Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Firefox 1.5 - and security tools

The latest version of Firefox is out now - go and get it here. I know many of you are still using Internet Explorer, so now is the perfect time to give it a go. Firefox is safer, prettier, more customisable, more standards compliant, prevents popups, stops viruses and spyware getting at your machine, has tabs so you can have lots of sites open in the one window, and has all kinds of cool extra bits you can add in if you want. It will import all your bookmarks from IE really easily, you barely have to do anything. If you're using IE to read this, go and try Firefox now, for me. You won't be sorry.

And before the Opera fans start complaining: Firefox is what I use, I like it. But as long as people stop using IE, I don't care if they use Firefox, Opera, Safari, or anything else. Anything but IE.

While we're at it - if you've been using IE, then you've probably got some spyware and stuff littered about your PC. Here are three things that *all* Windows users should have installed - they're all free, and easy to use:

Spybot Search & Destroy: A spyware cleaner. Finds, removes and blocks loads of nasty, hidden programs.

Ad-Aware: Another spyware remover. Ad-Aware and Spybot can sometimes each find things the other one missed, so it's best to run them both regularly.

AVG: Anti-virus software. It's fast, free, and sits in the background keeping an eye on everything. If you don't have an anti-virus package installed, please get this immediately. I had Norton Anti-Virus for a year, a commercial package, but it didn't do the job for me. Once I'd installed AVG, it found several viruses that had been lurking there the whole time. Do regular scans, but once it's installed, it'll quickly scan every file you try to open. It updates itself, so that you're always protected against any new viruses that come out.

And two things you can install if you like:

Thunderbird: An email client. Outlook and Outlook Express are bloated and unsafe, and up until very recently, merrily ran scripts by default that could do all sorts of damaging things. You don't have to use Thunderbird if you've got all your safety updates installed, but it's faster and nicer.

Firewall: If you're on the internet, people can see you. Firewalls make you invisible, and slap anyone who comes too near (sort of). If you have a router, it has a built in firewall that is perfectly fine. If not, then use the one that comes with Windows Service Pack 2. If you want a separate one, go for Sygate Personal Firewall - I use a router at home, so the PC (or "the 'Half Life 2' machine " as it's now called) doesn't have a firewall installed.

Spybot, Ad-Aware and AVG are essential (as is Firefox, I'd say), to keep things clean and safe. If your system is riddled with spyware and other stuff, you will need to go deeper - some really nasty spyware needs its own removal tools. If you're using a Mac, of course, you can happily ignore all of the above - although I still use Firefox on mine, because it does everything I need.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Third time's a charm

Another Severance screening today, very short notice, but managed to drag some "real people" along for feedback. It's very close to the final edit, so they want to know if there are still any problems or things that need sorting. Now I've seen it 3 times in a row, I'm more able to look at it critically and pick out things that are broken, but there's nothing that would take a lot of work. Although there's not much time left, there should be more than enough to sort everything out. Before the screening started, I got really nervous, because people I knew would be seeing it. It's not just this *thing* anymore, it's becoming public property, and very soon it will be out there for anyone to see and take potshots at if they want. But whether people love or hate the movie, it doesn't mean they love or hate *me*. I need to remember that.

I've learned a hell of a lot this past year, and have become a stronger, wiser person. I've always felt like the kid who was allowed to stay up late with the grownups, that I lucked into all this and that everybody else knew so much more than I did. But it's not the case, we're all just making it up as we go along, and doing the best we can. Today was the first time that I felt like an equal member of the big movie gang world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Killing Time

Should have mentioned this before, but better slightly late than never: Killing Time is a cool new quarterly horror fanzine written by horror aficionados. They know their shit, love the entire genre, and it really shows. The mag is a highly entertaining read, filled with interviews with up and coming directors, news, thoughtful articles, and, my favourite, a spoof advert inside the back page - which I hope is a regular feature, because it's hilarious, and always seems real, until you look closer... This issue has interviews with Ti West (director of The Roost) and Craig Strachan (director of Wild Country, a great little surprise of a movie), an ode to Pinhead, a Jack the Ripper-a-thon, and much much more - there's even a Shaun (of the Dead, not the sheep) stencil to carve into your pumpkin. And it's only two of your English pounds, plus fifty pence for postage. So get over to and PayPal yourself some horror goodness. Or they'll come round your house and brutally murder you, then dance naked in the moonlight wearing your skin.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ideas, projects, snakes, and planes

Showreel arrived from the animation company - a DVD in a really cool, slimline, custom case, as opposed to the usual crappy videotape in a thin cardboard box. I now have to come up with something worthy of their animation skills. I have something that might work, but I need to go over it again, it's not quite ready yet.

The other secret project thing is going well, and is just about at the outline stage. More details soon. I know I keep saying that, but I have to wait for something to happen that will let me reveal all. I'm relying on other people to sort things out before I can say anything.

And another movie script idea has finally started coming to life. It's been very vague so far, but now the characters, situations and background are coming together, and a story is forming from them. It'll have to be a spec script, as it's not a high concept thing - this one is all about the character interplay, dialogue and actions, and you can't really get that across in an outline, you have to actually read the thing in full. Obviously though, I'll do an outline for myself, just to make sure the story hangs together. My other things take priority at the moment, so this will be something to work on when I'm stuck on other stuff, or when I have a spare hour or two. I'm having lots of fun with it already, and am really looking forward to getting started properly.

More importantly than any of that: my snakes flying a plane t-shirt arrived. It's nothing to do with that movie, just a happy coincidence - but it's a good way of showing your appreciation for what is surely to be the defining cinematic moment of 2006. Also, as the site says, "if there's better way to pretend to be an airplane with snakes flying it then I'd like to hear it." I wanted one for both of those reasons. And because the snakes just look so cheerful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Shane Shane Black Black

Just another quickie, matron. Whoever is reading this at the moment: get your arse off the internet right now, and go and see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Shane Black, my hero, is back with a bang. Two of them, actually. And two kisses. See what I did there? It's the most fun you can have in the cinema at the moment with your clothes on, Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr are better than they have been for *ages*, and it's just hilarious. Seriously, go and see it now. What with the impatience of multiplexes, it'll probably only be out for a week or two, before being yanked to make room for the latest horrendous chick flick or miserable, plodding drama.

While I'm on the subject, I have two things to say. (1) No woman I know would be seen dead watching any of the current crop of "chick flicks", they're an insult to intelligent womanhood / womanness / womandom / womanosity. "One's ditzy and adorable, one's stern and serious!" Gee, d'ya think by the end, the ditzy one will learn about responsibility, and the serious one will learn to relax and have fun??? Who knows! Hey Hollywood, women aren't actually fucking stupid and airheaded, they can handle movies of substance, so please, less of the bullshit, and more of the good shit, okay? Thanks. (2) Dramas shouldn't be called dramas if nothing dramatic or interesting happens. Don't try and teach me something important, that's what school is for - I hated school and I hate boring dramas. If it's a drama, show me some drama! Honestly, with the snobbery against genre movies in the industry today, it amazes me that insultingly dim chick flicks and horrendously dull "drama" isn't called out for the lazy bollocks that it is. So this is me, calling it out. It is called. Out. Now go and see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it's fantastic.

Okay, it wasn't a quickie, I lied. I LIED! ON PURPOSE! HAHAHAHAAAAA!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Severed once again

Okay, lots of work on various things going on, so I've been a bit quiet here. But I had to post a quick one because I went to another screening of Severance yesterday, and felt compelled to rave about it. Even though I think there's only 2 or 3 minutes trimmed out of it along with a few other changes since the last screening, it made a *massive* difference. It moved along really nicely, I laughed at the funny stuff even more than last time, still jumped at the bits that I knew were coming, and just had a great time. I was in the back row, and could feel the audience vibe better - I think they were mostly financiers and distribution people, and I expected them to observe a grim silence, so as not to betray any emotions, but they were really going for it. They laughed, they jumped, they chuckled in delight at a certain ultra-satisfying moment near the end, and seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. It's much, much better, and looks ready to rock, as far as I can tell. Everything works, the pace is perfect, I couldn't be happier. It's a strange movie, it's primarily a horror *and* a comedy (but not a comedy-horror, there's a difference), but there's action, suspense, and moments that are utterly surreal. It's just a fucking great night out at the movies, which is the best anyone could hope for.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My arse is on fire

My arse hurts. My legs hurt. My arms hurt. My back hurts. My shoulders hurt. My neck hurts. Those bits that join my shoulders to my neck hurt. My entire pelvis hurts. My wrists hurt. My *palms* hurt. I can barely walk. When I sit down, I scream like a kicked baby.

What has happened to me? Have I been run over by a bus? Dragged under a tube train? Beaten up by gangsters? No. I went for a cycle last night. Cycled from Greenwich Park to Elephant and Castle, barely 4 or 5 miles. Slowly. On flat ground. Stopping and starting. And. It. Just. Fucking. KILLED me. I thought I was getting fitter. We're both walking a lot more, getting regular exercise, can sprint for a train without getting out of breath, lost some weight, look thinner - I thought, pfft, bike ride? Piece of piss. The bike does most of the work, surely? No. It doesn't.

Yes, it was the late night London research tour that I've been meaning to get around to for ages. It was great fun, apart from the agony, and the sheer terror of being in the middle of London traffic in the rush hour while sitting on a small piece of metal with wheels. Took lots of pictures (will post a couple soon), found lots of interesting places, and it was really helpful. But holy shit, I'm in so much pain today. I'm so unfit - not as bad as I used to be, thankfully, but still unfit. And I haven't ridden a bike for years. I'm proud of myself though, I didn't wimp out, even near the end when I got a fucker of a cramp in my right thigh - I waited, walked for a bit, then cycled the rest of the way. The best bit was freewheeling down the hill from the top of Greenwich Park, on the pedestrian bit, not braking at all, taking a huge sweeping corner, and feeling like I was going about a thousand miles an hour. It was really cool. I just wish my arse didn't hurt so much today, it's really hard to sit down. Why do they make bike saddles so hard? It feels like I've been sitting on a brick, while someone smacked the brick with a sledgehammer.

And I only *nearly* fell off once. I got my foot caught on the pedal, slipped, and nearly went over the handlebars. It was on the pavement. After I'd stopped. I'll give the Tour de France a miss, I think.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Flash! Ah-aaaaaah!

The animation meeting was great, I'm really happy. They've got a stable of directors - honestly, in barns, they feed them hay and everything - and want to do an animated feature with these two particular guys who've done some incredibly cool motion-capture 3D stuff. The way they make it, it's quite quick and cheap, so they're trying to figure out exactly what to do with it. They showed me some demo reels, which I loved, and we chatted about all sorts of things. I've got a bizarre alternate reality film idea that I've never been able to do anything with, partly because it'd be way too expensive, partly because I can't get a handle on the plot. And I think doing it in this kind of stylised animation might be the answer. We're going to send each other things and take it from there, so it's all very promising. Finally, a meet and greet with positive results. Oh, and they had read Severance and the first episode of The School (all collected together in a big file with my name written on it - I've *always* wanted someone to have a file on me like that), but also had a printout of the interview, too, and were very impressed by it. Cheers guys!

Later, I met up with Jo, and we went to a recital by Renee Fleming, an opera singer. It was all very nice, and pretty much as I expected, until all of a sudden, she launched into a modern piece by George Crumb. The pianist had his hands actually *inside* the grand piano, banging the strings, strumming them, plucking them, then quickly playing the keys, before going back inside again. The voice part was all over the shop (in a good way), and at one point she even stuck her head inside the piano and whispered parts of it. It was dark, melodramatic, and sounded like the score to a horror movie. I've never seen anything like it. It was fucking fantastic. The audience clearly weren't expecting this mad diversion, and seemed unsure whether to stay or bolt for the exits. I just sat there, a big stupid grin on my face, having my mind blown. When it finished, the audience went bananas with applause and cheering - it could have gone either way though, they could have turned on her. Good on her for not just doing the usual stuff, and taking a risk. What made it even better was, halfway through the Crumb pieces, I had a revelation about the alternate reality film idea - how to do it, the structure it needed, how it would work, and the big finale. It just all popped straight into my head. Very occasionally it happens like that, and it's fucking magic when it does.

To top it all off, the Flash Gordon DVD arrived today. I defy anyone not to love that movie. It's a big slice of cheese, topped with cheese, covered in melted cheese, served with pan-fried cheese and a cheese side-salad. It's got a big, flying Brian Blessed, The Exorcist as Ming the Merciless, Peter Duncan getting his hand eaten by some beastie in a tree, a kickass Queen soundtrack, and Timothy Dalton shouting "bloody bastards". I love it, it's far too silly and over the top, which is why it's so endearing. I'm most excited about the fact that the DVD has a Brian Blessed commentary, which is bound to be the greatest thing in the world, ever. Gordon's alive!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Projectile vomit, and meetings (never a good combination)

I must have seen The Exorcist at least 10 times now, probably closer to 15. Maybe even more. I've seen it *a lot* of times. And while there are plenty of moments that I can now just laugh at and enjoy for their extreme nature (the doctor getting backhanded across the face, the punch in the balls, the puking, the hospital injection where Regan spits at the doctor and shouts "you fuckin' bastard!"), there are a lot of scenes that still really knock me sideways. It still feels like I've been through all kinds of hell when the movie is over. Overall, the effect is undiluted, even today it is still one of the most powerful, gobsmacking movies ever made. I haven't got the director's cut with the spiderwalk, extended ending and so on, but I think I prefer it the way it is. Even with the "hello, I'm William Friedkin" introduction, where "Billy" wears, most horrifyingly of all, a peach-coloured cardigan over a peach-coloured shirt. And they say there's no such thing as true evil.

Tomorrow is the animation company meeting, the usual meet and greet: they say what they're all about, I tell them what I'm up to, we chit chat, it all ends really promisingly, and then I never hear a word from them ever again. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only slightly - most of these general meet and greets seem to have no effect at all, even ones where they hint that they might have a job offer for me. The only people I've met up with again subsequently are a company who I got together with through something else entirely, and that cool director who I co-wrote the short movie with (hopefully filming at the end of this month). I'm sure I come across well, they always phone my agent and say they really liked me, liked my work, I really like all of them, so what's the deal? Do they just not have anything for me, or are they all waiting for new pitches or specs from me? My agent seems surprised too though, so it can't just be my imagination. It's great to meet them, don't get me wrong, it gets my face about town, I know who's who and all that - but I always get my hopes up, and then nothing happens. If I do have a new pitch or outline, it gets sent to any of them who might be looking for that style of thing anyway, so it's not like I need to come up with one particular thing for each of them. Anyway, enough moaning. The best thing to do is just get on with my stuff, and hopefully soon they'll be actively seeking me out. And remembering my name... I'm actually quite optimistic about tomorrow's one, as I already have an animation film outline all ready to go from last year, so if they ask me if I have anything they might be interested in, I can casually mention it. Plus, it doesn't sound like the usual general chit chat meeting, I think they're actively looking for people and/or projects. But you never know.

Friday is the meeting that was postponed from last Friday. Still can't say what it is yet, sorry...