG SHORT. You really have to pay attention between the laughs, because it describes the complex moves that led to the near-total collapse of the US (and global) economic house of cards. Smart, frightening stuff.
Other nice surprises were David O'Russell's JOY, starring Jennifer Lawrence, which had received wishy-washy reviews (I loved it), the gripping suspense thriller 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, and Kevin Reynolds' biblical procedural, RISEN, starring an excellent Joseph Fiennes.

Here's the complete list thus far. I'll post another one after the summer season is over.

10 Cloverfield Lane ****
Allegiant ***
Bad Neighbours 2 **
Batman vs Superman 3D ***
Captain America: Civil War 3D ****
Deadpool ***
Eddie the Eagle ****
Hail, Caesar! ***
High-Rise **
Joy ****
London Has Fallen ***
Midnight Special ***
Risen ****
Spotlight ****
The Big Short *****
The Finest Hours ****
The Huntsman 3D **
The Jungle Book 3D ****
The Revenant ****
Zootropolis 3D ****
And a couple of retro double-bill screenings I attended (the Cap films were actually screened as a triple, culminating with the equally brilliant Civil War):
Alien *****
Aliens *****
Captain America: First Avenger 3D ****
Captain America: Winter Soldier 3D ****
Next up, I'm really looking forward to Shane Black's THE NICE GUYS, starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. The trailers are hilarious, and Black's previous films (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3) both hit the spot for me.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Movie Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is an instant classic scuzzball character. He echoes the memorable sociopaths played by Robert DeNiro in his prime (Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy and Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver), but he’s less sympathetic than either of those. A parasite on the prowl, Bloom soon fixates on a career ideally suited to his amoral loner/ go-getter character—as a crime journalist during L.A.’s night hours. He listens for crimes in progress on his police scanner, speeds to the scene, and then angles for the most shocking, risque footage he can possibly get away with.

New colleagues Nina (Rene Russo), the struggling news producer he goes to first, and Rick (Riz Ahmed), a desperate “intern” railroaded into the nightmare, are exploitable because they want what Bloom can give them—money, work, success. The risks he takes and the lines he crosses are mainly ethical ones at first, but he quickly realises the quickest way to make a name for himself is to get truly sensational footage. The kind that requires taking bigger risks, eventually endangering lives.

Bloom is the most detestable character I’ve seen in ages. He’s a soulless cockroach rummaging through the misfortunes of others, ravenously feeding off violent crimes, sometimes while they’re still happening. But the news station keeps on buying what he’s selling. Viewer ratings spike with each successive horror scene that hits the air.

Writer/director Dan Gilroy makes us squirm from start to finish here because Bloom is so queasily familiar. We all know people who share his traits, even if they don’t take them to such extremes. He’s society’s Frankenstein’s monster, made from all the worst parts of capitalism. He’ll achieve success by any means, and he’s proud of that.

With End of Watch and Prisoners, and now Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal is finding the sort of edgy, dangerous roles relished by great actors of the 1970s, and he’s attacking them with gusto. This might be his best performance yet. The film itself is a darkly comic treat. It’s tense and unsettling as a thriller, but the most fascinating part is seeing how far this scumbag will take his obsession, and how much we’ll allow him to get away with.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

My Favourite Books & Movies of 2013

For some reason, I read most of my favourite books at the start of the year and watched nearly all the best films at the end. Overall, it was an excellent year on both counts. Reading-wise, I delved into historical non-fiction and couldn't get enough of it. A host of novels (mostly Victorian/ Edwardian adventures) made my keeper shelf, while Patrick O'Brian and Stephen King continued to impress.

Of the summer films, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z and The Conjuring all worked for me, but they were all eclipsed by the incredible end-of-year releases. While there are still several of the latter I've yet to see, including 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street, and Dallas Buyers Club, the following blew me away in 2013.

Top 5 Movies

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (dir. Peter Jackson)

Recommended for: The breathless barrel ride sequence. The wicked, preening dragon. Tauriel, the hottest she-elf warrior in Middle Earth. Gandalf’s detour into darkness. The Wagnerian scale of pretty much every scene.

Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)

Recommended for: Long, dazzling, seemingly impossible visual effects shots. Inventive use of 3D. Sandra Bullock’s completely believable performance. A terrifying 90-minute simulation of life hanging (sometimes literally) by a thread.

Lincoln (dir. Steven Spielberg)

Recommended for: An unusually intelligent and elegant screenplay. Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. Tommy Lee Jones. Sally Field. The many touches of filmmaking poetry throughout.

Captain Phillips (dir. Paul Greengrass)

Recommended for: Tom Hanks’s heartbreaking acting. Some of the most tense, brilliant filmmaking of the year. A powerful, no-nonsense approach to the true events. The capacity to incite debate afterwards.

Rush (dir. Ron Howard)

Recommended for: Its sheer energy and virtuosity. Great work by Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt and (especially) Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda. The superb racing scenes. A sharp, insightful script by Peter Morgan.

Top 5 Books

Team of Rivals (Doris Kearns Goodwin)

Recommended for: Its fascinating four-pronged narrative leading to the Lincoln presidency. The wealth of historical detail. A fully rounded examination of the man himself and what made him great. A brilliant account of the Civil War and politics of the era.

Exploration Fawcett (Percy Harrison Fawcett)

Recommended for: Great old-fashioned storytelling. A wicked sense of humour. Endlessly entertaining anecdotes. Chilling observations on the nature of “civilization” among the Amazonian people. A real spirit of adventure.

11.22.63 (Stephen King)

Recommended for: King’s peerless storytelling. The way he brings 1950s and 1960s America to life, with a mix of eager nostalgia and hardbitten modernist. Well thought-out time travel elements. A touching love story. A very human protagonist.

Untold History of the United States (Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone)

Recommended for: A blistering account of twentieth century politics, both American and foreign. Inspired muck-raking across multiple administrations. A look at the unsavoury, Imperialist tendencies of a nation mostly unaware of its true legacy. Impressive wealth of evidence to support assertions.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)

Recommended for: Its broadening of the story’s scope, upping the ante. A gallery of interesting new characters. An ingenious new Games—The Quarter Quell. Good, solid writing throughout. Collins’ patient building of tension, leading to an explosive main event.

Friday, 18 October 2013

(What a) Rush: Best Movie of 2013?

With ticket prices so high, and funds so limited, I'm a lot pickier than I used to be when it comes to cinemagoing. Consequently, I tend to rely on filmmakers I trust, or if a film's received great notices and I kinda like the sound of it, I might give it a try.

Rush is directed by the versatile Ron Howard, who's been world-class for years now, and he's on top form here, generating propulsive energy from nearly every scene, whether on or off the racetrack. The film chronicles the famous rivalry between Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt.

It's a fascinating relationship. The two couldn't be more different, in life, in their approach to racing, and it's this constant friction that powers their individual--and combined--excellence. Without the other, neither would be as determined to excel. In their many brief scenes together, Hunt and Lauda seem able to instinctively pick each other's ego apart, as if they know what makes the other tick in ways that even their wives and friends do not. They're two sides of the same coin. Hunt can't stand his Austrian rival's stoicism, while Lauda despises his British opponent's flamboyant lifestyle; yet when they're behind the wheel, all that disappears, and it comes down to raw driving talent, of which both possess an equal amount, and moreover, they know it.

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl match each other acting-wise as well. They're brilliant as Hunt and Lauda. Not a false note in the entire film. Scriptwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) weaves the parallel stories cleverly and punctuates his scenes with dialogue exchanges that chip away at what makes these two characters tick. Terse, pungent interplay is frequent and memorable.

Finally, the races themselves are some of the best I've seen. They roar to life, and would be downright frightening if they weren't so thrilling to watch (and hear). Lauda's stance against the more dangerous aspects of Formula One was admirable; lives were lost when they needn't have been, and the other drivers should have backed him up.

I can't recommend Rush highly enough. It's a gripping character study, a sophisticated sports movie, and is impeccably made and acted by all. In short, it's the best film I've seen so far this year. See it the first chance you get.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Alien Safari

My new sci-fi adventure novel Alien Safari (read an excerpt there) is out now on Kindle! The print version is almost ready and will be available within the next few weeks--look for a giveaway contest on Goodreads. All other e-book formats, ETA January 2014. As ever, feel free to email me at with any questions, feedback, or just plain old interstellar banter. I always love hearing from my readers. Hope you enjoy the safari!


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Feeling Positive-G At Last?

With the spectacular reception of blockbuster 3D movie Gravity (opens here in the UK on November 8th), it feels like a missing piece of the SF moviegoing experience might finally have been brought to life. It's always irked me, why filmmakers have felt the need to embellish what's already the most extraordinary trip man has ever undertaken. Aliens, asteroids, black holes etc. are all fascinating, but to reach them, storytellers tend to take for granted the miraculous--and terrifying--achievement of man existing in space.

Existing. A lone man or woman floating out there in an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) suit encapsulates so much--daring, fear, hope, humanity, technology--it's an experience I'm surprised Hollywood hasn't really tried to simulate in any meaningful way before now. Sure, we've had a handful of gripping scenes *featuring* that isolation, that sense of claustrophobia. 2001, 2010, Sunshine, Deep Impact, and others have touched on it. But we've never had a movie ABOUT that.

If it sounds like a boring subject for a film--and it clearly has until now--then we're lacking the very ingredient science fiction supplies in abundance: imagination. Only it needn't be science fiction. Astronauts have been braving mind-boggling perils for half a century now, yet we know precious little about what it feels like to be in space, the actual experience. All the drama and emotion is there, tightly wound inside those conditioned men and women. It's been waiting for a filmmaker with the imagination, tools, and storytelling brio to unleash it onscreen.

By all acounts, Alfonso Cuaron has done just that in Gravity.

Tom Hanks was involved in two brilliant projects in the 90s--Apollo 13 and Earth to the Moon--that successfully chronicled events in the Apollo Space Program. The former, a nail-biting thriller about the near-disastrous aborted moon mission, is one of the most realistic space-themed movies ever made. Three men in a confined space, running out of air, time, and hope: its hard to see how director Ron Howard could have improved on his recreation of the spacefarers' experience during that fateful voyage.

But the crew of Apollo 13 never left their ship(s). They were isolated, but they were inside, and they were together. There's something truly terrifying about being *alone*, outside in an EVA suit, and hanging by a single tether line. One slip and you will float away into eternity. Hanks's character, Jim Lovell, experiences that in a quick dream sequence.

But to recreate that dread tension, that sense of fragility, requires a prolonged simulation of EVA solitude. I've been waiting for a major filmmaker to attempt it. With today's effects tech, and 3D, it's an exciting prospect. I caught Magnificent Desolation 3D on an IMAX some years ago, and found it very immersive and impressive. That was a documentary.

Fingers crossed Gravity achieves that and much more. Nov 8 can't arrive soon enough!